The Invisible Power of Art Education for Special Children’s

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By Education Today

Posted on April 10, 2022


7 min read

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Actor, Director, Researcher and theatre-trainer, Dr.Sreejith Ramanan is currently Head of the Department at the School of Drama and Fine Arts, University of Calicut. He has won the best actor award from the state government of Kerala in 2003 for “Chaayaamukhi”. He was earlier the technical director for the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFOK).

What are your thoughts on the importance of performing arts in education?

The period of educational growth in children is from their childhood to adolescence. In order for children to develop their education properly, they need to return their energy creatively. Children to grow up to be good citizens, we need to be able to accurately identify what our cultural ecosystem is and how to properly embed it. Currently, art is included in the school curriculum along with other science subjects.  But the main problem is that teachers who are scientifically educated in the arts are not properly appointed to teach such subjects.

How supportive is the government (state/central) of integrating theatre art in education? 

Many movements have taken place in Kerala in support of the need to make art a subject. It was said that art education should be strictly implied in the school curriculum. But the reality is that none of these are properly implemented in schools. Art learning is a child’s right. Studying art helps to better the study of other subjects as well. the learning methodology is different in many children. Theatre in education is one way to empower children properly. This makes learning easier and theatre education is a bit more pictorial, visual, and psychological. Art education is seen to have a role in improving even children with learning difficulties. This has been proven through numerous activities around the world.  Physical education, craft, and music are included in the school curriculum. And theatre education should also be included. But the government has not yet recognized the importance of theatre education.  

Teaching performing art during the pandemic-induced lockdown is an insuperable challenge. How you are coping with this?

This pandemic era is opening up new possibilities for online education by giving importance to online education. Although there are many advantages to this, only theory classes can be done online. Music, painting, and drama all require direct body-to-body communication. Therefore, it is not 100% possible to implement online education in this field. Online learning is extremely impractical for institutions like drama schools were prevalent. Therefore, education is not going well for the students who are currently studying. The children who are now learning have a huge loss of their own. Maybe they will have to give extra time after this pandemic time to make up for it. There is only one way of communication in the online class. Teachers have to look at still images and take classes for children. It is often overloaded with children. One of the major challenges in online classes is that children do not understand classes properly. There is only one way of communication in the online class. Teachers still have to look at images and take classes for children. It is often overloaded with children. One of the major challenges in online classes is that children do not understand classes properly.  Teaching in the theatre sector is highly replanned. Moreover, the online platform is a dead medium. The truth is that art cannot be brought to its fullest through online classes.

Why did you choose your job as a professor and performing artist?

The choice of this field is due to the interest in the same from a very young age and the pleasure one gets from participating in artistic activities. Whatever other field I had chosen, I probably would not have been able to shine so much. Unable to continue as a full-time artist, I chose a teaching career as an option thinking of it becoming a passion profession. By being chosen as a teaching professional, I was able to secure my family as well as carry forward my desire to be an artist. In addition, I was able to practice and transfer art and thereby nurture a large number of students creatively. I am very happy that I am now able to move forward as an academician and artist at the same time.

It is said that performing arts can help differently-abled kids to develop their skills, could you please provide more insight on this?

It must be said that our country has not started adequate research or other activities in that area. We need to think a lot about how to empower children who specialize in theatre therapy or theatre in education, especially those who are differently-abled. A number of methods have been developed in various countries in this regard. They are also able to do those things in a very effective way. But it must be said that it is only now in our country that we are beginning to think seriously about such alternative theatres. Most of these courses are being started now. And National school of drama theatre education courses has been started in Tripura and Assam. Plans are afoot to start one-year similar courses in Kerala and to train the required experts. There are international festivals for such children all over the world. Theatre therapy is a very vast field. The situation in Kerala needs to be changed to a level where people who have experience in it or who have mastered it contribute to it.

Tell us an example of specific memorable work you did that is very close to you.

The most striking as an actor was in 1999. Abhilash Pillai directed the play C N Sreekandhan Nair’s ‘Saketham’. In it, I played the role of Dasaratha. It was a breakthrough character in my life. And the related tour to Tokyo, Japan was also amazing. Another incident that I hold close to my heart is participation in the competition of Sangeetha Nataka Academy in connection with Neeravil Prakash Kalakendra directed by Prashant Narayanan. It featured Keechakan as the central character and won me a State Award for Best Actor. It was an unforgettable experience. Later, the most memorable journey of my life was a pan Asian project by Japanese director Hiroshi Koike. He had performed shows of the Mahabharata involving South East artists from many countries. He chose me from Kerala. I worked in Indonesia and Kerala for that play. For the same we had to travel in many Southeast countries. It was a project that explored the potential of physical theatre. Later, I was able to contribute the most to a directorial project, or the most successful was the play “The Museum of Lost Pieces” by the University of Hyderabad. It was a project done for his students. The show was held by creating a temporary tent-like circus tent. It became one of the most played plays in the history of the University of Hyderabad. We had to do several shows again at the demand of the students on campus. Also, the “Misty Mountains of Mahabharata” act in the School of Drama in 2016 was another major project, which was created out of the environmental circumstances.

Your advice to students is based on your experience. 

No matter what course we are studying, we have a learning time. Make the most of that study time by taking a break from your dreams of becoming a big celebrity in the future at that time. When we are in a particular institution, we have to create a different, healthy, and disciplined physical condition of self to accommodate and study with all those who study with us in that institution or its space or in that atmosphere. There is nothing else to think about. We do not have to worry about success or failure in the future. Learn as much as you can by emphasizing the philosophy that you do your work and by working together, going together and sharing mutually. There is a possibility of having a lot of confusion in such theatre studies. If you can maintain a mental and physical condition to just allow yourself to absorb the maximum without bothering, then a student can work wonders in this field later.