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“Like everyone, I worry about inclusivity and equity of access” | Global Art Forum speaker Antonia Carver on the future of education

Global Art Forum is Art Dubai’s critically-acclaimed annual transdisciplinary arts conference, which combines original thinking and contemporary themes in an intimate, live environment.

Following on from last year’s theme of automation, Global Art Forum 2019 unites a diverse cast of global minds – from renowned curators and critics to educationalists and entrepreneurs – under the theme of “School is a Factory?” to address some of the urgent challenges and opportunities facing education today.

In the lead up the two-day summit, its co-directors Victoria Camblin and Fawz Kabra asked some of this year’s speakers a few fun questions on their unique educational paths, if school prepared them for real life and just how optimistic they are about the future of education.

First in the series is Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel which includes the recently-opened contemporary arts museum Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai:


Describe your first experience using technology at school

I’m so old that I can remember the arrival of the ‘micro-lab’ at school in the 80s. Being in fourth division maths, we were the last to get access (once a week) to the beige and brown clunky keyboards plugged into boxy TV monitors. Ironically, I remember it being about actually engaging with the machine itself (aka coding) rather than its output. That experimental intimacy would of course quickly disappear as computers became more sophisticated and widespread.

Antonia Carver, 2019, Director of Art Jameel, Potrait courtesy of Art Jameel

Where did you first learn about art?

1970s curriculum governance was a bit more free-wheeling than today. One primary school teacher was an artist and adopted a ‘screw maths, let’s art’ kind of approach. Hence, the fourth division.


Did school prepare you for “real life”? If not, what did?

No. Playing in an orchestra and weekend jobs in a restaurant and an old people’s home did.

Jameel Arts Centre, 2019,  Courtesy of Art Jameel, Photo by  Rory Gardiner

What did you have to unlearn after school?

That grades matter more than practical skills and emotional intelligence. That the world revolved around the Euro-America axis. That everything you learnt in Maths class is irrelevant except how to do percentages.

Given the choice, what would you have done differently in your educational path?

Maybe read more history. Demanded to go to more museums.


Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future of education?

Like everyone, I worry about inclusivity and equity of access, automation, teachers’ pay, politicians’ and corporates’ dominance, relevance of subject matter and so on, but every day, you see examples of teaching as a purely selfless, altruistic act, and maybe that (and the capacity to learn) will be the last human instinct to die. So I’m optimistic!


Describe your ideal school environment.

I want to say one of those tree-top idyll schools in Bali, but I suspect they are overrun by the globally-entitled hippy-elite, whereas the utopian school environment would actually be one of infinite diversity, ideally attached to a community centre for the arts and sciences, where participants of all ages are continually challenged out of their echo-chamber…

Jameel Arts Centre, 2019, Courtesy of Art Jameel, Photo by Mohamed Somji

Antonia joins Global Art Forum on Wednesday March 20, 6:30-7:30pm, for “School is the Establishment”, a discussion hosted by Sohrab Mohebbi, Curator of SculptureCenter and with Elvira Dyangani Ose, Director of The Showroom London on why education continue to be an urgent topic (and department) within the art establishment.


Global Art Forum is open to the public (including non-ticket holders) and free to attend. Global Art Forum is supported by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

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