Music in the School Curriculum?

Music in the school curriculum has often been an issue. Very few schools actually take this seriously and employ a good teacher. Even more, space and the alotted classes are far less compared to other subjects.

Research Shows the Place

For schools, music isn’t a priority. This is what a five-year, transnational study, conducted by Mysore University scholar DVK Vasudevan along with violinist Dr Mysore Manjunath and Dr Ganesh Mahidhara has found.

Purpose

The purpose of the study was to analyse music education in schools across India. The study, which was published last month, based itself on the following parameters: curriculum, awareness of different music genres, career-oriented music education, availability of traditional instruments and dedicated infrastructure and class rooms, school level performance opportunities and weightage for music learning.

Outcome

The ratings from the central schools and state level boards were compared to those of schools in western countries with special focus on USA. The study found that while the government of India, the HR ministry and NCERT profess the value of music education, there has been a failure to incorporate these ideas in Indian schools. The study points to ‘apathy’ as the main problem.

STATE OF MUSIC EDUCATION

Cognitive scientists, educationists and learning experts have produced several studies that establish the value of music education for children. But owing to the pressures of modern living, however, not every child has access to integration of some level of musical learning, aesthetics and even values into the school curriculum.

  1. While this integration is mandated in many boards, including CBSE and ICSE, effective implementation has been beyond the reach of even schools with the best of intentions. In recent years, there has been a spurt of organizations and institutions offering music education for a fee, but very little is done to build music abilities and interest in the average school child who does not have access to private music learning.
  2. While most of the Centre schools following NCERT have compiled a music syllabus for class 6th to 12th students and both CBSE and ICSE boards offer music as an optional subject in 10th and 12th board exams, very few schools encourage students to opt for this.

The research by Vasudevan, Dr Manjunath and Dr Mahidhara points to very low statistics of students opting for music in 12th standard, nationally, with only 44 registrations in Carnatic music and around 50,000 for Hindustani music including vocal and instrumental music. Most of the State Boards do not have the option of taking music as an elective in these grades.

Government Policy

Though the government has a policy to recruit one music teacher per government school, there are many positions vacant in both state and centralrun schools. Sometimes, private schools in India, which do not have their own music teachers, invite some professionals to instruct students and conduct events whenever there is an occasion to perform. However, “before and after these occasional activities, music is not available for students on a continuous basis,” observes Vasudevan.

Sahana Chandrashekar, disciple of vocalist Bombay Jayashree, and XI standard student at Sri Kumaran Children’s Home, says music should be a part of every school-going child’s life, but should not be put under a fixed curriculum and exam framework. “Music is my all-time stress buster. I think sessions between students and artistes on a regular basis would be more meaningful,” she says.

ALTERNATIVE EXPERIMENTS

  1. “We try to present music in a way that is authentic to the style but at the same time the methodology needs to be changed. For instance if you are in a class of 30 kids, it won’t work if you ask them to sit down and put taala and sing Sri Gananatha or Varaveena,” says Violinist Ambi Subramaniam.
  2. So they changed the methodology and made it activity-based. “At the end of the day they are still singing Varaveena, but singing it in a circle or doing an activity. I think we can play around with the methodology to make it work in different environments, for different age groups as long as we are authentically describing the music,” says Ambi.
  3. Violinist Vaibhav Ramani, who gave his first performance at a school assembly programme at the age of 9, says the Rishi Valley school has a separate ‘Art Village’ where all classes went twice a week to learn music, dance, art and craft.
  4. “Music has the power of relieving stress, of bringing joy and a sense of camaraderie. I have noticed that many ex-students (old students) who come for cultural programmes at the Valley sing the Naad-Ninaad (school music book) songs with great enthusiasm. It occurs to me now that even children who do not appreciate cultural activities when they are in school, cherish those memories when they become older.”

A NEW EXPERIMENT 

  • Chitravina N Ravikiran was a member of the core committee for music education in schools which was set up by the previous central government.
  • Ravikiran’s proposed syllabus, including Hindustani and Carnatic music, was aimed at classes I – VIII and was more introductory in nature with a little bit of practical singing.
  • The syllabus included background on composers, introduction to some ragas, practical singing of some geethams, learning of utsav sampradhaya krithis (songs for festivals) and a bit of rhythm.
  • Ravikiran says it was not feasible for the syllabus to be more than introductory, initially, because there were a lot of logistical challenges in implementation.“The purpose of the syllabus was to make students aware of the beauty and greatness of Indian music and culture.”
  • “The way I set it up was that north Indian students would get a glimpse of Carnatic music and south Indian students would gain an awareness of Hindustani music.”

The Blueprint for Music Education

Ravikiran had also proposed a blueprint on how to implement this syllabus, and had done pilots with rural education schools involving 31,000 students. “We’d simultaneously trained 400 teachers through satellite – EDUSAT. Teachers were video conferenced from different cities, towns, villages. We also suggested faculties as supervisors for these teachers.” The project was shelved after change of governments.

Source: Times of India