Friday, July 17, 2009

Why music education is important

Much has been said, argued, debated, opinionated about the Malaysian government's recent reversal back to using the national language of Bahasa Malaysia in the teaching of Math and English in schools. Of course, I'm against it but I'm not going to go further to share my opinion here. To 'make up' for the 'loss', they said they will also increase the hours of English instruction, without increasing classroom hours, the additional hours will be taken from other subjects, like music.

PUTRAJAYA, July 9 (Bernama) -- No extra school hours will be involved despite the additional hours alloted to the teaching and learning of English, said Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom.

He said the additional English hours would come from other subjects including music which would be shortened.

"This is to ensure that the teachers and students are not burdened," he told reporters at a press conference on "Memartabatkan Bahasa Melayu, Memantapkan Bahasa Inggeris - New Deal for the Malaysian Education System" here on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday announced that the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in national schools will be taught in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) starting 2012.

With the decision, the government opted to strengthen English by introducing additional hours for the subject.
Continues here.

Although the quality of music education in our schools is pathetic in my opinion, I feel that music education should not be of less priority. Having said that, I have little or no faith in the system that any good music education programme will see the light of day in our schools. What can one expect when even the teaching of basic core subjects like Math and Science cannot be properly implemented? Malaysia will be 52 years old this August. Where have we gone in the teaching of Math and Science in the past half century? The generation before me learnt them in English, then in my generation in the 1970s, we learnt everything in Bahasa, and six years ago, they switched to English. And in 2012, they say it's back to Bahasa. As one fellow blogger puts it, Malaysia Flip Flops.

Back to music education. I feel that if a child is not exposed to music, be it in a formal or informal way, he is really missing out on something really valuable in life. I blogged about it once before here.

I came across this report MENC—The National Association for Music Education "Music Education Facts and Figures" 2002 that I found here which outlines very clearly why music education is beneficial. Here are some excerpts:

Music is a magical gift we must nourish and cultivate in our children, especially now as scientific evidence proves that an education in the arts makes better math and science students, enhances spatial intelligence in newborns...

Many colleges view participation in the arts and music as a valuable experience that broadens students’ understanding and appreciation of the world around them. It is also well known and widely recognized that the arts contribute significantly to children’s intellectual development.

In an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data on more than 25,000 secondary school students (NELS:88, National Education Longitudinal Survey), researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show “significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12.” This observation holds regardless of students’ socio-economic status, and differences in those who are involved with instrumental music vs. those who are not is more significant over time.

Students who participated in arts programs in selected elementary and middle schools in New York City showed significant increases in self-esteem and thinking skills.

A research team exploring the link between music and intelligence reported that music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children's abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math and science.

Studying music encourages self-discipline and diligence, traits that carry over into intellectual pursuits and that lead to effective study and work habits. An association of music and math has, in fact, long been noted.

And here's one Malaysian supporting music education:

The Star, Saturday July 11, 2009
Don’t sacrifice music education

It has been announced by the Education Minister that there will be cutbacks on time allocation for subjects like music in the primary school curriculum to accommodate a corresponding increase of time allocation for English.

Such fire-fighting and knee-jerk responses to solve the growing controversy over the Government’s decision on the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English will not offer long-term answers for a balanced curriculum.

Music is just as important as any other subject in the curriculum if a balanced approach to education is to be realised.

Music, together with the fine arts, is the soul of a nation and represents a very potent medium together with the other fine arts for a truly united Malaysia.

A civilisation is remembered not so much by how many wars it won nor by its size but by its fine arts.

Relegating music or any other arts subject to a non-important position is not the right way to improve English.

It can only damage and aggravate the existing imbalance.

Our children should no longer be treated as guinea pigs in experimental efforts to seek a better education system in Malaysia.

President, Malaysian Association for Music Education.

1 comment:

mumsgather said...

Music, Physical Education and the Arts are often cut off to make way for other "more important" exam oriented papers. Even now, my girl has missed PE for two weeks and Art has been postponed again and again because the teachers are rushing to finish the syllabus for the mid term exam and it seems like just not too long ago to me that they just sat for their first term exam!