The future of drama in Chinese primary schools is promising

Xu Fei China Plus Published: 2017-05-12 13:56:34
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Young girls from a primary school practise in a drama workshop at the China National Theatre for Children in Beijing. [File]

Young girls from a primary school practise in a drama workshop at the China National Theatre for Children in Beijing. [File]

Efforts are now underway to promote drama education in primary schools around China.

This comes after a successful string of dramas staged by student enthusiasts in Beijing.

The show hopes to highlight the achievements of drama education in the city.

Shen Ting has more.

Yin Xiaodong is head of the China National Theatre for Children. He recalls how theatre company started introducing arts education to nearby schools in 2014.

"My company signed deals with three schools across seven campuses in the Dongcheng district of Beijing. We designed more than 10 courses, including acting in drama, drama appreciation, English drama as well as prop use. We have around 30 teachers providing students with 160 or so lectures on a weekly basis."

Yin explains that the purpose of the class is to give these young non-theatre majors an appreciation of the performing arts and therefore learn how to make progress in every aspect of their lives, using what they've learned in the course.

Also according to Yin Xiaodong, the theatre company hopes to sit down with school authorities that may share their observations regarding the changes that have taken place in these students.

Qi Yundong is the headmaster of Nanjing Lang Ya Road Primary School. (南京琅琊路小学戚韵东校长) Her school is the only one outside of Beijing to join the student performers in staging a drama at the China National Theatre for Children.

She's happy to share her experiences.

"They went to Beijing for the show following the drama education in the school. Their show was based on stories about Chinese idioms at the China National Theatre for Children in Beijing. What has touched me about this, is that upon their return to the campus; they showed me their diaries in which they had written down their understanding of the drama. Some of them mentioned that veteran artists in the theatre offered them the tips on how to properly play their roles before staging a show."

In July 2015, the Nanjing Lang Ya Road Primary School signed a cooperation deal with the theatre, inviting the theatre staff to teach in their school.

Afterwards the school began building separate stages for students from the first to sixth grade. Giving each grade a different focus in their drama education and acting experiences.

Qi Yundong explains again:

"Each child plays his or her own part in a drama and they are protagonists in their own right. They can be a supporting actor or a main character, a tree or a piece of stone in the drama, what makes it particularly valuable is their involvement, so the teachers guide children to discover and improve themselves in this educational process."

In addition to principals of several primary schools, an official in charge of the cultural life of the community in the Dongcheng district of Beijing also joined the discussion.

According to Qi Jiayong, the educational authorities of Dongcheng District have, for years, been working hard to promote drama activities in local primary schools, with the help of the theatre.

"Through this year-long cooperation, we all realize that drama is a meaningful and valuable tool for educating primary school students. I've watched many shows staged by school children. I understand well that a good drama can help cultivate self-confidence. The children with acting experience look a lot more confident than those without. The experience of being on stage is conducive to promoting good mental health among children and helping them perform in a team environment."

Qi Jiayong added that a successful show demands that children not only be good at traditional theatre skills like singing, dancing and acting. A successful show also improved team spirit both between the performers, and also between the children and the staff behind the scenes.

Qi Jiayong also expressed his support for exploring new efforts to further spread drama and drama education into primary schools nationwide.

In the next three years, the China National Theatre for Children also hopes to put what they've learnt from western countries' advanced drama education into domestic schools.

Yin Xiaodong added that the theatre company conducts exchange programs with their counterparts in other countries, like the Missoula Children's Theatre in the United States. The theatre hopes this kind of cooperation can also benefit Chinese children.

Clearly drama can be entertaining, be it on stage, in film or on television. But when drama is used as a means to convey messages to a society about the merits of education, it undoubtedly has a profound influence on everyone involved.

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