Curriculum and progression in the arts: An international study. Final report
Curriculum and progression in the arts: An international study. Final report

Geoff Taggart, Karen Whitby and Caroline Sharp

Research Report, September 2004

Available to download from INCA website

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) in England recently undertook a curriculum development project to identify ways in which the contribution of the arts to pupils’ education can be maximised. The result was a website (a href="" target="_blank"> of resources and case studies. As a continuation of this work, QCA commissioned NFER to conduct an international survey. The purpose of the survey was to discover the place of the arts in the curriculum in a range of countries and states participating in the International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks (INCA) project (O’Donnell et al, 2004).

Following on from a previous international study focusing on the arts (Sharp and Le Métais, 2000), the survey considered the expectations for pupils’ progress and approaches to monitoring and assessment in arts subjects. Questionnaires were completed by representatives from 21 countries/states.


O’Donnell, S., Andrews, C., Brown, R. and Sargent, C. (2004). INCA: The International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks Archive. London: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

Sharp. C. and Le Metais, J. (2000). The Arts, Creativity and Cultural Education: an International Perspective. London: QCA.

Key Findings:
  • The arts subjects included in most educational systems are visual art, music, dance and drama.
  • Music and visual arts are taught as part of the compulsory curriculum in all 21 countries/states. Arts subjects are compulsory at primary level in all countries/states and are compulsory at the secondary level (to the age of 16) in approximately half of them.
  • About half of the 21 countries/states organise their curricula into groups of subjects. In these cases, ‘the arts’ form one of these groups.
  • Countries/states which offer an ‘area-based’ arts curriculum tend to offer dance and drama as subjects within it. Conversely, where subjects are taught separately, dance is part of physical education and drama forms part of the home language.
  • Nearly all countries/states have aims for the arts curriculum which are similar to those in Arts alive! In addition to artistic outcomes, personal and social/cultural outcomes are expected from the arts in most countries. However, artistic outcomes clearly predominate and teachers are rarely expected to assess the personal or social/cultural aspects of pupils’ learning in the arts.
  • All countries/states use teacher assessment for arts subjects. There are three main approaches to assessment in the arts. The first requires teachers to make a professional judgement in relation to curriculum content. The second involves the teacher in marking pupils’ performance against a standard required for a given age-group/grade. The third kind of assessment involves the teacher in ascribing a level of progress to each pupil using a graduated scale, regardless of age/grade. Most countries/states use the first two approaches to assessment.
  • Teachers were commonly expected to assess progress in the arts through observation and assessment of portfolios/samples of work.
  • Most countries/states provide guidance for teachers in planning, monitoring and assessing the arts. This guidance provides suggestions for activities and resources.
  • Just over half of the responding countries are planning changes in arts provision, especially in relation to teacher training and support.

Further Information:
Format: Paperback, 58pp
Sponsor(s): QCA

How to cite this publication:

Taggart, G., Whitby, K. and Sharp, C. (2004). Curriculum and Progression in the Arts: an International Study. Final Report. London: QCA.