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‘Art education and general education are not the same’


‘After general education, Kathakali artistes are in a better position to communicate with the world, making them better ambassadors of their art.’

As someone closely associated with the formative period of three leading institutions in the State—RLV College of Music and Fine Arts, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, and Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University of Art and Culture—K.G. Paulose is clear about the distinctions between general education and art education.

“General education is like the growth of a banyan tree. It starts branching out right from the root and keeps branching out as it grows. But art education is like teak, the initial years of growth are spent in strengthening the trunk. Branching out happens only after the tree attains maturity,” he said during an hour-long interview over phone from Shimla, where he is now Fellow in Position at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

Understanding this difference is vital in addressing the issues at Kerala Kalamandalam. “The first phase in the development of the Kalamandalam happened when Vallathol brought in the paradigm shift by taking Kathakali out of the umbrage of feudal or royal patrons and placed it on a civic platform. The second phase happened when secondary education was introduced as part of the curriculum and finally it was elevated as a deemed university. Now it is poised to enter the third phase of becoming a university.”

Dr. Paulose has learnt that the basic conflict at Kerala Kalamandalam is rooted in the strong colonial bias of modern education and the historical reluctance of the West to accept indigenous strains as knowledge systems. “It took a long struggle to ensure that the pay of Kathakali masters was on par with that of language and other subject teachers, who were paid according to UGC scales.”

Even while accepting in part, the allegation that the marriage of the traditional gurukula system and the modern general education had affected the quality of artistes being moulded, Dr. Paulose pointed out the positives.

“Earlier, Kathakali artistes had to restrict themselves to being performers. After training in general education, they are now in a better position to articulate and communicate with the world, especially with those abroad, making them better ambassadors of their art.”

Dr. Paulose said the institution had not suffered from a drop in quality. He said a Kathakali student was introduced to general education only after getting solid traditional training in the art form. “The traditional gurukula system was too arbitrary and entirely dependent on the whims and fancies of the master. Also, the likes and choices of masters are passed on from generation to generation. For example, there might be some lessons that are preferred by a master and only those will be taught to his students. On the other hand, the students get a better perspective about history and literature of the art at the university. While the gurukula system has the inherent flaw of creating students who parrot their masters, the new system can inculcate rational thought in the students.”

Dr. Paulose felt further possibilities of the new system had to be explored. “While retaining the present system, new subjects like art history and comparative study need to be included. Art research should also be promoted.”




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