Vocational schools: Creating skilled workers, not artists

Copying, not creating something original is the mantra of a number of art schools in Pindi.

The ability to generate ideas is central to the success of artists, but the teachers seem to not realise it, says Hasan. DESIGN: MUHAMMAD SUHAIB


Vocational schools in Rawalpindi encourage their students to copy ideas instead of generating them. Ghazala Aleem, mother of three girls studying in such art schools, feels this is tantamount to hoodwinking the students, rather than teaching them anything substantial.

Aleem is not alone in her complaint. Ahmad Hasan, who has a daughter studying in Sanad Zar Vocational Centre, said, “They do not take the trouble to help students learn how to generate original ideas, designs, and compositions. They borrow from others and copy.”

The ability to generate ideas, he said, is central to the success of artists, but the teachers seem to not realise it. “They fail to divulge these secrets to their students.”

A teacher from Kinza Academy on Saadi Road in Saddar agreed. “Imaginative thinking is at the core of the art discipline. But for many students the source of ideas for art really remains a mystery as teachers themselves lack ability.”

“Too often, the teachers expect students to produce art products before they are taught how to get ideas for the products. Perhaps, this is the reason why we are getting junk results,” says an art teacher at Ghandara Art.

But the answer is not as simple as simply hiring better art teachers. Many of the vocational institutes in Rawalpindi have to operate within the limited constraints of their budgets, which are necessitated by low fees.

Kinza Academy Principal Noor-u-Saba said they charge Rs2,500 for an eight-week course on glass painting. At one session a week, that comes out to around Rs300 per session per student.

Roshni Welfare Organization Vocational Institute at Saidpuri Gate charges Rs1,500 for courses like jewelry making, porcelain work, glass painting, and foaming flower.

The aim is to make the cost of attendance as cost effective as possible. “We try to lessen financial burden of parents,” said Tahira Mushtaq, the principal.

The school even has a prescribed shop, where students can get raw material from for less than the market rate.

With limited resources, these schools cannot afford to get the real artists in. In fact, they may even be finding it hard to retain their existing teachers. An official at the Women Development and Community Centre near Naz Cinema said they were not offering any art and craft classes nowadays as their only art teacher had “resigned because of meagre salary.”

As it is, these institutions seem to be catering to high-skilled art workers, than fostering artists in their own rights. The higher goals can wait. For now it is about getting the basics done, as Farzana Naqvi, mother of a student at one such school, said, “Class experiments are prescribed rather than invented.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2013.


Shazia Khan | 8 years ago | Reply

If I ask students to do whatever they want to do, they often avoid risk by doing something they already have learned in the past.The amount of creative thinking may be zero.When there are limits, there is a better chance of having a challenging task.We have to require limits on mindless repetition of past success. We have to encourage new and creative problem solving. The teacher's challenge is to make the limits seem compelling and interesting to the student. Good lessons ask questions, provide learning goals, reasonable objectives, and so on. As a teacher, my job is to make the easy challenging and to make the hard stuff accessible. Those who do not teach can't understand our difficulties.

Azhar Kamal Malik | 8 years ago | Reply

"t is our collective responsibility to ensure that our girls go to vocational schools, learn art from there, join the workforce and change the art world. We need supportive environment for them.

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