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More arts, less science, for some at arts school

New course allows more training and prep for study at arts conservatories
The Straits Times - May 22, 2014
By: Amelia Teng
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More arts, less science, for some at arts school Sota students Aaron Cheang and Natasha Boon, both 17, are taking the International Baccalaureate Career-related Certificate, which allows them more time in their chosen fields - he in theatre, and she in dance. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

STUDENTS at the School of the Arts (Sota) are taking up a new qualification which lets them specialise in their particular art forms.

The International Baccalaureate Career-related Certificate (IBCC) allows more time for training in a specific field and aims to better prepare students for life in arts institutions and conservatories.

Sota is the first school in Singapore to adopt this two-year certification, first launched by the Swiss-based International Baccalaureate Organisation in 2012. More than 50 schools worldwide have taken up this qualification.

They select the areas of specialisation for students to choose from, so they can focus on what interests them as a career.

A total of 25 Year 5 students have started on the programme since January.

They include five specialising in dance, six in visual arts and seven each in theatre and music.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong told a Sota awards ceremony yesterday that the IBCC will "provide students with a good pre-conservatory foundation", adding: "Sota cannot just be a school with good programmes in the arts - we have many Ministry of Education schools that do this.

"In today's environment, achieving success as an arts practitioner requires more dedicated and full-time training."

Currently, students at Sota, which opened in 2008, take the two-year IB diploma programme - which is different from the IBCC as it requires students to take more academic subjects - at the end of a six-year course.

It has produced two batches of graduates, some of whom have been accepted by renowned arts schools abroad, like Berklee College of Music and The Juilliard School, both in the United States.

Sota's subject head for IBCC, Mr Isaiah Koh, noted that some of them had said the IB diploma syllabus did not give them enough time to hone their craft, as they had to take academic subjects such as mathematics and science.

For instance, a piano student who used to perform six solo pieces in a year at Sota would need to be fluent in the same number of pieces in a month at a music conservatory.

So the new curriculum will drop subjects like mathematics and offer others more relevant to students' art forms. A dance student, for example, would take subjects such as classical ballet and modern dance.

IBCC students spend around 70 per cent of their weekly time on their specialisation, compared to other students there who get only around 15 per cent, Mr Koh added.

Theatre student Aaron Cheang, 17, said: "As a child I loved performing and acting, but it seemed impossible to go down the acting route. Since I've already chosen my career, it's time to go all the way."

Schoolmate Natasha Boon, 17, who has been dancing since the age of three, added: "I can't imagine a future without dance. I hope to go abroad to join a dance conservatory."


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