This study aims to evaluate the decree on part-time arts education (2018).
The system of part-time arts education (PTAE) in Flanders has experienced a considerable growth in terms of the number of enrollments over the past decades. Nevertheless, the student population is still not an accurate representation of the overall population of Flemish citizens. The socially unequal participation can be explained sociologically using Bourdieu’s theory on the different forms of capital that encourage participation. These forms of capital or resources are not distributed evenly across society. In between each potential student and the PTAE provision itself, there are also a set of thresholds and motives, which can be linked both to these personal resources but also to the design of the provision itself (the location, the curriculum, etc.). This research combines these two perspectives - the perspective of the student and the perspective of the organizing academies - to analyze three core themes. The core themes chosen are themes on which the 2018 decree on PTAE introduced policy innovation. Thus, by an in-depth analysis of these themes, we will also evaluate some of the major policy aspirations and achievements of that decree so far.
The first theme is the geographical distribution of the PTAE offer across the Flemish territory. Geographical distance can become a major barrier for (potential) students as it involves a cost in economic capital (the cost of travel) as well as in social capital (the investment of time). By analyzing administrative data we will examine where new provision has been added or redesigned in recent years and where provision has been withdrawn. Particular attention will be paid to the so-called (semi-)blind spots where there is no or only a partial provision of PTAE, because the geographical threshold can be the strongest for the people living there. By means of focus groups with the academies, evolutions in the geographical distribution will be clarified from their perspective (feasibility, profitability) and we explore where new forms of PTAE could be added. Finally, the collaboration with other local cultural partners will be examined in the design of new courses or or the choice for new locations where PTAE courses can take place. Together these topics will indicate how PTAE policy measures can be optimized in order to enhance the growth and distribution of academies and the courses they offer.
Secondly, we will focus on the organization and structure of the PTAE provision. The decree of 2018 introduced a number of important innovations in this respect, such as more variation in the length of study and study load, faster and slower study paths, short-term courses outside the degree structure, and a permanent place for initiation, exploration and specialization in all art forms. By means of a student survey we will examine how these innovations are experienced today. In doing so, we will get a better view on the improvement of the attractiveness of the PTAE system, the different learning paths and the through-flow after finishing PTAE (e.g. to amateur arts and higher art education). We will give special attention to the recruitment and guidance of underrepresented groups who often do not have the right forms or amount of cultural, economic or social capital to participate spontaneously. Through case studies, we explore what efforts academies can make in that respect and which recruitment and communication strategies are successful from their point of view.
The third theme of this evaluation study involves the match between the individual student and the PTAE curriculum design. Through the administrative data and the student survey, we will be able to identify which individuals are inclined to participate in PTAE and which are not. We will also find out what persuades them to participate. Likewise, it is important to find out what keeps non-PTAE students from enrolling. We will gather insights from this group not through newly collected data, but by means of the amateur arts survey (conducted in 2019) which also included items on the thresholds and motives for participating in PTAE. All of this should give a picture "in breadth" of the participation rate in PTAE, the underlying thresholds and motives, and how all of this is evolving. In order to enrich these insights with explanations "in depth", we enter into dialogue with a set PTAE students. With them, we will make a visualization of their pathway through the PTAE course. So, from their personal point of view, we will examine the recruitment, the study options they were offered, the guidance they receive and the overall communication about their participation in PTAE.