OPEN LETTER TO THE MALAYSIAN PRESS FROM JOE CHELLIAH, AS PRESIDENT MALAYSIAN ASSOCIATION FOR MUSIC EDUCATION
The biennial 27th conference of the International Society for Music Education’s (ISME 2006) began on July 16th in Kuala Lumpur at the KLCC and ended on a very successful high note after five full days of rich cultural interaction, great performances and world class academic discourses in music education. It was attended by some of the world’s foremost scholars and leaders in music education from 106 member countries. The patron for ISME 2006’s was none other than our beloved Prime Minister with tangible support from four Ministries and numerous other governmental agencies in cash and kind. The main conference organizer was UITM with the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage as co-organizer. The Malaysian Association for Music Education (MAME) was also a co-organizer by virtue of being ISME’s sole local affiliate.
Approximately 2000 persons from all over the world attended ISME 2006 and comprised of performing students and actual delegates. Nothing but praise was showered by the international participants with some remarking that it was the best ever ISME conference to date – held 27 times worldwide so far. We Malaysians are excellent at playing host and demonstrated the same thing yet again and treated our guests “royally” with banquets, concerts, musical excursions and visits.
However, the success of the event should in no way delude anyone with the mistaken notion that all is well or going to be well regarding music education in our country and that Malaysians, especially parents, have suddenly come to realize that music is as essential and integral as any other subject in the Malaysian school curriculum. If I may add, the majority of Malaysian music educators themselves from professors to classroom teachers had not been too excited about the whole ISME affair with many probably even being unaware of the existence of such a body, let alone MAME. The Malaysian Ministry of Education must be commended for sponsoring about 400 music teachers and lecturers to attend ISME 2006. Otherwise only a handful of “hard-cores” would have represented Malaysia.
It is also sad to note, and not surprisingly if I might add, that the ordinary Malaysian was very much unaware of such an illustrious conference that was happening right here in Kuala Lumpur. Although the organizers had contacted the media people and provided ample publicity information and material, there was no worthy coverage of the conference either before, after or even during the conference itself. I am not aware of any post event write up either. The media was definitely preoccupied with other “headline news” that were perceived as being more important such as the wedding plans and separation of some pop artistes. Ironically, the ISME banners carried the logo of prominent TV station as official broadcaster which I doubt hardly lived up to its role. Alas, ISME 2006 presented a great opportunity for music education advocacy in Malaysia and it has now come to pass.
The corporate sector was also not living up to their much talked about “corporate social responsibility” with even many corporate “giants” looking the other way to our appeals and not contributing even a single sen when approached. Let us hope that things will be better when the only next possible ISME Conference comes around to Malaysia in the year 2218. Meanwhile spare a thought for more meaningful music education exposure for the children in Malaysia beyond their current “self-discovery” approach.
Johami Abdullah @ Joe Chelliah
Malaysian Association for Music Education