Early formal music education in China

Formal music instruction begins very early in China. Sometimes it even begins from kindergartens. Music becomes part of daily activities. Singing, moving, dancing, clapping… even playing some classroom instruments. But most of the time, this is just to let the kids get into the environment of music. I still remember that when I was in the kindergarten, we had different activities every night in week days. We danced, sang and actually could start learning one instrument: either violin or cello. All the activities except the instrument lesson, we were taught by teachers who were not music specialists (those who had learnt methods of teaching music).

classroom instruments

According to Bennett Reimer in his paper: Music Education in China: An Overview and Some Issues, kinds of culturally supported behaviour patterns in China tend to enhance certain aspects of group learning, not only in music but also in other school subjects or activities. Chinese kindergarten children seem to be more docile than American  children. This phenomenon happens because the parents of the kids appreciate the kids when they “behave”, “get along”, “not cause any trouble” and “be good”. Also this guiding rule causes some of the kids practice their instruments a lot since they will get appreciation from their parents. This influence from parents in China is quite different from parents in US. Also, music teachers in China focus more on skill and technique training which is not good for the kids to develop their creativity. Nowadays, Chinese music education is struggling with the issue of balance between the traditional approach, emphasising song-singing and related notational and sight-singing skills and the recognised need to broaden the experiences children have of music — to use skills as means rather than ends. How to improve the music teaching methodology in a more creative way and encourage musical independence rather than suppressing it… All these questions should be answered before the revolution of Chinese music education in early age of students.

Personally I always feel lack of creativity in music. I could play good music because I’ve trained for years on my skills, but I can’t really improvise when I play cello. I always have to play depending on scores I have. But this is not the case for other cellists in our orchestra. They can improvise depending on melody (adding chords…). I wish that I had had more freedom during my early music education to play things other than what I ”should” play.

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2 Responses to Early formal music education in China

  1. Lu Hongyang says:

    Actually I do not know anything about the music education in China or somewhere else. I never take a professional training on music or instruments. But I agree what you said in the last of this post, the creativity is much more significant than the skills. It is not only in music, the entire education system of China has the same problem. I heard that the College Entrance Examination in China will reform in the future. Hope that this change will improve the comprehensive quality of Chinese students.

  2. I don’t get the point of the paper… I’m pretty sure that american parents also want their kids to behave well?
    Anyway, it’s an interesting point you make about the improvisation skills. If the entire education system is like the music education, then Chinese scientists maybe lack the creativity required to make big discoveries or theories! Or engineers lack creativity to find innovative solutions! Or …!

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