Let’s just do it like the Finns

Stephen Moss, one of the Guardian’s more thoughtful commentators, proposes today that we remodel British primary education along Finnish lines, by giving every five year-old an instrument to play.

He writes from personal experience:

Almost every other person you meet says one of their greatest regrets is that they didn’t learn to read music or play an instrument. That’s certainly true of me: there were no lessons on offer at my big comprehensive. Good though it was, it didn’t offer too many frills. It had enough to do getting you through the curriculum. There was no school orchestra; no tradition of teaching – properly teaching – music. The only real players there were – I remember an ace pianist and a very good trombonist – were middle-class kids being taught in private lessons paid for by their parents…

Read on here.

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  • I generally agree with the article, but would like add an important point: more important than giving a 5-year-old an instrument, is introducing a toddler to music through play. That way music can become an integral part of a child’s life. Eventually they’ll ask to learn an instrument and are more likely to stick to it when they realize they can’t master it soon enough.

  • If there is anyone to thank for this model, it is composer Joonas Kokkonen (1921-96) who was using his personal influence as an Academic to influence politicians and bureaucrats. It was he who was pushing music education to schools. Nowadays a largely forgotten composer and symphonist, who in other circumstances would have written many more works…

  • Apart from its other well-documented attributes, music is also the perfect vector for social integration. Whereas your body type will often determine what sport is most appropriate for you, anyone can play any instrument they choose.

  • In fact we have a lot we could learn from the Finns. Not just primary but secondary schooling as well.

    They have few if any private schools, precious little political interference in either the structure of the schools or the curriculum, no OFSTED type of organisation and yet they are hugely successful, and consistently at the top of all the international rankings.

    So how do they do it? Simple, they have a fully comprehensive system of schools with teachers [who are largely left alone to get on with the job] who are paid at about the same level as Dentists and Solicitors.

    We shall never match them with the chaotic socially divisive so called “system” we have in the UK. Try this question, can anyone now explain the difference between
    a local authority school, a Grant Maintained school, a free school, a foundation school, a free standing academy, an academy chain and a faith school?

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