Path to a Sound Education

NEP is driving educators to put on their creative caps now more than ever.


The Instruments Gallery at IME

Priyanka Giri

“My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status” - Sir Ken Robinson

India’s education system focuses on academics rather than learning. The method of teaching combined with social pressure and expectations have highly influenced the path chosen by students nationwide. The spotlight continues to be on “having a safety net”, while curbing individual talents and creativity.

However, there is some hope with the New Education Policy. After 34 years, the 1986 policy has been revised and could prove to be a game-changer, provided educational institutions get creative in implementing the curriculum.

The policy aims at ensuring holistic education, cultivating “21st-century skills” like creativity, problem-solving, digital literacy, and emphasises multidisciplinary education where students can choose from a wide variety of subjects. The focus will shift from rote learning to application-based learning. The aim is to make the education system India-focused, raising it to global standards, and making India a 'global knowledge superpower'.

India is one of the richest countries in terms of cultural diversity and heritage, and NEP 2020 considers the promotion and preservation of Indian culture to be of high priority, for the nation’s identity and economy.

Educational institutions must offer courses and electives in music and performing arts, at different levels of education. Directives have been issued to develop course curriculums for Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, and Kuchipudi, and vocal and instrumental Hindustani and Carnatic music. Irrespective of the course, students can choose subjects under “arts”. There will be no strict division between science and arts, academics and vocational subjects.

Starting with Early Childhood Care and Education, music, drama, puppetry, etc will be used for cultural/artistic development. India is a storehouse of culture and NEP 2020 emphasises the importance of being aware of such diversity, for cultural enrichment and national integration.

Teachers are required to encourage students’ talents by providing them with material, guidance, and encouragement. Topic-specific clubs, such as Chess Circles, Poetry Circles, Language Circles, Drama Circles, Debate Circles, etc will be supported at the school level.

Referring to music education, making music interactive is probably one of the best stepping stones towards increasing music awareness. The Indian Music Experience, India’s only interactive music museum, is one such example.

Entrance to the museum

This non-profit initiative of the IME Trust aims at increasing understanding and appreciation for Indian music, starting from traditional to contemporary exhibits, learning centres, and performances. The research that has gone into creating this museum ensures that visitors get more than what they came for. Such unique ideas can be applied in an educational environment to give students practical experience and ignite curiosity.

Tracing the origin of music, it is believed to have originated from sounds in the natural environment. For example, the chirping of birds, animal sounds, wind, grass, etc. The human voice box itself is considered an instrument. Some of the earliest instruments made by hunter-gatherers using bones, simply replicated vocal sounds. The origin is further highlighted through the story of ‘Om’ - the sound of the universe’s creation - and the Saptaswaras - Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni, said to have derived from bird and animal names. Educational institutions can introduce a ‘movie hour’ concept, play a short film or organise storytelling sessions on such topics.

‘Om’, the sound of the universe

Origin of the names of the Saptaswaras

The history of Indian classical music is traced from the Vedic period, Medieval period, and the era of the Bhakti movement. Poet-saints like Tulsidas, Mirabai, etc, started to gain popularity during this time. Further, the evolution of Hindustani and Carnatic music is traced from the Delhi Sultanate to the Colonial era. For such historic information, students can be asked to stage a play.

A timeline of Indian classical music

People used to perform musical dramas based on mythology, to tell stories to the common people. Such dramas can be recreated in the current context while attempting to learn the importance of the music simultaneously.

A Carnatic music concert includes several aspects - varnam, kriti, padam, javali, etc, along with improvisation. To explain such technical terms, live concerts or performances can be organised. Watching a performance to learn, will ensure that there is fun in learning.

Different stages in a Carnatic music concert

From compositions by Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, etc, music was also given importance by Mahatma Gandhi himself - “Music has given me peace....music has helped me to overcome anger”. Stories about the impact of music during Indian independence ought to be brought under the spotlight, probably through films or documentaries.

Music during the Indian Independence Movement

Folktales about music from rural areas or villages can be depicted through wall paintings or murals. Students can paint the stories themselves, which will also help hone their artistic skills.

Excerpt from a short story, ‘A Flowering Tree’, by A.K. Ramanujan

In the sound garden at the museum, people can experience unique instruments like humming stones, wind chimes, and tubular bells, to learn concepts of sound, frequency, resonance, vibration, etc. If educational institutions can afford such infrastructure, it would be an extremely creative way of teaching musical concepts.

Sound garden at IME, All photos by Priyanka Giri BA '23

Music in India has been influenced by several cultures such as the British, Portuguese, Persian, etc. Institutions can try to organise expert talks, debates, and discussions, for unique perspectives on such diverse influences.

Institutions can set up music rooms to teach students different styles and genres of music, if feasible. Today, online learning can foster music education. Students who have prior knowledge of playing musical instruments can learn on mobiles and laptops too, using different apps.

NEP 2020 aims at achieving ‘internalisation of home’, where curriculum for subjects like music, history, culture, languages, etc, will be designed to achieve global standards and attract international students. Institutions can achieve this by opening new branches across the country. India itself has several centres for classical music, which will help achieve this goal.

Innovation is almost always the need of the hour. There is no limit to the amount of creativity that can be used by educational institutions to impart education and knowledge.

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