Music subject in reformed curriculum facing tough challenges

The reformed curriculum for primary and secondary school is going to be applied for grade 1 and 6 in the academic year of 2021 – 2022, and for grade 10 in 2022 – 2023. This will be the first time music is taught in high school; yet right now, the human resources as well as infrastructure preparation for this new program encounters various obstacles.

Students in Lac Long Quan Primary School (located in District 11) are performing a song with one traditional musical instrument

Students in Lac Long Quan Primary School (located in District 11) are performing a song with one traditional musical instrument

In the recent talk ‘Current Situation in School Teacher Training for Music Subject’, held by the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) College of Culture and Arts, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Chien – Deputy Dean of the Department of Arts in Sai Gon University – stated that the number of music lessons in the existing curriculum for grade 1 to grade 9 is too low, with only one period per week. In addition, most schools do not have a special classroom equipped with musical instruments for this subject while the teaching staff is insufficient as well, let alone their unbalanced professional level.

Ms. Truong Nguyen Anh Nga, Head of the HCMC College of Culture and Arts, agreed with that idea and added that there are also difficulties in the outdated curriculum and teacher training methods. Since the practice sessions for the to-be music teachers in pedagogy universities are not adequate, many cannot truly become accustomed with any musical instrument.

One noticeable point is that the remuneration in Vietnamese schools is not attractive enough to retain talented music teachers. Statistics from the Ministry of Education and Training show that among over 16,000 music teachers nationwide, there are only 613 with a university degree (accounting for 3.9 percent). The other 86 percent have a college degree, and the rest are teachers of other subjects taking additional responsibility for music subject.

In HCMC, from the academic year of 2016 – 2017, the HCMC People’s Committee requested the city’s Department of Education and Training to carry out the project ‘Teaching Traditional Music in Schools in HCMC from 2016 – 2020’. However, as this project is socially financed, the quality in each educational unit is not at all the same. In many schools, due to a financial lack, musical shows or talks are not regularly held.

In the upcoming reformed curriculum, music is still a compulsory subject from grade 1 to grade 9. Yet in the last three grades, it becomes an optional one in accordance with their preference and career choice.

Particularly, the knowledge on musical instruments and chorus will be taught for the first time. The curriculum will be quite flexible to avoid students being overloaded. It will ensure the development of aesthetic ability in each learner via the skills of performance, perceptiveness, analysis and evaluation, music creation and application in relationship with other art forms.

The new curriculum, which inherits around 60 percent of the current one, will assign 35 periods of music lessons per academic year. High schools are allowed to hire music teachers from different sources because music is an optional subject in this level. 

Moreover, the teacher training methods in pedagogy universities will be adjusted to increase the practice sessions and further implement information technology via suitable software and appropriate advanced devices. Smart phones will also be used effectively to record or play music when in need.

One interesting point is that foreign languages have been a barrier for those wishing to expand their knowledge in this field. Therefore, pedagogy universities should improve this communication skill among their students in order to boost their self-learning capability even after these students graduate.

By MINH QUAN – Translated by Tuan Lu

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