A recent article in Bergens Tidende reported that nearly 50% of those presently unemployed in Norway are under age 25. This demographic has been encouraged to return to school and get more knowledge and skills, including institutions like The International Theater Academy Norway (TITAN). Our student body averages age 22-24.
The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organization (NAV) states on its website that one of its objectives is to get ‘more people at work and in activity, fewer on benefits’. It would appear that their goals are in accord with ours: TITAN's central philosophy in teaching theater is to combine artistic craft with practical entrepreneurship skills. Our aim is to produce emerging artists who are self-sustaining, both creatively as well as financially.
Therefore, I am confused why NAV refused financial aid to one of TITAN's full-time students, a 24-year-old single-parent. The reason given was, 'You are only studying at an arts school'.
Is NAV discriminatory against institutions that teach the arts, including ones such as TITAN that consciously include business skills within its theater education? Does NAV view some careers are 'more legitimate' than others, and therefore some areas of study can be supported, but others cannot?
Such views are out of step with Norway's socialist values, as well as those of greater Scandinavia.
TITAN is a full-time, 2-year course of study. Our curriculum has been approved by the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT), and our students may choose to receive financial aid through Lånekassen. This means that the government of Norway has 'legitimized' the study of theater and acting just like any other field that a person chooses: nursing, engineering, graphic design, and so on.
Trond Giske, Norway's Minister of Culture, recently stated in ‘Kulturløftet’ that the 'government’s vision is for Norway to be a leading culture nation that emphasizes culture in all parts of society.' Giske goes on to articulate the government's commitment to a series of initiatives through 2014 that will support the relationship between art 'to other social objectives, such as economic development and employment, integration, health, learning and creativity.'
On 22 December 2008, the Nordic Council of the Arts stated that 'creativity and innovation are absolutely crucial skills if the Nordic countries are to develop competitiveness and growth opportunities on the global market in the future.' Mogens Jensen, chair of the Nordic Council Culture and Education Committee, emphasized the importance of creative subjects such as theater on a student's well-being and academic achievements, noting that these pupils 'took on much more responsibility for their own learning and were better (in) presenting their subject-matter.' Jensen concluded by saying, 'Art and culture have an intrinsic value and the potential to improve well-being and the quality of learning in schools.'
The EU Commission has declared 2009 the Year of Creativity. Jensen and Giske both have gone on record to state that 'art and culture have great value in themselves.' Ideally, institutions such as TITAN can be allies with organizations such as NAV, and we can all work together to implement the principles expressed by the Norwegian Cultural Ministry and the Nordic Council of the Arts.
I ask NAV to clarify in writing its position regarding support for students interested in arts education.
Rektor, The International Theater Academy Norway (TITAN)
Reproduced in its entirety with permission from the author.
First published in Dagbladet in Norwegian, 17.09.09
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