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Education for all

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Art for art’s sake in Iraq’s colleges?

Are our fine arts institutes teaching us the right things?

Iraq’s fine arts institutes and colleges have made good progress in producing young artists in every creative field, but there are many issues still to talk about, and many things need to be changed in the system. I want to talk about the system in general in this post and go into more personal experiences in my next post.

I went to a fine arts institute, for which students in Iraq are eligible after finishing secondary school. In my experience, if you are interested in music, you should get started with it at a very early age – maybe between 3-5. Then you can learn to play naturally, and a similar argument could be made for other artistic fields.

Kids should get started early to master music

But let’s stop there for a minute: what is the government’s aim in investing in Fine Arts institutes? Is the aim to produce professional artists who study art academically? Or what is their specialty supposed to be after they graduate?

I would say the government’s aim with fine arts institutes isn’t to produce professional artists, but, rather, to train teachers who can teach, say, a few national hymns and songs – in the case of music school graduates. In other cases, they might teach some basic knowledge of painting in the primary schools, but visual arts grads have less of a chance at getting jobs.

Still, among the grads we have so many good artists. But that is not thanks to the quality of courses or the teachers they had, but because of their love, goals and desires toward what they pursue.

Me and some of my colleagues

I also want to talk about specializations. Every field of art has many braches and off-shoots, but they aren’t represented in our fine arts institutes. That’s bad and confusing for the students and can even make them forget why they wanted to come to an arts institute in the first place. You’re required to study so many fields, despite some of them being unrelated to your specialty. For instance, I didn’t need to study my native language, because I can already speak it very well, and I won’t teach it in the future, so what is the point of making me study it? Is that not another kind of dictatorship? And what’s my specialization supposed to be after studying about 16 different things before I could graduate?

When I enrolled, I got bored and forgot why I came. That was what all my other friends felt, too. I went to an arts institute to learn to play violin professionally – not to be a language or children’s psychology expert. So by the time you graduate, you end up confused. Even if you are a good artist, you haven’t had the opportunity to improve your artistic abilities because the government will put you on the path to be a teacher. So there is little opportunity to learn because you’re giving everything and not taking anything away. That kills your love and desire for a job as an artist.

I think it’s all fine for someone who wants to be a teacher, but not for someone who wants to be an artist.


May 25, 2012 | 11:30 am