SCMP Saturday, September 29, 2001

Stopping the music will harm studies, not help

My son started Primary Five this month. The next two years will be very important as they will determine his banding for secondary school. He does not have any problems with his studies but his teacher has suggested he should spend less time practising violin, which he loves. Should I let him go on with his violin practice, and what should I do to ease the negative feeling he has developed towards school?
Judy Chua Tiong Hong-sieng, principal of St Stephen's Primary School in Mid-Levels, responds: I think he should on no account drop his violin class. The teacher in this case has a very narrow view of education. Playing musical instruments can enhance children's self-esteem, and allows them to learn to persevere and focus on their studies. Meanwhile, the homework students are given is sometimes repetitive and should give room to reading or other educational activities which they really enjoy doing. I think the teacher should get a good scolding!
Professor Manny Brand, head of the Department of Music and Fine Arts, Baptist University: A child who is both academically and artistically talented is to be treasured. The best way to nurture their talents is for the home and school to work together in recognising, valuing, and developing diverse talents.
I can appreciate, however, the tension created when the choice has to be made between focusing on academic studies or a musical instrument. Apparently, the teacher did not say to stop the violin study, but suggested less time practising and more on academic studies.
Moving from childhood to adolescence, many students are asked to narrow their focus on their interests and studies. This is usually a mistake, for both primary and secondary years should be times to discover and develop a variety of interests and talents, not prematurely close off the rich range of academic and artistic capabilities characteristic of a successful, happy, and educated individual.
If both academic study and the violin are important to your son, I would encourage you to support his desire to continue studying and practising violin. The school and the home should have the same fundamental goal, to support and develop a well-rounded, multi-talented child - best accomplished when a child's diverse talents are encouraged.
Any Questions is a new column that aims to answer any education problem you are facing, whether you are a student, parent, teacher or professor.
E-mail questions to and we'll find the most appropriate expert to give you and answer.