Saturday, July 26, 2008

Towards Understanding the Need for Systemic Change in Mass Education

Towards Understanding the Need for Systemic Change in Mass Education

By Dr. Peter Zsebik

The concept of mass education has been with us for some time, and yet the way that it appears to have evolved, or perhaps better said not evolved, has led to a perhaps less than satisfactory systemic sociopolitical environment for today’s needs. Evidence of this sense of disenchantment can be found not only perhaps around the staff room but also with a good deal of the scholarly literature that is swirling about in the academic world – literature that espouses the need for change to, and for, the current academic environment.

Fullan, for instance in his relatively recent book release, Change Forces with a Vengeance (2003), details a number of underlying concepts that relate to changing the nature of education. It is the third book in Michael Fullan’s chaos theory trilogy (which he calls complexity theory). This series explores notions that have been uncovered when complexity theory is applied to education and how complexity theory has pushed the envelope further by providing new insights and lessons of change concerning the need for a moral purpose, and the need for what Fullan calls tri-level reform – the school and community, the local district, and the state.

Fullan believes that in order for any change to occur, it should start at the top of the educational structure and then trickle down. He understands the many dangers of too much or too little change, usually with the end result, when this happens, that nothing changes because the ‘prescription’ was not appropriate for that system. He believes that systems therefore must be guided not managed, for it is with management that things deteriorate. In contrast, he believes that social systems such as that found within an educational context have a seeming life of their own, where growth, development, and change occurs naturally within the confines of the system dynamic that has been created. It is only a question of, as said previously, guiding any positive initiatives already taking place so that these initiatives can best enhance the whole organization (Fullan, 2003)

It is also interesting to note that now, and I concur on this aspect, that Fullan seems to appreciate the fact that there is a need for educational discourse to be rooted in chaos/complexity theory for the simple reason that the educational environment has become so convoluted. One could speculate that this convolution occurred because of the nature of public education, but if that is the case, then a move such as this would require societal maturity at a level that one could daresay is not yet forthcoming in our current sociopolitical environment.

To a large extent, Fullan is right. Anyone who is in education can see that the complexity of the mass educational process has risen exponentially since its inception, and to at least properly identify and explain the majority of those features now within the western educational context, a solid understanding of complexity theory would indeed come in handy. Having said that, however, one could speculate that the issues and challenges facing mass education are rooted much more deeply then perhaps one would expect, and that perhaps the notion of undertaking an analysis utilizing complexity theory discourse may not prove all that more substantial to the evolution of mass education than anything previously offered.

One of the problems that may stymie this or any process of analytical insight is the simple fact that mass education arguably has placed itself into a reactionary stance, where it is attempting to please all people all the time. This can be evidenced by the broad swath of curricular foci that are currently in the discourse of western education. This is not a bad thing, unless it creates an environment where the overall educational direction is lost through continuous and perhaps internally and externally conflictive appeasement. (see figure 1 below).

If this is the case, then it becomes increasingly clear that something very fundamental may need to be adjusted - that not only Fullan’s, but possibly everybody else’s overall initial sensibilities about mass education may need to encompass a shift in thinking – and that this shift may occur in a deconstruction of the educational setting that no longer relies on past sensibilities and assumptions. In essence, what is being posited here is that the very foundations of mass education that were instituted during the industrial revolution may no longer continue to be the most appropriate framework for today’s post, postmodern sociopolitical dialectic.

If we look to other areas of society, as we should considering that the whole process of mass education was created to serve society, then we must ask ourselves if the majority of the other areas of our society are still residing within the same paradigm with which education also began. With very little reflection, one would probably agree that this is no longer the case. In other areas of sociopolitical influence much re-shifting of paradigmatic centering has occurred, and this re-shifting can be evidenced in areas as diverse as technology, feminism, civil rights, immigration, and the media. Whether this re-shifting is fully progressive for our society is yet to be seen, but nevertheless it helps to bring into focus society’s current state.

This raises an interesting question, however. If the systemic discourse of mass education has managed to mutate to the point where it requires complexity theory to produce an analytical framework, which also seemingly implies that there is no longer a central focus to guide the educational process anymore, then is there room for speculation as to whether the current educational dialectic – the one that Fullan is attempting to constitute through his notion of complexity theory - is still appropriate for today’s current sociopolitical climate? Is his postulation actually playing into education’s current game of catch-up to society through the honourable but perhaps frantic notion of subservience? Is he postulating the fact that mass education should maintain solely a reactive stance to society? And if this is the case, then to what degree are educators serving a function that promotes proactive learning? Perhaps to question at a more succinct level, what precisely is the role of mass education with regards to socio-political development?

To many, mass education is there to serve the public domain, and this should always be the case. But in order to do that more appropriately for today’s society, it may be that now is the time when it is actually necessary to rethink the whole systemic paradigm so that it made more sense within the larger social dialectic of the society for which mass education was meant to serve in the first place. In turn, it may be necessary to shake off the cloak of curricular tradition and engage the clientele in a more innovative curricular paradigm – one that allows for total engagement in the social dialectic currently inhabiting today’s sociopolitical environment.

Currently, one may be hard-pressed to find any research that places the tome of mass education on its ear in an attempt to address whether these societal changes have forced any such alignment as described above within the educational system. Granted much can still be said of the validity of all past educational research and discussion, and it has indeed pushed the ‘science’ of education further and further afield. But what do we have our current educational dialectic to compare to when pondering if said dialectic is still a valid instrument for today’s sociopolitical environment? It seems that the overwhelming majority of research that has been undertaken begins with the implied assumption that the current systemic identifiers for mass education have been taken for granted as providing the best mass educational blueprint. Some of these conventional identifiers can be readily observed as the following:

· The use of a physical plant resembling an industrial age factory
· The transference of preferred knowledge bases through strategic dissection of the chosen body of knowledge into specified subject areas
· Reporting procedures reminiscent of modernist managerial styles
· Curricula with primarily a historical reference introduced primarily for analysis, evaluation and regurgitation of ‘fact’, and usually with very little relevance to the current socio-political dynamic of the world
· Established relationships and expectations between the different parties found within the educational environment (see Zsebik, 2003)

There may be other aspects integral to the system that have not been mentioned, but their absence does not displace the notion that the system is self-contained. But is it so self-contained that it has lost its connection to the outside world?

To summarize, therefore, what is being argued are two things:

1) That the current system of mass education may no longer be able to efficiently maintain its relevance to our society
2) That this irrelevancy is due to reliance on a possibly outdated systemic structure that does not reflect the current state of our postmodern society

Socio-cultural Imperatives

In the beginning, mass education had a relatively simplistic function, and that was the education of the masses to fulfill the needs of that society (Zsebik, 2003), be it inculcating the necessary rudiments for manual labour, or the proper education and socialization of the elite. As society evolved from the industrial age, however, and as other factors began to make their presence felt within that educational paradigm (e.g. parents), much pressure was put on mass education to evolve so as to remain pertinent in the face of sweeping social change. In effect, mass education had found itself, and still finds itself, on an ever faster hamster wheel, in a cycle such as the one shown here (please imagine arrows indicating a cyclical nature):


Zsebik, Ph.D Thesis, 2003

Politically, Freire (1990) argued that the western education paradigm was based on what he called ‘banking education’. The teacher was to deposit the knowledge into the student; knowledge chosen by the educational dialectic found within the chosen sociopolitical environment, for purposes of socialization and skill development for that particular strata of society.

The current paradigm of western education can be argued as an accommodating intellectual education paradigm. This occurs when the child is given access to the knowledge and skills he or she needs to know and function within the established sociopolitical environment, but is not given the opportunity to fully integrate the necessary strategies and mental processes so that he/she can comprehend the implications and challenges of a dynamic social environment. (Zsebik, 2003) There may be found of course pockets of differing sociopolitical values within specific individual programs scattered throughout the world, but again they probably do not represent the vast majority of established curricular programs where the final outcome is an accommodating intellectual.

The educational paradigm of the future, however, may have to focus first on the creation of a new mindset. It may have to create an educational environment conducive to developing a transformative intellectual (ibid. 2003). What is meant by a ‘transformative intellectual’ is one who has the necessary skills and strategies to effect positive change within his/her sociopolitical environment. This implies that mass education in this context must do more than ‘bank’ or teach to the intellectual/cultural/ social norm established by the status quo. This in effect is too limiting, and perhaps also counterproductive as suggested above. Instead what we must create is an educational paradigm that allows for a transformative learning environment to occur. Of this we can be sure, but what should this paradigm look like?

To begin, it may be appropriate to once more see what has been said of how our current sociopolitical paradigm has been analyzed. As has already been mentioned, society has become even more complex through the now recognized development of postmodernism since the late 1960’s and its ambivalent influence on mass education (Slattery, 1995). This ‘complexity’ has been given some voice by, among others, Appadurai (Featherstone, 1983) who describes society as being influenced by five cultural flows, and these cultural flows are determining the directions and decisions of society. Briefly, these flows comprise what Appadurai terms as the ethnoscape, the technoscape, the finanscape, the mediascape, and the ideoscape. He considers these different flows as reaching tidal proportions where the control society has over itself may completely erode. Appadurai’s views suggest a one-way flow, from western to non-western cultures. Indeed, we find that the most rudimentary observations of educational dialectics around the world provide indication that the sociopolitical construct of education may be rooted in the culture of the society in which it is found, but the paradigm still remains relatively the same – a first world western perspective of mass educational dogma. This may be the case because western countries generally hold the power and wealth necessary to induce movement within these flows. Nevertheless, there is no reason to suppose that these flows are exclusively unidirectional. In addition to these aspects, one must add the element of various agencies attempting to manipulate and control these dimensions to varying degrees, (Appadurai, 1993) which in turn has a direct influence on an educational environment. When taking all of the above into account, one can begin to ascertain that in order for education to be effective in this present age, it must have a thorough understanding of these cultural flows so that it can best determine which information would be of most value to the learner. (Zsebik, 2003)

To further extend this conceptualization of creating a different educational mindset, it may be interesting to turn to other discipline areas to determine if there is anything of relevance for the educational environment. Harrison and Hutchison in their relatively recent publication Culture Matters (2000, p.23) ponder the notion as to why certain cultures are more productive economically than others:

There have been numerous alternative theories of prosperity in this century, ranging from central planning to import substitution to factor accumulation. These ideas have become deeply rooted in societies via the educational system, the influence of intellectuals and government leaders, and countless other means…Second, economic culture appears to be heavily derived from the past and present microeconomic context…Third, social policy choices can have a strong influence on economic culture because they influence the economic context (ibid. 2000)

These notions are themselves cause for speculation with regards as to how education fits within the current social paradigm, but as an intellectual exercise let us now manipulate the above quote so that its focus is exclusively on education rather than economics. The changes have been italicized:

There have been numerous alternative theories of education in this century, ranging from elitist curricula to banking education curricula to accommodating curricula. These ideas have become deeply rooted in societies via the educational system itself, the influence of intellectuals and government leaders, and countless other means…Second, educational culture appears to be heavily derived from the past and present microeconomic context…Third, social policy choices can have a strong influence on educational culture because they influence the educational context

We can see with very little substitution that, at least between these two social science knowledge bases, there is much room for comparison in terms of their position in the sociopolitical environment they inhabit. This exercise is also valid because it demonstrates how both rely on the manipulation of information, on theories that attempt to promote development, and on the desire to create a more concrete, data-driven foundation to justify and promote that particular paradigm’s desired abstractions.

Further, Harrison and Hutchison argue that there is a constant need to revisit a paradigm structure. “There are segments of each society that hold different beliefs about what prosperity is and how it is created. Acknowledging and understanding this is the basis for creating change.” (Harrison and Hutchison, p.271) They then show that all cultural values and beliefs do matter in the process of human progress because they shape the way individuals think about progress. They suggest the use of mental models (ibid. p. 272) to help further develop cultural knowledge bases:

· A mental model consists of beliefs, inferences, and goals that are first-person, concrete, and specific. It is a mental map of how the world works.
· There are sets of beliefs and attitudes that are either pro-innovation and create the proper conditions for prosperity, or anti- innovation…
· A mental model can be defined, informed, and tested around a specific, well-defined objective….
· Finally, mental models can be changed. Although culture involves the transmission of meaning from one generation to another it is unlikely that it is a genetic process.

What these mental models say for education is voluminous, beginning with the notion that perhaps these mental models could be used as a starting point for recreating a more appropriate dialectic within the educational environment. They could provide reference from which a new paradigm could be developed where the determination of curricular materials and objectives were recalibrated to assume a multi(-)cultural education in its purest form, and it could provide flexibility within its framework that allows for cultural transfiguration, a process pertinent in today’s sociopolitical environment of rapidly changing demographic patterns and the alienation that may accompany the process. In every case, this paradigm would have as its focus the notion of a more contemporary and total metamorphosis so that education can play a ‘pro-innovative’ leadership role for the society it is serving.

Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist for the World Bank, writes “that development represents a transformation of society, a movement from traditional relations, traditional ways of thinking, traditional ways of dealing with health and education, traditional methods of production(s), to modern ways.” (Harrison & Huntington, p.272) This begs the question that if others not in the educational environment can see the necessity for change from current practices, then should we not also be looking beyond our paradigmatic borders to determine if our traditional educational practices are appropriate for preparing the student for this rapidly developing sociopolitical environment? If not, then what is the reason that we still hold tenaciously to the systemic paradigm introduced to us in an age long past?

The question has now been posed, and the world awaits our answer.


Appadurai A Cultural Flows in Featherstone M (1990) Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalisation, and Modernity Sage Publications Ltd., London, UK

Featherstone M (1990) Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalisation, and Modernity Sage Publications Ltd., London, UK

Freire, P. (1990) The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 32nd Printing Continuum, New York, USA.

Fullan, M. (2003) Change Forces with a Vengeance, RoutledgeFalmer, New York USA.

Harrison, L.E. & Huntington S.P. (eds.) (2000) Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, Basic Books, New York, USA.

Slattery, P. (1995) Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era, Garland Publishing Inc. London, UK.

Zsebik, P. (2003) Ph.D Thesis, University of Bath, UK

Word Count: 3,148

The Future of International Education

This article was published in IB Research Notes (Spring 2004)

by Dr. Peter Zsebik

Goals from the Past

After working for over a decade in the international school ‘system’, I sometimes ponder whether the current institutional imperatives of mass education are the most appropriate for today. There seems to be agreement that these concepts started in an earlier age (Beare and Slaughter, 1993) for reasons usually having to do with the socialisation of an individual for inclusion into that society (Lawton, 1974). To all appearances not much has changed since those early days with regards to the structure, and most particularly, to the overall mission. As a business model, I believe the concept of a school is still serviceable, but the academic product of the school may be in need of some refinement for the 21st century.

Evidence of this need for refinement is seemingly more sensed than understood; many individuals within education have a tendency to reminisce while commenting on an apparent decline in educational relevancy. However, when pushed on the state of their educational sandbox, one may voice examples of the problems, but to actually pin down the root of those ‘problems’ can sometimes prove more difficult. Why is this so? Is it because developing a macro perspective of education’s true focus for today’s social context is not easily accomplished given the speed of social change and its increasing complexity? Does this then create an impending sense of unruliness for a system built on regulated efficiency? My feeling is that many current systems of education find it difficult to be in sync with current social changes simply because these imperatives are from an earlier age.

This might sound like another war cry for educational change – and so it may well be. An educational environment, if it is to serve the society in which it is placed, should by its very nature be able to have both the philosophical and practical flexibility to develop and grow with that society. Educational practices from the past may have appeared to have been relatively successful, but to what extent can we continue to believe they are still appropriate for today’s socio-political landscape?

I believe that to prevent this self-perpetuating holding pattern educators must learn to deconstruct their educational setting to acquire a clearer picture of their own macro environment. Part of this process of deconstruction is to better understand the socio-political influences at work both within society and its relative academic environment. Further, they must deduce how these influences shape the educational outcomes of the student and whether these outcomes help, or hinder, the goals of an ‘international education.’

Goals for the Future

Education will always need a goal or mission to direct the outcome of the learner. What is problematic however, is the perhaps (un)intentional recycling of the same goal or mission time after time, with very little but cosmetic change to personify the notion of progress. This may have happened for a number of reasons, including perhaps ignorance, or ossification, or even the maintenance of a hegemonic focus for political ends. Regardless of the reason, however, I find no convincing argument to perpetuate this approach to education for today’s society.
But then how does one break a cycle of this nature?

Recognition of the academic situation is the first step. This is an all-encompassing process. We must look at all levels of society, ranging from the local to the international, to determine the issues and problems the student will face in the future. There will be guesswork in this process, but if there is a core of educational foresight, then we will be able to predict with some confidence the skills and knowledge bases a student will need when combined with the teaching of a critical-thinking and problem-solving process. Secondly, the importance of various curricular foci for the student could be determined by evaluating the socio-political constructs of an ‘international’ setting. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there is the process of implementation. With this step, the educator must have a thorough understanding of how to create an educational outcome that is both transformative and international (Zsebik, 2003).

It would therefore appear that to accomplish a better understanding of a macro perspective for education, we need to focus on the Paradigmatic curriculum of an institution (ibid., 2003). This Paradigmatic curriculum signifies not only the academic aspects of the institution, but the hidden and pastoral aspects as well. When given collective coherence, they create the paradigm under which that institution is operating, and this paradigm can be measured on a socio-political spectrum indicating the educational outcome that ranges from the hegemonic to the more appropriate transformative intellectualism (ibid., 2003).

The Role of International Education

‘International education’ as found in international schools and perhaps elsewhere can provide a potential direction for education. Their growing appearance beside other world systems of education may indicate a strong desire for participation in this brand (at least as advertised) of education, and driven by a client base who may believe it could lead to a more fitting academic outcome for their child. In my experience the international schools in this system are well versed in working within a multicultural environment at a local through to an international level. Many of these international schools have also adopted curricular programmes such as the International Baccalaureate whose aim, as Roger Peel pointed out, has shifted its curricular emphases from ‘a curriculum for international schools’ to developing ‘an international curriculum for schools’ (Wallace, 1997). This shift in emphasis is important as it indicates a thoughtfulness to changes occurring within the educational landscape – one that is focused on developing an international-mindedness in the student.

What is of danger to this process, however, is the watering down and perhaps blatant disregard to the notion of an ‘international education’ for the purpose of catering to national/ imperialistic political agendas. To do something of this nature is contraindicative to the overall aims of an ‘international education’ paradigm and any policy adoption other than an international education paradigm serves no one’s best interest, particularly the students’, who will come away with nothing more than a confused concept of what it means to be part of an international society.

To this end, it is my belief that an educational environment servicing an international community must necessarily strive to create an international perspective addressing the needs and concerns of that socio-political setting. The seeds of this type of educational landscape can be found scattered throughout the international school community, and it is there we can perhaps find the solutions mass education may be looking for to become once more a directional rather than historical force for our society.


Beare H & Slaughter R (1993), Education for the Twenty-First Century Routledge, London

Lawton D (1975) Class, Culture, and the Curriculum, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, London

Wallace E (ed) (April 1997) The IB Hexagon: Straitjacket or Flexible Model for the Future? IB World, Cardiff

Zsebik P (2003) A Comaparative Analysis of Four Approaches to Curriculum Offered in International Education (University of Bath, Ph.D Thesis)

The Politics of Music Education

As published in the academic journal "The Recorder" (Fall 2005)
The Politics of Music Education
By Dr. Peter Zsebik

As I was perusing the article given to me to read entitled Ethical Issues for Music Educators in Multicultural Societies by Tim Rice, it resounded in me that his article touched on an issue that I had been contemplating personally. This issue is that if we in Canada are to call ourselves a multicultural society where individuals are to be given equal opportunity, then it is incumbent on all areas of the educational environment to embrace a multicultural perspective that allows for the exploration, discovery and understanding of those imperatives found within an ethnically diverse student population. Perhaps the most under-represented subject in terms of ethnic variation, but also perhaps the most easily rectified, is music.

My own experiences teaching music in different parts of the world has provided some interesting insights and observations. In most instances where I was teaching, I found always that the onus on me was to teach music from a western perspective – that is, to utilize band instruments, study the European masters, and teach the dogmas associated with western music theory, In other words, as a Canadian-raised and trained musician and music teacher, I was well prepared to teach music throughout the world. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I taught in Vienna, a purported mecca of western music, that I realized just how one-sided my training had been from an ethno-musical perspective. I started to feel an imperative within myself to attempt more of an ethno-musical focus within the program, stemming from the realization that a number of students were musically talented, but not by western standards. This direction of teaching culminated in a performance for World Peace Day at the United Nations Headquarters in Vienna. The piece was student composed, and consisted of a didgereedoo, two violins, a bass guitar, an electric guitar, a drum set, and tabla (Indian percussion). It was a highlight of my time in Vienna to be sure, and the experience provided for me some insight into the possibilities of incorporating different cultural influences into both a classroom and performance situation.

Having come back to Canada, however, I find that I am once more on familiar ground teaching the same old, with the experiences of my past now simply something to add to my portfolio. And yet, I ask why is this the case? The same ethnic diversity I found overseas at the international school I taught in Vienna is on par with the high school where I currently teach in York Region. And unless I am wrong, I have found that there are still far too many music programs that have at their core the same western focus, with very little time given to ethnic music and its derivations.

It’s not the teacher’s fault. Every music teacher I have met loves to try new things. I think it is an inherent quality in music teachers to experiment and create. These qualities are also necessary psychological survival skills. I think what prevents many from attempting new things, though, are accessibility to equipment and availability of in service instruction. Generally speaking, the teaching pool (in Ontario at least) derives primarily from individuals who have gone through an education that to a high degree has focused on western musical tradition. Naturally, when faced with 25 to 250 shining new faces each September, one will seek comfort zones to help mitigate the process (read survive), and fall back on what they know best, and that will be their own extensive training.

To return to Rice, he believes that the music teacher should think the nature of music through metaphor. His justification for this is as follows:

‘We create metaphors when we link two dissimilar ideas or objects together … (they) provide an extremely important way for us to understand our world and to explain that world to ourselves and others.’(Rice, p. 5)

To summarize, here are the five metaphors that he uses:

1) Music is a conversation – where it is a way of talking to one another
2) Music is text - where it is a fixed, written document that can be read and
interpreted in the absence of the person who composed it
3) Music is history – where it provides a way to perform a group’s history
4) Music is art – where music is seen as sound, as technique, as craft
5) Music is a commodity – where music is a product or service, exchangeable for

These five metaphors can serve as a solid starting point for a contemporary justification for music within an educational context. Utilizing this analysis, Rice hypothesis focused on the ethical dilemmas posed when determining how and what to teach music from other societies. This analysis also provides some useful connotations, chiefly in terms of outlining a possible direction for ethnic music that would qualify it for a curricular program. It also helps to compartmentalize the areas that need to be addressed. He concedes, however, that there are minefields necessary to navigate, particularly when it comes to choice of materials pertaining to music as history

‘With this metaphor…music can do political work or have a political function. When people make music, it can represent a form of political action, particularly when they are making claims about who they are in history and society.’ (Rice, p.7)

He then proceeds to note that the inclusion or exclusion of one over the other ‘will make a statement about how we understand our nation’s histories’. This issue is not new to the academic scene. In my article “The Politics of Education” (Zsebik, 2000) I quoted from the preface to Paolo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1990) in which Richard Shaull states:

There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom (of musical expression in this case), the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. (Zsebik, 2000, p.64)

What this means for the music teacher is that if we are to service an ethnically diverse student body appropriately, then it is almost an ethical imperative that we incorporate as many of the available ethno-musical forms as possible, and this could be accomplished through a student led survey of the musical background from which he or she came. A unit based on this premise may be nothing more than perhaps a stop-gap measure in the greater scheme of things, but I believe even this nod to internationalism has the potential to transform the musical classroom, and possibly the world perspective of our students.

To proceed further, and perhaps to provide a direction through which a longer term structure can be activated, we should make ourselves aware of some of the theories of curricular motivation that affect our music programs. To begin, we can divide our curricular programs into 4 different types of curricula. These are the following:

1. Academic – relates to the Ontario Ministry Guidelines
2. Pastoral – relates to a teacher’s interaction with the students
3. Hidden – relates to unspoken expectations for each student (behaviour, achievement, relationships with others, etc.)
4. Paradigmatic – a culmination of the above that creates the educational paradigm of that institution (Zsebik, 2003)

As music teachers, we constantly must be aware of the first three of these curricular elements, perhaps more so than other subject areas simply because of the personal nature that creating music entails. A successful conductor/teacher will not only know the music, but the personalities and limitations of each of his/her own students. A successful program, therefore, will focus on developing the integration and amalgamation of these primary three curricula to create the learning paradigm – the fourth or paradigmatic curriculum.

What does this mean for the music teacher? It means that he/she must initially be aware that these different curricular patterns exist, and from there to attempt to analyze one’s program to determine where things could change to create a more ethnically diverse paradigm. For instance, for the Academic curriculum , one could incorporate an ethnic music study; for the Pastoral curriculum, one could encourage students from other cultures to continue experimenting/ taking lessons in an instrument from their ethnic background and to incorporate it into a public situation; for the hidden curriculum, teachers should make easily accessible posters or recordings or even instruments that focus on music and instruments from other cultures. In today’s technologically enhanced and multiculturally aware environment, a music teacher’s ability to incorporate these elements is relatively simple. Publishers, artists and educators realize that these elements of world music can be commodified (see above). If these three curricula were to be activated to culminate in a shift in paradigmatic output, then this inevitably would provide a positive step forward out of the quagmire of western hegemony. There is also the possibility that a more thorough understanding of the other through music would improve race relations within any academic environment. The choice is ours.


Freire, P. (1990). The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 32nd Printing Continuum, New York.

Rice, T. (1998). Ethical issues for Music Educators in Multicultural Societies, Canadian Music Educator, 39(2), 5-8.

Zsebik, P. (2000). The Politics of Education, in International Schools and International Education, Hayden M & Thompson J (eds.) Kogan Page, London, United Kingdom.

Zsebik, P. (2003). A Comparative Analysis of Four Approaches to Curriculum Offered in International Schools, Ph.D Thesis, University of Bath, United Kingdom.

About the Author

Peter Zsebik currently teaches music at the secondary school level with the York Region District School Board. His experiences as a music educator come from a global perspective. During the 1990’s, Peter taught within the international school system in various countries including Kuwait, Singapore, Thailand and Austria. Peter’s professional involvement in education encompasses that of teacher, conductor, adjudicator, researcher and contributor to academic publications. While overseas, Peter received a doctorate from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom where he compared different curricular approaches to education. His current research focuses on inclusivity and race relations within the Ontario classroom.