Although strictly speaking this represents a single source it contains the work of three separate authors. Each of the articles outline the personal response of a Music educator to government funding initiatives around the ‘Closing the Gaps’ strategy. This strategy is focused on addressing the significant differences between Maori and Pakeha achievement within the N.Z education system.
Robyn Trinick talks of the importance of applying curriculum strands horizontally as opposed to vertically, so as to cater for a wider variety of learning styles. She clearly faults the system for failing Maori students in this regard and advocates a thoroughly child-centred approach as a means by which teachers may offset their ethnocentric biases. Trinick also mentions the importance of effective delivery style as much as content when considering inclusivity in the music classroom.
Clare Henderson begins her essay by raising the issue of “gap blindness” or the lack of acknowledgement ( by teachers especially), of the gulf in achievement levels between Maori and Pakeha students. She points out the discrepancies between Maori students’ often rich musical life outside of school and their contrastingly low achievement and participation levels in the school music world.
Henderson pinpoints the gap between aural retrieval processes central to Maori musical forms (and culture) and the heavy emphasis on notation evident in many schools. Addressing the hegemony of western European traditions and learning styles to better recognize and utilize Maori strengths and values is central to Henderson’s vision of “gap bridging”. Henderson stresses the importance of both aural and notation based processes in musical education and as such suggests developing and strengthening an interface between these traditions. She places the responsibility on teachers to step outside comfort zones in order to develop the skills, knowledge and teaching approaches necessary to facilitate this interface.
Six sound solutions towards increased inclusiveness are thus proposed. 1. Sound philosophy: i.e. embedding new learning in sound first through use of the central learning tools of singing, playing and composing. Acknowledging and utilizing aural traditions of students. 2. Sensitivity; i.e. to cultural needs and learning styles 3. Student centred learning; i.e. use of meaningful learning contexts and leading out from current student knowledge/skills.
4. Stimulate; ie. learn music by making music(not just talking about it) and goal setting 5. Sight singing; i.e. developing sound-symbol reading and writing through sight singing which links aural skills and ‘ear’ development with notational systems. 6. Systematic structure; i.e. facilitate consistent, on-going skills development to suit varied individual needs. The last essay in this set is by James Robb who conducted a survey of Music HOD’s in the Auckland region regarding their responses to the Governments “Closing the Gaps” initiatives. With a particular focus on how Maori, Pacific Island and Asian Music were being addressed in the curriculum he found that Maori music was receiving little educational attention due to a number of factors.
These factors were as follows: The dominance of American popular culture in the media went largely unchallenged by students and meant many found Maori music to be irrelevant or uninteresting. Lack of accessible resources regarding Maori music meant that teachers often felt unsure of how to teach Maori music. Additionally, since their own music education often lacked a Maori music component their knowledge base was relatively poor. Again emphasis was made on the musical involvement of Maori students outside school being highly aural in nature. Notation driven assessment especially at senior level tended to marginalise this experience.
Finally Robb highlights the need for music departments to collaborate with Maori departments, pooling resources and sharing responsibility since the ” study of Maori music itself overlaps considerably with the study of Maori language and culture”.(Robb pp.26) Points raised by the above writers are backed up by the article “A Culturally Relevant Education” sourced from the website www.teachtactix.com/. This article highlights some key issues around teaching the Maori child in all areas. The focus being on recognising and valuing the Maori students unique world view, experiences and resultant learning styles. The article goes on to stress the importance of culturally relevant learning examples and styles in students development of positive self-concept.