Music education in the knowledge-based economy of Singapore: designing a music curriculum framework for neighbourhood secondary schools

Peng Leng Tan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Education in Singapore is seen as a key instrument to equip the next generation with resources to meet the needs of a Knowledge-Based Economy in a globalize world. The goal of this study is to develop a Music Education Curriculum Framework consistent with a Knowledge-Based Economy (KMCF) for Singapore neighborhood secondary schools. It provides the general context of music education in Singapore and conducts research to reveal the perspectives of key cross-sector stakeholders in music education, namely: The Ministry of Education (MOE) music and curriculum planning and development officers, National Institute of Education music academics, principals, general classroom music teachers and over 600 students. The curriculum framework will focus on the desirable qualities of Knowledge-Based Economy (KBE), particularly creativity, innovation, risk-taking, entrepreneurship and lifelong learning which have been strongly emphasized by the Singaporean government. In the light of their vision of thinking Schools, Learning Nation, the Ministry of Education is repositioning and reorienting the education system by implementing numerous initiatives and policies. The intention is to foster flexibility and diversity in a broad-based and holistic education, but the main focus to date has been on information technology, problem-solving and core subjects rather than on the creative aspects of the arts. By surveying students, this research aims to find out to what extent students find their music lessons satisfactory and whether their perspectives is compatible with those of other stakeholders. Students generally do not take music seriously, and the public perception is that a music career is limited to performing and teaching. The model curriculum framework will indicate further related careers, and the personal growth that comes through a genuine engagement with music. The Ministry of Education controls the school curriculum, structure of education, examinations, teacher qualifications and conditions of service. In 2005 it initiated a Teach Less, Learn More initiative which promoted student engagement. However, despite the rhetoric of classroom-based, teacher-owned and school-driven learning, it did not consult teachers or students and therefore failed as a vital learning organization which involved all participants in deciding future directions. For Senge (1994, p.13), a learning organization is a place where people are continually discovering how they create their reality. The curriculum design is an example of an example of an open system which this thesis addresses the issue of providing a structured programme flexible enough to adapt to contextual needs while providing the standards and outcomes needed in a competitive knowledge-based economy. This thesis makes its original contribution to knowledge by applying an open system model from organisational theory to a conventional music curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


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