Music ‘helps children expand their cultural horizons’

Education chief Mohammed Al Mubarak says scaling back school music programmes is short-sighted.

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Sheikh Zayed once said: “Future generations will be living in a world that is very different from that to which we are accustomed. It is essential that we prepare ourselves and our children for that new world.”

He had the foresight to recognise the importance of education in this young country’s progress and ensure that future generations are equipped with the skills that will matter in a new world.

As educationists, we are always thinking of new ways to enhance the curriculum and understand that today’s children can only prepare for tomorrow by going beyond the textbook. These methods need to be creative and think differently and that is where music helps encourage a new way of thinking.

In many schools across the world, music education is being scaled back. In other words, a universal language that has united the human race for centuries is being given less priority. In recent years, researchers have noted this trend. In an effort to shed light on the advantages of music education, these researchers have unearthed a number of benefits of music education for children, leaving sceptics baffled.

Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, both prominent experts in their fields of psychology, found that for the growth of children, a safe space is of paramount importance.

This safe space should be where the expression of the child is not limited, where the child is allowed to be who he or she wants to be. In order for this safe space to operate effectively, there needs to exist a freedom to think creatively and take intellectual risks.

Music is this safe space for young children. As they clap and sing to the beat of their own drum, they are not confined within the ideals of society, yet instead express the rhythm of their spirit. This environment breeds psychological security, providing an essential contribution to a child’s social, emotional and cognitive growth, as well as their creative abilities. These creative abilities flourish under favourable conditions.

The safe space that music is able to provide children can only get safer when the child’s direct role models, such as their parents and teachers, are supportive of their musical creativity.

The behaviourist branch of psychology suggests this is because the child’s behaviour is encouraged and therefore the desired behaviour will repeat itself. In other words, the child’s creativity will appear increasingly as it is identified as an actively rewarded behaviour by the child.

Some believe that intelligence is equivalent to one’s knowledge recall abilities, though this view does not acknowledge the role of knowledge creation as a component of intelligence. Creativity is one of the main forms of knowledge creation. It can therefore be argued that when a child’s creativity is encouraged, it is an encouragement of their intellectual abilities.

Not only does music allow children to develop their intellectual capabilities, to work in harmony as a group, and present themselves in front of an audience with confidence, but it also helps to expand their cultural horizons.

Many music education curriculums aim to incorporate music from all over the world. It is therefore a form of expression that offers a way to communicate across cultures and regions. There exists a great opportunity for children to learn from one another in an informal capacity, expanding their creative banks in the process. It also equips a child with skills that they could use for the betterment of society.

For example, more than 600 students demonstrated their skills recently through a performance of various musical styles including Arabic, pop, classical and jazz as well as their own compositions to a crowd of over a thousand and raised Dh136,275 for Abu Dhabi’s Special Care Centre for Children. For a child, music can then be seen as a vehicle to understand and appreciate other children that might come from a different culture or background. In this case, it is an opportunity to help students with special needs and make a difference to their lives.

Simply put, music education is an integral component in a child’s development. It helps to expand the learning opportunities present in the classroom setting and broadens a child’s perception to include the creative arts. Music not only increases the child’s knowledge of musical expression, but it is a form of art that allows for an enrichment of the whole person. Whether one is an adult or a child, creativity is of use in everyday life, and the denial of music education goes a long way in denying one of creative abilities. Never should we let the tune of music fade away from the lives of our children.

Mohammed Al Mubarak is chairman of Aldar Academies

OPINION