To better understand the Cyprus preschool policy and especially to learn about music education at early age, four Cypriot educators were interviewed. These individuals had a wide range of perspectives and experiences covering areas from different educational stages: a kindergarten head teacher; a kindergarten teacher; a headmaster of a private English school (from the age of five until the age of 18) a headmaster of a conservatory; a primary school teacher.
All of the interviews were conducted over a two month period between July 2010 and August 2010 The main purpose of this evaluation interview is to help us understand how much importance is given on music education in Cyprus and to highlight the weaknesses of Cyprus educational system, regarding music materials, educational staff, material that could be used in a future preschool music program.
The applicable research tool of this investigation is based on Qualitative Interviewing methodology in order to expand understanding of kindergartens and educators’ thoughts about music education in Cyprus. Although various things were discussed in the interviews, the focus was on respondents’ actual opinions about the weaknesses of the current educational system based on their experiences. For this purpose a series of questions were devised in order to examine new programs or school developments and suggests improvements. Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant’s experience and it can pursue in-depth information around the topic
The educators were called to answer a set of open and close questions in a certain order. The interview was conducted individually so that each educator wouldn’t be influenced by the other and it lasted around ten minutes.
After interviewing these four educators there is a clearer idea about music education in kindergartens. Regardless of the fact of interviewing educators from several fields, different gender, age and dissimilar positions in schools, the results would be more valid if the interviewers were more. Since the interviewers’ positions in schools are not the same, the questions made were also different. The answers we received from kindergarten teachers were almost the same. From the answers we received, according to the importance of music in kindergartens, about music classroom and musical instruments we conclude that either because of the music class deficiency, neither because of the non specialist teacher, music does not consists a priority in early years. It could be noticed that although there are Orff music instruments in the class, teachers and children do not use them all in music lessons.
A topic that in this research needed to be examined is teacher’s specialization or not according to music section and how much effective can a non specialist could teach music. From the answers we received it could be concluded that the deficiency of specialization makes music education in kindergarten hard. Unfortunately most teachers do not realize the importance of music specialist. From the interview we can observe the debate between teachers and music specialists which is a worldwide problem. Of course this also happens because of materials lack, but also because of the lack of specialized staff, which they could help children to build up correctly the musical concepts through the proportional activities.
Another problem that can be detected from the interview, are the important differences between public and private kindergartens. In private the music lesson is taught by a specialist from very early age, in contrast with public in which students are taught music by a specialist at the age of twelve. Moreover private schools pay more importance on music by giving motivations to the child.
Generally through this research emerge the need of music’s development in kindergartens, but the circumstances do not help something like that. There are severe lacks on materials substructures, on teachers training and education,
Proposed Plan of Action for Cyprus. A Need for Early Age Music Preschool
Early childhood is a crucial stage of life in terms of children’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social development and of their well-being. A significantly high proportion of learning takes place from birth to age six. The term preschool age has been used to refer to children early childhood, from their birth until around five-six years old “which are deliberately designed to stimulate and support their mental, physical, emotional, language, social, etc development” Preschool education concerns child’s education during his birth and finishes with his accession in primary school. The last few years a great importance is given on children’s education from early age, which this age considers as one of the most crucial periods regarding child’s development and education.
According to Singh (2007, p. xiv),
Preschool education is an indispensable instrument for the proper personality development of child. We must know that early years of the children are important because rate of growth and development is fastest and environmental influences are minimal.
Early Childhood Definition
The wise teacher will provide a happy, ordered environment in which the children can find security. She will supply suitable materials and give them freedom to experiment with them. She will stimulate their imaginations and cater for their physical needs with large apparatus.
Kindergarten activities in order to be successful succeeded and advantageous for the children, activities should be psychologically and pedagogically fundamental. Meaning that teacher should consider a methodological or didactical procedure, abide by some general and particular basic authorities. These authorities correspond to children needs as well as activities specific aims (Koffa, 1985, p. 45). By saying didactical procedure we mean the domestic organization of teachers attempt to adjust appropriate three familiar pedagogical factors, from which every activity consists. These factors are: the preschooler, the material and the teacher (Elzer, 1968, p. 97). According to Rapti and Kavvada( p. 36), the teacher should take into account and combine the following factors: a) logical b) psychological and c) didactical.
The teacher should take into consideration some principles, which should be applied during activities development. He should create a familiar atmosphere (Petala, 1963, p. 97), atmosphere of freedom and enthusiasm, love and pleasure and mutual trust between the teacher and the preschooler (Xoheli, 1983, p. 81).
The Importance of Music in Preschool
Feierabend supports that the musical nurturing a child receives during the early years can have a marked impact on later success and level of involvement. The kindergarteners of my interview seem to disagree with the above statement. According to E. A (see Appendix 2a) head teacher of a kindergarten, music education in Cyprus kindergarten is satisfactory. The teachers’ role in the education process is to teach children how to be self-sufficient through a specific plan of action and not to help them develop their music skills. She agrees that teachers should pay attention to music education, however she proposes that at this early stage music should not be the first priority. The same opinion like E.A is detected in the interview from A.A, applying that at this early age teachers main concern it is not the music education of the pupil but to teach them the basics things about how to meet their fundamental needs e.g how to eat, how to use the toilet and help them socialized with other children. In a research by Moorhead and Pond concluded that music is an integral part of young children’s lives. In relation, K. V underlines that their school is based on a different philosophy than the rest of public schools. He believes that the educational system in Cyprus should undergo some changes since it cannot meet students’ fundamental demands. He believes that especially in music, student’s first contact with it must be in an early age, even from Kindergarten if it is possible. Establishing K.V opinion, I.P supports that education in the first five years of life is very important. However she continues, the truth is that Cypriot educational system has weaknesses especially regarding early music education. The field of early childhood music education objective is to promote music in the lives of young children, regardless of talent and to create and enhanced the development of the whole child.
E A also points out that there is a music curriculum for the Kindergarten but is the same as the curriculum in primary school. Five years old kindergarten children are taught the same musical content as six year old primary children. As it can be seen in chapter 3.1.1 some of the objectives of the Cypriot detailed program are not achievable for pre primary children. is difficult for children to sing correctly, learn music symbols and understand basic elements of theory, morphology and history of music. A.A underpins that music education that children receive in kindergarten is satisfactory. She underlines that there is a music curriculum and teachers are required to follow the activities, the aims and the objectives of it. Usually, the headmaster of the kindergarten attends the class and looks over while music lesson takes place and ensures that what is taught is according to the curriculum. Another point of view on music education in schools is presented by I.P. She believes that children who show an interest in music are not many. They encounter music lesson as forty five minutes of break. They don’t care about the grade they are going to get on tests and they don’t have any interest in taking a part in choir or orchestra.
Teacher: Specialist or Non Specialist
Music educators argue that teacher’s involvement in childrens music education is very beneficial for their musical development. There are several opinions about who should teach music. Some support that the teacher is the most capable and some other support that a music specialist is the most appropriate. Gilbert (1981) supports that:
If the advice and guidance of a specialist teacher is available, then the ideal situation of working within a planned structure for the school as a whole can be attained.
In chapter 3.1.1 about music education in Cyprus it can be identified that in pre primary schools the class teacher is responsible for music lesson. This is also confirm from the head teacher E.A interview who applies that the music lesson in her kindergarten is taught by the class teacher who is a non- specialist. She proposes that a music specialist is not needed because at this age music is not so complicated and the teacher knows how to teach the basics. A.A also reports that in public kindergartens the teacher of the class, teaches all the lessons including music. In contrast with private kindergartens where in some is the same like public but some other brings a specialist to teach music lesson. She also agrees with E.A on the point that the teacher could also teach music successfully, but she admits that a specialized could teach music more effectively. In a study by Economidou-Stavrou it can be noticed that a lot of teachers are hesitant and unwilling to teach music because of their insufficient knowledge they have on music, the books which contain very difficult music material and the undertake of orchestra and choir. According to Glover and Ward the teachers in England hesitate to take over music teaching because of the high level of performance required for school orchestras, bands and choirs, “noise, limited time and resources, perhaps their own and children’s lack of vocal and instrumental skills”. On the other hand K.V noticed that in contrary with public kindergartens and primary public schools, the music lesson in his school is taught by a professional musician from the age of five until the age of nineteen, thus the level of their choir is high. Proceeding, he predicates that it is very important for a student, his music teacher to be a specialist in order to make him love the music from an early age. Moreover, a specialist has a more holistic view on music education than a non specialist and it will be easier for him to descry gifted and talented children and help them develop their skills. The head teacher of the conservatory I. P also underlines the issue about the debate that occupied many teachers, musicians and educators, about specialists or generalists. As a matter of fact she agrees with K. V completing that music should be taught from a professional musician because as she mentioned in her interview, early age is important. Children should receive the proper knowledge on music in order to relate with music and because professional musicians are educated in more details on their subject they are more able to transfer their interest to the child. She supports that someone becomes a musician because he loves music. For this person is easier to transmit music to someone else.
In my opinion, music lesson should be taught from a music specialist but supported from children’s teacher if needed. The class teacher somehow could help children better because he/she knows them more and is acquainted with their needs and interests. According to Stephens teachers can be sensitive to childrens needs and guide them to discover music themselves. On the other hand, music specialists have much more knowledge on music than the teacher and could help children to love and learn more about music. In 1999 Swanwick states that for an affective teaching a music teacher needs to have a strong sense of musical intention linked to educational purposes: skills are used for musical ends, factual knowledge informs musical understanding. Thereby, the combination of the two teachers will be the most appropriate for children.
Music teacher should have some particular abilities and attitudes for what will be taught and also should have the sensitivity to offer music in an appropriate environment. For a successful music lesson teacher should:
Prepare lesson material before it will be presented in the classroom (materials used in a lesson should be assembled in advance. When a teacher makes advance preparations for a lesson by doing such routine things as assembling materials, writing on the chalkboard the titles and page numbers of the songs, words or rote songs, notation for class study, the order of music activities and other directions, he promotes general efficiency
Interrelate music education with children interests and vocabulary
Use her/his voice correct and with expressiveness
Use the appropriate way and material, in order to help children express freely their inner world
Learn use simple instruments like recorder, guitar or mandolin
Know children individual differences which they have as a result the creation of different music levels
Use comfortably percussion, melodic and rhythmic instruments
Play piano, if possible good enough, so she/he could use it comfortably and also check children with her/his glance
Use with children the dexterities they acquired and keep practicing them
Chose and present a variety of musical activities with a good balance in between them
Be guided by childrens recommendations, for a creating teaching
Participate without constraints in music lesson
Music Classroom, Materials and Ways
Room organization is a key to motivating the child’s choice of activities.
For an effective music lesson, necessary requirement is the appropriate place, a comfortable room. The learning becomes harder, when it runs in a room without normal ventilation, improper lighting and temperature. Therefore, is teacher’s responsibility to ensure that all the above elements exist.
In order to succeed high quality music activities are depending on factors such us: a specific classroom for music lesson, the acquisition of the necessary class instruments and the acquisition of other musical equipment. According to E.A there is no music class in most kindergartens, mainly in public, but there is a small place called “music corner” in each class, where they have some music material like musical instruments or books with songs. Unfortunately, because of the fact that they don’t have much space in the class for music, they are unable to have a big amount of music material, especially musical instruments. Despite the fact that they don’t have many instruments she suggests that those they have are enough and sometimes they don’t use them all. There are several activities that music curriculum applies like listening to music, singing, musical stories, use of instruments, dramatization. Because of the fact that A A worked in both private and public kindergartens, she mentions that it depends from the kindergarten. Usually private schools have a separate class with all the musical equipment in it and with many musical instruments, sometimes and with a piano. On the other hand, public schools usually they have a small place in the classroom which is called “music corner”. She also indicates that public schools do not have many musical instruments because they cost too much and public kindergarten fees are low. Musical activities varied in kindergarten. Some of them are dance, singing, listening to music, musical games, theatricalization or construction of improvise instruments. As I mentioned above Mrs Antigoni used to teach in both public and private kindergartens and she noticed many differences between the two of them. One was about the variety of instruments and the second one was about specialists and non specialists. From a different music field, I.P the head teacher of a conservatory, she believes that learning an instrument is important, but in early age is not a priority because in this age children should see music as pleasure and as a relaxation. Learning an instrument needs hours of practice and children are already stressed from all other lessons they are taught in school.
It is known that furniture’s arrangement in a class, affect the teaching method. Children should be placed in a way so that they would be able to participate easy, wherever they sit in the class, in general conversations, individual or team exercises and to have the opportunity to listen other speaking, singing or playing an instrument. Chairs and desks should be chosen according to children’s size (dimensions), so that they could sit at ease. It is necessary in musical activities the furniture’s to be able to remove easily. According to the activity, children maybe will have to sit, or stand temporarily when they sing, or play musical instruments, to move rhythmically or dance. Chairs placement should be in a semicircle in order to ease movements in musical activities.
In order to avoid confusion and loss of time, teacher should give comprehensible and clear instructions, about how children will move from one activity to another and should exist a common planning between children-teacher. A part of the daily organization and routine is teacher’s understandable instructions about get in or leave the classroom, as well as books or musical instruments carriage. It should be noticed that for health reasons musical wind instruments should not be used from several children before they disinfect.
Musical Instruments - Equipment
In a music classroom a variety of objects that makes sound are required for experimentation. Music instruments, music books, books relevant with music, pictures, and puzzles are essential equipments. All these should be set and arranged in places where they would be accessible by children, safe, clearly labeled and attractively presented.
The choice of musical several materials and mostly musical instruments is important. The teacher should choose instruments which produce the best sound quality, they have resilience, they can be stored easily and they are appropriate for childrens development. The correct decision of the songs is also essential. Teachers should offer songs suitable to the age of the children. The songs should have a simple and vary melody, repeated parts for easy learning, proper range for the voices, rhythmic appeal, and an attractive accompaniment. The fundamental equipment that is needed in a music classroom are:
Musical instruments: tuned and unturned percussions, different types and with different tonality, woodblocks, maracas, castanets, cymbals in different sizes, finger cymbals, tambourines, τριγωνακια, καμπανουλες, κουδουνακια, triangles, rattles, sand blocks, jingle bells, guiros, γκογκ, chime bars, xylophone, glockenspiels, metallophones, recorders, guitar, mandolin, keyboards and piano
Instruments created by children, homemade rhythm instruments Pictures, puzzles
Books: song collections and books relevant to music and musicians
Also, a radio, tape recorder, record player, projector and a camera are vital.
As everyone can see, music education is a core component of every child’s education, although many people underestimate its importance in the schools today. As highlighted in the first chapter music education significantly contribute to the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development of children that must be tackled with the greatest sense of urgency by every parent and every educator.
However, while instructional strategies are bound by the music teacher and the music curriculum, many educators rely heavily on one of many instructional methodologies that appeared in recent times and developed speedily during the latter half of the 20th Century. Therefore Chapter Two introduced the principal Major international music education methods such as those of Dalcroze, Kodaly, Orff, Suzuki and Edgar Willems. The meeting point of these methods is that children should have early age music experiences and that we must realize that these methods have several principles in common which can be integrated into a single program in order to achieve the best result for our children. Going one step further these educators underline that children’s development can be achieved by several music activities like singing, listening to music, musical movements and the use of musical activities which are the main media through which music education factions.
In a practical level, the research methodology of this paper has shown that music education in Cyprus is unsatisfactory and ineffective since the arts, and in particular music, are an optional part of early education. One of the problems is that those teachers working in early childhood education do not have the requisite knowledge and skills to plan and teach music while Cyprus early childhood programs lacking in musical direction. Chapter three and highlighted the major problems of Cyprus educational system by comparing it with Finland’s educational system while Chapter four proposes in my opinion an effective plan of action by taking into consideration the real needs of early age children in Cyprus.
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