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Music in the Classroom: A Journey of Transformation​

Enabling Leadership Through Music

In recent years, the body of evidence on the role of music in transforming a child’s development has grown tremendously. This evidence confirms academic and social and emotional learning benefits for children participating in longer-term music education programs. Some well-known examples of these benefits include the development of visual, spatial and verbal intelligence, improved performance in mathematics. On the other hand, some of the social and emotional benefits include reduction of stress, increased attention and concentration, group collaboration and higher motivation. Given these recent discoveries,  it should be easy to make the case for the inclusion of music as a core subject in a school curriculum, but it remains woefully under-represented in most classrooms. 

One key challenge to overcome is shifting our educational focus to social and emotional priorities, and the benefits of participating in group-based music activities. These include empathy,  adaptability, a positive outlook, awareness, team-work and problem solving, to name a few. But why do these skills really matter? Undoubtedly, mathematics and language proficiency are essential for any student, and a “good” education should equip students to compete in the constantly evolving workplace of the 21st century. But, the 21st century is also synonymous with unprecedented global challenges and crises. More than ever before, it is critical that today’s generation of children grow up with an “education” that truly equips them with the right kind of skills to thrive , and not  merely to  survive these challenges.

It’s a big opportunity for students from a government school to learn music and perform on stages! I believe this is a first for our students. We believe the confidence of our students has grown quite strong as a result. It’s a big achievement for the school as well!” – Principal, Katha School

Music as an In-School Intervention 

Last week, Debojyoti and Vishwam’s EL Create lesson in their classroom in  South Delhi classroom brought together the key activities, songs and musical learnings from their previous eight lessons. They teach 32 third graders in SDMC Katha School in South Delhi. This is the second year of EL Music’s intervention at this school. 

Both teachers are professional musicians who teach with EL Music’s unique music learning for leadership program. This program runs annually for eight-months during the school year, with a total of fifty lessons per classroom and two public performances, as well as  smaller local concerts. A typical lesson is one hour-long, led by a team of two teachers, and designed to include a range of dynamic activities to help students learn musical concepts and develop skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and confidence. 

EL Music lesson at SDMC Katha School, South Delhi

Partnerships with government and low-income schools are critical to reaching as many students as possible, as well as impacting state and national level curriculum and education policy. Today, EL Music‘s program works across 29 schools in Delhi, Pune and Dharwad, through 46 trained teachers. 

At Enabling Leadership, all our programs are underpinned by a unique leadership framework that emphasises that every child can be a leader: a role model, a positive contributor and a global citizen. We argue that the true qualities of great leaders include confidence, respect for others, an optimism about and desire to improving one’s community, excellent problem solving skills, and finally, a keen sense of awareness about our shared world, and our duty towards protecting it.

Not Your Average Music Class

EL Music’s curriculum aims to build life-skills such as confidence, creativity, teamwork, collaboration, cooperation and sharing. It uses a unique group-based teaching methodology that incorporates active learning principles, with a focus on functional musical fluency over theoretical proficiency.

Teachers, such as Debojyoti and Vishwam, are selected and trained in a game and song-based pedagogy. This feature sets EL Music’s program apart from traditional music learning programs which focus on listening and repetition, and lack a proper two-way interaction between teachers and students. EL Music‘s program also borrows principles from both Western and Indian Classical traditions, as well as other group-focused teaching systems such as Kodaly and Orff-Schulwerk. Although singing forms the core of classroom activities, students also use small percussion instruments like shakers or glockenspiels (small xylophones) as an accompaniment to vocal performances. As mentioned above, there are two concert performances integrated into its program. 

The first is a mid-year concert which introduces students to the important experience of preparing for a performance in front of their peers and other students. The second and final concert is a culminating event, which is an opportunity for students to perform their original songs that tell the stories of their communities, coupled with a focus on a particular theme. Each year, this culminating concert focuses on a theme, for example, the 2018 concert focused on the issue of non-discrimination, while 2017 focused on dreams and aspirations. In addition to these concerts, students have many opportunities to participate in local events where they may perform or have access to watching professional performances.

“One day I had gone to buy milk and a man who didn’t have a leg asked me for water. A lady nearby told me not to give him water because he was sick and I may catch his sickness, but I told her we shouldn’t discriminate against anyone. We composed a song called, ‘Duniya ko jodo’ or ‘Join the World’. We began by talking about non-discrimination in class. If you are a Hindu and you only make friends with other Hindus then that is discrimination. If there are two people one asks to be friends with the other and he refuses then that will leave the first person without friends and is discriminatory behaviour. If a girl works in the house and a boy goes out with his friends and he doesn’t let her come with them then that is also discrimination. We put a lot of thought into writing our song.” – Student, Katha School, Ambedkar Nagar

Photos and Videography: Anmol Das

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Faith Gonsalves

Director, Public Engagement
Enabling Leadership

Rachit Sai Barak

Media Associate, Public Engagement
Enabling Leadership