Friday, September 26, 2008


That's Me Training a Choir at STTI in 1990

All is not well with our current public education system as we would like to believe. It is more so and troubling in so far as music education is concerned simply because there is a glaring reason which is constantly being overlooked and ignored. It is easy to teach anyone, young or old, to appreciate any kind of music and to experience its joys by merely listening to it. It is also easy to teach anyone cognitive aspects of music such as music history, pedagogy, theory fundamentals and so on. But you simply cannot teach music talent even through intensive training. That is what I have learnt after teaching student music teachers for 17 years at The Specialist Teacher Training Institute in Cheras (STTI/MPIK)

It is simply not possible to “teach” just anyone to be a music teacher. The potential music teacher’s innate musical talent is of paramount importance for without such musicality and musical talent, it is not possible to function effectively at all as a music teacher. If a music teacher cannot discriminate basic requirements such as pitch and rhythm correctly he/she is doomed. We can “train” such a person and give a music teacher’s certificate,a diploma or even a degree and pay the person accordingly but he / she is not going to be an efficient music teacher. This is something quite simple and straightforward which the planners at the Malaysian Ministry of Education have not been able to understand all these years or have simply chosen to ignore in order to meet numbers and quotas and also to please policy makers who may not be aware of this serious flaw. This situation must be rectified immediately.

Any program designed to produce music teachers should begin by taking in only musical persons with also some higher degree of intelligence. All other aspects of music teacher education like pedagogy, theory fundamentals, music appreciation etc. can be taught but musical talent can never be taught.

Any good music teacher must be able to inspire and motivate his / her students. To do this well in music classes, the teacher’s musical ability must be there at all times.
This is the main reason why the music programs in the Malaysian education system from primary to tertiary levels have failed since 1983. To borrow an analogy coined by Prof. Emeritus Dr. Khoo Kay Peng, let us replace the "old coat" instead of trying to keep mending it by “cutting, stitching and patching” it. In this way what we have now can only be best described as a terribly “torn, tattered and patched" coat which educational planners and policy makers are not willing to discard. There is no harm reinventing a new “coat” with past mistakes to avoid and guide us. Let’s do it now please. It’s already in the now or never stage.