The eighth Student Forum (23rd – 27th April 2010), held in the framework of the eighteenth EAS (European Association for Music in Schools) International Conference (26th – 29th April 2010) took place in Bolu, Turkey. European student forums have become an important part of EAS congresses and their outcomes have cultural and social impact and contribute to improvement of Music education and to regaining its dignified position in music-educational systems of various European countries. The forums reflect students´ opinions on issues that music education deals with internationally. To create a large platform for mutual cooperation and confrontation of experiences of music pedagogues, musicians, scientists and students of music is the current aim of the EAS. Also international congresses that the EAS holds in one of its associate countries annually have this aim. In 2005, the Faculty of Education of Charles University prepared and organized the EAS Congress in Prague. Doc. PaedDr. Miloš Kodejška, CSc., the National Coordinator for the Czech Republic, was the head of the preparative team. The European EAS and the international ISME signed an important document called Memorandum of Understanding during the Prague congress. The congress meant an important step in cooperation of both international organizations. Since then, they have been collaborating on the content and organization of conferences, seminars and projects. The motto of the Prague congress Everything depends on a good beginning by Jan Amos Komenský foreshadowed the subsequent cooperation of both significant organizations.
Last year, I was given the unique opportunity to participate in the European Student Forum in Turkish Bolu as a delegate of Czech universities. To give music students the opportunity to share and exchange experiences and opinions on music teacher training and to discuss areas that have impact on Music education in and outside schools is the mission of each EAS student forum. During the programme, 28 students from 13 European countries had the opportunity to share their experiences in various workshops, discussions, presentations and music activities. It has become a tradition that main topics of a student forum and of a conference are interconnected. It happened to be true last year as well. The theme of the Student Forum was The Role of a Teacher in Reflection of the Youth Music Culture in Schools in relation to the topic of the conference which was focused on socio-cultural changes in music education. As a proof of mutual interconnection of the core ideas, I would like to give an example from the first day of the Student Forum: the coordinators of the Student Forum presented a Power-Point presentation regarding the statistics of inhabitants’ distribution, environmental pollution, denomination, and other important coefficients in which individual European countries either resemble or differ. The aim was to show social, economical, political and cultural differences or similarities. We realized more than ever before that each of us came from a different background, yet there was one medium that connected all of us – music.
The Power-Point presentation of the current president of the EAS – Sarah Hennessy – on The Role of a Teacher in Reflection of the Youth Music Culture in Schools was an important moment of the Forum. At the beginning, she encouraged us not to be afraid to be critical and to pose questions such as Why? or What is the purpose of contemporary music education?. She stated that we should be sensitive to the needs and interests of our students who have different predispositions. She assumes that Music teachers are going to be more successful if they pay more attention to areas in which a student can enrich the lesson. Music is much more than just only following dots on the staff, it is a means of enculturation – integrating into the music culture which is dynamic and flexible. Inhabitants of the music culture not only learn to appreciate art, but they become active members who contribute with new ideas. Suddenly, active consumers become active producers. However, it is not easy to reach these aims. Sarah Hennessy provided us with a recipe for an attractive lesson. So that every child can be active, it is important that each Music lesson has these attributes: interesting, motivating, personal, practical, creative and adjusted to individual interests and needs of students. Before baking, it is important to mix and join all the ingredients so that the cake is tasty. A metaphor about a well-made cake sounds slightly utopian but who would not taste it after baking?
According to Sarah Hennessy, it is very interesting to find out that youngsters aged between 12 and 16 are not interested in school Music education even though outside of school, music counts as the most important part of the youth culture. Therefore, we can deduce three broad areas of the music-educational process: home, school and friends. Home is actually the first place that provides a child with music. A family, particularly parents and their profession, siblings and relatives have a significant influence on shaping child´s musical taste and attitudes. As a youngster embarks on the lower secondary school, the significance of friendship grows. Friends aged around 11/12 years have the biggest influence on music preferences. That is how many young people live in the world of music and in the world of friends at the same time. To intersect these worlds is the utmost task of a teacher. However, a pedagogue often encounters a protest of his/her students while trying to intervene. That is why it is important, according to Sarah Hennessy, to provide pupils with school premises so that they can realize their musical ambitions. There is one question to be answered: What is the teacher´s role in music-educational process? When we want our students to play an active role, it is important to step aside. Music teachers find this strategy especially difficult. Experts on creativity claim that a teacher should be, on the one hand, able to step aside but on the other hand should not be completely unengaged. A good teacher observes, becomes a source and provides opportunities for improvement. He/she is able to give a piece of advice when it is needed, knows when to lead and when to step aside.
The outcome of the presentation is as follows: when we want a child to be active, creative and to bring new stimuli to Music lessons, we need to provide them with such abilities and skills that will enable this kind of work. As a result, students learn about their potential and limits, they get to know their “self”. By the above described process, they gain self-confidence, develop their personalities and highlight their unique individuality.
During three-day discussions, participants of the student meeting made agreement about methodological issues which they presented during the final presentation on 27th April 2010 in front of the whole auditorium of the congress. I would summarize the most important outcomes as the following: according to participants of the Student Forum 2010, interaction and mutual cooperation between a teacher and students is a means of meeting their needs and interests. An idea of pupils as experts is also very interesting. However, the term is not used in its absolute but rather in its relative meaning. There are topics (e.g. popular music) in which a teacher cannot measure his/her knowledge with students. That is why it is better if he/she steps aside and observes how students successfully take over a part or the whole Music lesson. Then there is space for students to learn together and from each other. Peer teaching is said to be the most successful scientifically tested teaching method of today.
The second group also focused on a teacher´s role in reflection of youth musical life in schools. Selected participants worked with terms such as: music preference, music identity, interaction or a relevant teacher. From methodological suggestions can we deduce that a relevant teacher can interconnect various music preferences of pupils without disrupting their music identity. We can compare his/her work to a metaphor about a cook who is preparing a tasty vegetable salad. Each sort of vegetable tastes differently, however, gastronomical delight from well-selected and mixed sorts is unique. If we accept the fact that diversity doesn´t hinder unity, we can enrich not only vegetable salads but mainly lives of young people.
The third and the fourth group wanted to point out necessity to transform traditional frontal teaching in favor of a group work with elements of improvisation and accompanying creativity. Both groups agreed on the fact that for realization of innovative teaching methods, it is necessary to provide our students with tools that will enable them to work with such methods.
Participants of the 8th Student Forum would like to apply the principle of child, the discoverer, in their home music-educational systems. However, a good teacher doesn´t let his/her students convulse in boundless creativity, but helps them discover inner creative forces. Through their cultivation, a creative product arises. We agreed that process is more important than product. Thus, if a teacher can serve the correct portion of directivity in combination with creative process, through this approach, a young personality is being cultivated and students are encouraged to confidence in their own musical potential. We are of the opinion that every child is educable and deserves to discover his/her own uniqueness. Small achievements are little steps to motivation which is a challenge for further creative activities. Therefore, let us be critical to ourselves and to our teaching and educational methods. Maybe, we will discover the world of inner harmony or a cradle where music is born…
While listening to various concerts that accompanied the EAS Student Forum and Conference and while strolling through hundreds of years old mosques with narrow prayer towers, we realized that we arrived at the gate of orient. Suddenly, it came clear to us that music is subject to socio-cultural changes, keeps its own national specifics through which contributes to European cultural heritage.