DEPUTY Education Minister P. Kamalanathan's assurance in Parliament on the implementation of HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) through History, Music and Moral subjects is most welcome.
These subjects are often neglected in schools due to the emphasis given to English, Mathematics, Science and other examination subjects.
History has now been elevated to a must pass subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination and a compulsory one in primary school. Sadly, the same cannot be said of music.
Very few schools take music classes seriously. In some schools, music appears in the timetable but the slots are often hijacked for the more important examination subjects. In most schools, music is only allocated one period a week.
Being a non-examination subject, the success or failure of music in schools largely depends on music teachers, headmasters and their assistants. The headmasters are the key players in the game and if they are not interested in the subject, then there is slim chance for music to survive in schools.
To many, music is only important when there are compulsory music competitions during prize giving days and other similar occasions. Once these occasions are over, music takes a back seat.
Perhaps the implementation of HOTS can be seen as a move to give some dignity and importance to Music as a subject. What students need most are music teachers with basic music skills.
I noticed many music teachers do not possess music skills. With the exception of music teachers from the big schools in major towns, many are not even able to read or play simple children's songs or any key instruments.
Some cannot even sing a tune. Music in their classes - if it is done at all, simply means endless, boring exercises on the theory of music, copying of lyrics, colouring and occasional listening and singing via compact discs and laptops. Keyboards are generally left untouched.
In many advanced countries, it would be impossible to be a music teacher without being able to sing, read or play some musical instruments. In fact, in China, even pre-school teachers need to be able to play the piano.
And how sad for our children. In the hands of a skilled music teacher, every child would be creatively involved for hours on end with live music. The classes would be filled with laughter of children enjoying themselves, in group activities through singing, movements or playing of instruments.
What a loss not to be able to harness all these emotions in our young through music. These are the essence of all great education -- to create not only intelligent, successful, creative individuals but also to imbibe in them feelings of pride and love for the nation, respect, tolerance, empathy for fellow men, other creatures and their surroundings.
Music would be one of the best, and yet simplest way of developing the children's five senses and assist their growth in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. Many research findings actually support the fact that music can help to improve students' math and language grades, their reasoning capacity, enhance creativity and memory power as well as team and social skills.
The Greeks and Romans knew this thousands of years ago and music was a compulsory subject in their education. The Egyptians, Chinese, Indians and Arabs -- all the great civilisations of the world -- gave similar importance to music.
Even Hitler realised the power of music and it featured prominently during his reign.
Group singing and marching bands were of particular importance to the Nazi as a means of building group cohesion and obedience. In fact music is a part of all great education and should be an integral part of our education, too.
As Plato said: "Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and everything."
Al Kut, Kota Baru, Kelantan New Straits Times Online Home News Opinion Letters-to-the-editor 26/11/2013