An online class starts. A music teacher appears on the screen with an instrument and begins to play it. Assisted by his daughter, he looks into the camera and tells his students that they can pause and rewind the video at any time, should they have a doubt. It is obviously a recorded video that is available on the school’s website, but the said music teacher also takes a 30-minute class every week for students who are interested in learning an instrument.
The teacher who works at an international school in Chennai and whose classes have now completely moved online tells indianexpress.com on the condition of anonymity that music is an important part of the school curriculum. “There are two ways in which I have been conducting these classes: live sessions on Zoom, and recorded videos. I am mostly teaching early years and kindergarten students, and these classes help them to identify and repeat pitch, tone, etc. For this age group, especially, music helps in their speech, makes them learn new words and identify new sounds.”
Across the country, most schools have shifted their curriculum online. As such, teachers are slowly adapting to the new system. While classes for regular subjects are continuing, some schools are letting go of their music and art teachers, deeming their services as ‘no longer necessary’ in the virtual setup.
In fact, on May 8, services of some 20,000 guest teachers across all Delhi government schools — who were paid per day of work — were discontinued. In July, Education Minister Manish Sisodia had said they would be re-engaged as part of the ‘remote-teaching learning plan’. On July 13, the education department directed all school heads to “engage willing guest teachers and contract teachers wherever required for online teaching-learning activities”. Guest teachers engaged as librarians or for art, music, PE, and home science, along with some language teachers, however, found their roles have become redundant. Many have been told they cannot be engaged as there is no requirement for them.
But, at a time when activity-based learning for school-going kids has become the need of the hour, and has taken precedence over traditional learning methods, can — and should — institutions afford to lay off their music and art teachers?
Independent artist and teacher Shruti Kakar, who has her own studio in Noida and takes art classes online for school-going kids, says her classes are interactive. “Everybody can see each other’s work, like they are in a classroom and physically present. These classes are conducted on Zoom calls so any questions or queries are answered there and then. While I was sceptical in the beginning, I am pleasantly surprised as to how well these sessions have worked out. Art is, of course, important, and my students always look forward to these classes. It takes their mind off of everyday stress; it is like therapy.
“If I am teaching them how to shade, the science of how the light falls on objects comes into play. It adds to their knowledge, and in art there is always something new to learn. I have got students as young as two years old, and art can help them to develop their motor skills. For older children, it is more of a mental reprieve as they are able to cut off from chaos,” she explains.
Sheeba John, a school coordinator and facilitator for Chaman Bhartiya School (CBS) in Bengaluru, agrees. “I have integrated art lessons in our virtual lessons while teaching all core subjects. Learners are given different media to work with, like oil pastels, models with clay (they made Babylonian maps dated 700 BC), pencil diagrams (science lab apparatus), day-and-night formation using poster colours or sketch pens, papier-mâché to make a model of the earth, etc.
“Inclusion of art helps to bring in an aesthetic appeal towards learning, thereby helping the learners overcome the monotony of academics. With a plethora of professions to choose from (not limited to medicine, engineering, and law) students of the 21st century do have an opportunity to see themselves as architects, designers, painters, etc., which are lucrative in nature. Blending art with academics at an early age helps them understand the dynamics of various professions,” she tells indianexpress.com.
What do parents think?
Rohini Mukund, whose son Arnav (10), goes to CBS, feels that for the younger age group of children, a one-to-one approach is better, due to their low concentration levels. “For the younger age group of children, a practical approach is more feasible. My child is in the 5th grade and he loves it [art classes]; but it also depends on the facilitator and what kind of activities they are conducting,” she says. “I think these classes pressure them more by increasing their screen time.”
Nandini Vyshak, a Bengaluru-based dance, yoga and music teacher, disagrees. “I have a preschooler and I think it is important for them to continue with their co-curriculars. Kids are imaginative and this is the age when they can learn through these activities and mediums. It is not just about the art form, but what it is teaching them. For instance, a child can explain a mathematical concept through art or music, or a pattern using dance. All kids — regardless of the board they are studying under — when they start it, they learn a lot. So, why discontinue these art forms later on? Online learning can be strenuous for a kid given the screen time, but they should have these classes at least once every week,” she suggests.
Niveditha Sharma — a classical dancer herself, who has a three-year-old daughter — says it is the parents who have to be more encouraging of their children learning these skills. “It is getting pretty monotonous for kids these days. They wake up, get ready and sit down with their laptop. When they dance or sing, they stand in front of the computer but do not look at the screen. There is some kind of movement, and they are also aware that somebody is watching them. My own daughter is learning how to play the veena instrument; she is really young but we just make her sit with it. Art is a way of life, it is a discipline.”
Mom blogger Shraddha Fogla, the founder of ‘2monkeysandme‘ weighs in on the subject.
“Music is important for the overall development of a child’s brain. When they are born, they are made to listen to lullabies, and a particular lullaby can calm them down. As they grow older, poems, rhymes and rhythms excite them. They learn language and vocabulary with music and sounds. Music should be a part of the growth of a child and should definitely be continued.
“Art is a great way to explore the sense of touch, and that is why you would notice all children love to paint their hands first and then the paper. Mixing those colours to create a new one gives them joy. Art explores creativity and in today’s world, one thing that I have learnt is that you need to be creative in whatever work you do. Music gives you the option to be a band manager, songwriter, make a career in the film/video games sector, be a ghost songwriter, music transcriber, etc. Through art, the child can pursue a career as an art teacher, illustrator, art gallery owner, conservator, art therapist, architect, and fashion designer, to name a few,” she says in conclusion.
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