Participation in cultural activities is a human right. Why does one child participate while another does not? A Finnish study shows that the higher the socio-economic status of the family, the fewer barriers that exist, and the more positive the feelings towards museums that the children experience (af Ursin, 2016).
According to another study, 85% of Finnish children have a hobby and 85% of municipalities currently provide basic art education. These are good figures that we can be proud of. But what about the 15% who do not have a hobby, and the 15% of municipalities where there are no cultural activities? What about those areas where children’s cultural activities are occasional, or are notable by their absence? Those regions and people lack opportunities and the ability to act in a culturally equal environment. They are usually the same people who are already in a more disadvantaged situation (in socio-economic, agency, education, etc, terms) and whose likely life-outcomes are worse.
Our goals are:
We have designed a Cultural Education Plan that aims to give everyone an opportunity to have agency in culture, and the right to be an actor in a cultural and artistic environment
We want close cooperation between educational and cultural actors. This will create paths for children to find and experience culture, to visit cultural sites, and the right to interpret, shape and produce culture. The Cultural Education plan supports individual and diverse cultural identities while helping to understand the broader global community. Children learn about cultural diversity and develop the associated skills of engagement, comprehension, cooperation and dialogue. When children are able to participate and influence, they are more likely to take responsibility for cultural heritage, for its maintenance, development and renewal.
The Cultural Education Plan ensures that all children and young people in a region get an equal chance to experience cultural heritage. The Plan is based on the national curriculum and it guarantees every pupil the same opportunity to participate. In the curriculum, cultural education is integrated into different subjects, thus ensuring that pupils have an equal opportunity to participate in and learn about art and culture. It relates culture to the whole curriculum, rather than focusing on specific, individual subjects such as art or history. The Cultural Education Plan is founded on cooperation between the education and culture sectors, various art and cultural institutions, art schools, local associations, and local artists. Multidisciplinary expertise, a clear distribution of responsibilities, and the utilization of large networks ensure a good result.
Children's cultural network BARK
While the Cultural Education Plan takes into consideration the needs of schools, it also increases the visitor volumes of cultural services and widens their audience base. The Cultural Education Plan also helps to educate the culture and art audiences of the future, and to provide employment opportunities for local artists. The Cultural Education Plan also enables a municipality or region to highlight its own special cultural characteristics, thus supporting local cultural operators and anchoring the young inhabitants into their surroundings.
The Culture Leap project aimed to increase the number of Cultural Education Plans in Finland. This multifaceted project produced an online tool that enables municipalities to independently prepare a Cultural Education Plan based on their local and regional heritage. The tool is freely available to all, and operates in three languages (Finnish, Swedish and English).
Prior to the project, just 43 of the 311 municipalities in Finland had Cultural Education Plans in place. As of 2017, as a direct result of this project, 90 plans had been implemented in municipalities around Finland and a further 50 plans were being developed. Workshops have taken place in 15 locations, reaching 83 municipalities and an audience of 450 people. Further workshops are now being arranged in areas that do not yet have a Cultural Education Plan in place.
Culture Leap was developed with the cooperation of the Association of Cultural Heritage Education in Finland and the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centres. The principal partners were the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, the Finnish National Board of Education, and the Arts Promotion Centre Finland. The project was funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. In addition, the Arts Promotion Centre supported the organization of a workshop tour.
Example: The City of Rauma includes World Heritage education in its municipal cultural education plan. Third graders are taken on guided field trips to Old Rauma and fifth graders to Sammallahdenmäki, which are World Heritage sites. The tours are planned by cultural heritage professionals, with teachers providing pedagogical knowledge. The Cultural Education Plan also helps the museum to plan their year: they know what age pupils they will meet and what is expected from them. They know that they are offering good pedagogical material. At the same time, teachers know what to expect from the tour so that they can better integrate the visit into their teaching. Activities are not limited to during the visit: lesson plans are devised for before and after, so that the visit is not just an extraordinary event that happens outside of the normal school day and building, and the beneficial effects of the visit are maximized. The Cultural Education Plan offers new learning environments as children move outside classrooms. It prepares cultural heritage content for teachers, reducing the burden on teachers and duplication of effort, thereby streamlining the preparation of such material. It helps to develop the cultural supply directed at children. The City of Rauma has realized that culture can be an important visitor attraction and a welfare service, and ways of exploiting both aspects.
As challenges and development targets are set and met, it is important to highlight demographic changes: the diversity of languages and cultural backgrounds is increasing, but there are also changes in the age distribution of the regions. The number of children is decreasing in Finland, and, as cultural rights apply to the whole population, there should be plans for adults and seniors as well.
Finally, the following questions should be considered:
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