Friday, March 2, 2012

Richard Gill on Music Literacy

Richard Gill is one of Australia's foremost experts on music education.  This video is about twenty minutes long, but he talks about what he sees as some of the problems in our education system at the moment.

A few of his best points:

  • That we have insisted literacy and numeracy is the right of every child is fundamentally good, but to ensure every child is literate and numerate we need to test.  But in order to ensure the school gets good results teachers are beginning to teach to the test, or excluding students who won't do well.  This is not education.
  • There are two reasons for school: to learn to think and to learn to learn. Education should be about teaching students these two things and instilling a hunger for them in the students.
  • We can't dumb down the curriculum!  Gill used the example of teaching music notation to small children using flowers or ducks or cars instead of noteheads, and that he has never, in all the music repertoire, seen a piece of music written in ducks.  This gives the message that children are silly, but they are not.  
  • The reason for teaching music is that music is good, but the bonus of teaching music is that it has flow on effects in all areas of learning.  Much research points to the reality that students who learn music do better in other subjects. 
  • Sadly, 80% of schools don't teach music.  (I'd be interested to know where he got this statistic, because I thought the number of schools that did offer music would be higher than that.) 

I agree with him.  Children need things simplified, not dumbed down.  That's the way I approach my own children: put things in a way that they can understand, but don't 'baby' them.  

Also, school should not be about learning facts, and not just about learning the mechanics of reading, writing and arithmetic.  We as educators should be creating lifelong leaners.    Unfortunately, I believe, standardised testing leads to teaching the mechanics and making sure the kids can pass.  Kids definitely need to learn reading, writing and arithmetic, but they need to learn it in a real world context, not just well enough to pass a test! 

And as for music, the new National Curriculum asks for two hours a week on the arts (music, art and drama), lets hope this happens in practice!  Music is good because it is good.   

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