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What would be your ideal GCSE syllabus?

Discussion in 'Music' started by asdmumandteacher, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. Just from what FLorian said on another post - got me thinking - the set up of the GCSE how could it be improved in your opinion?

  2. Sorry to be positive but I really really like the Edexcel Syllabus. I might have included one or two more pieces on it. And I would probably drop the world music - although personally I find it really interesting.
    I'm concerned about the emphasis on composition. When I did A Level you had to compose pastiches of pieces in the style of Bartok and Schubert and Bach, however it was under exam conditions. Composeres were the odd balls that "wrote their own music". Real musicians were performers.
    I think composing is really difficult and some students struggle without what amounts to more support than we should probably give them. I think the syllabus for composing should include stimulus and a more narrow approach with a better defined set of outcomes.
    Apart from that, I'm pretty happy.
  3. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    I agree with RMA's points about composition. It is over-weighted in syllabuses and every August (when the results come out) we are reminded by the howls of anguish from teachers who believe that their pupils have been wrongly assessed. The truth of the matter is that composition, per se, cannot be assessed reliably. Just read the words of the professional music critics for evidence!
    As we've discussed here before, if composition is to be retained, it should be based on clearly defined outcomes, as RMA says (harmonising a tune with chord symbols, extending a motif by using rising sequence, turning a chord sequence into an accompaniment, completing a phrase with a cadential figure, and so on).
  4. gilly33

    gilly33 New commenter

    As a parent of a child gifted in music I would like to see the GCSE to include more theory comparable with the abrsm grade 5 theory and more emphasis on playing an instrument. I know music is a broad subject and has to appeal to many but I feel the curriculum is too diverse and misses the rudimentals. It seems more like an appreciation of the subject. My daughter is only 8 and will be about grade 5 on entering high school. The GCSE as it stands would offer her nothing in terms of growth and development in the subject.
  5. Gilly 33 - I agree with you in part. I have a pupil in year 7 taking her grade 8. I find it difficult to see how GCSE music will stretch her to be honest.
  6. Also, RMA its great to be positive - as you know we are considering switching to Edexcel. Very interesting points about composition - I agree with you too.
  7. gilly33

    gilly33 New commenter

    I also feel that any child gifted or not needs to have a grounding in the rudiments and of course be able to read music. Even a gifted child wouldn't remember or know all the Italian phrases and words used in music and there is always more to learn regarding notation. This would make differentiation easy as well.
    I do know one of the boards has a listening part that includes the work of Charlie Parker this definitely is something that should be kept as a wide variety of styles and genres is a must. I say dump the rock keep the pop, classical, and bring in Jazz and folk. The latter two as many pieces in these stles are on practical syllabuses
  8. I agree with many of the suggestions above. Composition should include some starting points. Performance should expect a higher level of musicianship - I have a few Y9 students who already grade 3/4 they could sit their solo and ensemble performances this year and get an A*. The set works are a good thing, but there should be fewer and then questions on similar works to demonstrate understanding and not just memorising. I have my brother's GCSE Music syllabus for GCSE Music from 1995 and good god it's harder than current AS. A D grade on that syllabus would be worht an A* today. If exam boards didn't dumb down we would have less hoops to jump through - which actually cheats our students from a better rounded education!
  9. I totally agree with and am inspired by Gassman's comments. The notation of music and the language of music are completely separate. Notation is not language any more then writing is. I can envisage a future where notating music actually becomes redundant or certainly almost so. I think as music teachers we are in danger of simply regurgitating the way we were taught music and i'm not so sure it was that great. Yes, the grades system, taught us how to interpret the dots and helped us develop technique, but that is only half way to becoming a fully rounded musician.
    I still remember asking my girlfriend of the time about a piece I had heard her play in an orchestra concert - she was leader of the county orchestra. "I don't know, I didn't look" was her reply. She went on to the RAM!

    I do think that including unheard but closely related extracts is a good idea but I also think that simply working through and studying in detail the set work pieces opens the door for many students onto a musical work that was foreign to them before. Not a single one of my students knew what The Messiah was, for example. And it does depend on how you teach it and whether you take the opportunity to move beyond the extracts to the wider musical world they hint at.
  10. silverfern

    silverfern New commenter

    Agreed. This would help to avoid the Jazz/ragtime problem, whilst allowing students to show some higher-level thinking skills.
    A knowledge of 'the dots', as developed by a study of music theory, allows students to access scores of set works. But they can also learn to identify and describe these musical features from listening, eg. they might not be able to write/identify a written major scale, but they might be able to hear one played by a violin in a listening example.
    Which is of more importance??!!
  11. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    The difficulty with the latter is how to describe location if a score is not used. It leads to questions such as "What type of scale is played after the opening theme and the linking passages, but before the first set of brass chords near the end of the extract?". Just trying to work out where the feature is ends up being more difficult than describing the feature itself. Hence the reliance on score for location.
    However, this in turn is caused by the straightjacket of having to identify features in context. At least at GCSE level, it seem to me to be perfectly valid to have - say - three scales played unaccompanied on a violin or guitar, with a requirement for candidates to say which is major, which is minor and which is chromatic. This would save all of the difficulties of insisting that students read notation in order to follow a score, or can work out a labrynthine description merely in order to work out the location of the feature in the question.
    Given that a scale is really just a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, I'm not sure whether playing, identifying or writing a major scale is of that much importance! But the point about how you describe location without insisting on score reading is an important one if examiners continue to insist on examining features in context rather than isolation.

  12. I think part of the problem with GCSE music Is that if I remember right it was designed to allow all pupils to study it and carry on from their KS3 lessons. It is already has the lowest numbers of all the arts subjects. If this is the case, it is very difficult to design a specification that meets the needs of grade 5/6 instrumentalists and pupils who are carrying on from KS3, without disadvantaging those who can't afford instrumental lessons. I think in some ways you almost need an extension element to allow those with a high level of skills to gain credit for them. I can't think of another subject except perhaps possibly PE where you have such a wide range of skills taking the subject, and significant numbers having lessons which let's face it do give pupils an advantage. I agree that as long as the pupils can identify scales etc. aurally, it doesn't matter that they couldn't write one down. I did the specification in 1995 with set works and unseen music, and it was tough. However there was a list of set works and teachers chose the most appropriate ones for their cohort, and just one exam paper and CD was published and you just answered the questions on the works you'd studied. This could easily be replicated today with some of the works being simply aurally based rather than relying on notation, you could pick the ones that suit your pupils. So many pupils learn their music today via videos in YouTube or using tab, and I think these pupils shouldn't be disadvantaged by GCSE specifications based on traditional notation.
  13. Is there an iGCSE and is it any different?
  14. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    There is, and it is little different - except that it requires one of the two compulsory compositions to use western tonal harmony and be fully notated in staff notation.
    It has a tough listening paper (40%) in five sections (unprepared western music, 1600 to now, unprepared world music, skeleton score, substantial western set work and "world music" topic). Basically, a compendium of all that is worst in domestic GCSE specs.
    Performing is essential - with no sign of resolving the 25-year-old enigma outlined by Annie.
    It is yet another example of how those who have inviegled their way into the examing system have not the slightest idea of how music could be examined in a meaningful way.

  15. Sorry, Florian, I'm a little confused. It sounds quite "rigerous and accademic" as he Who Must Not be Named is so fond of saying. Do we have it in for unprepared listening? - I thought that was something we all wanted to add to the current Edexcel syllabus (or am I confusing this will closely related listening which is, I suppose, different).
    I can see that since everything is unprepared it might be quite tough. Certainly the compulsory notating of compositions seems a little harsh at GCSE level.
  16. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    What I meant to convey is that it's more rigorous than the domestic GCSE, but it doesn't offer an innovative approach, nor does it the solve the problem of performance raised by qu1annie. Basically, it's just a harder version of GCSE.
  17. What is GCSE trying to achieve I wonder. In fact I suspect this argument appears in, other subjects as we'll. For instance, in maths, are you training the future brood of mathematicians or are you just trying give students a grounding in practical maths they will need for daily life and a range of common careers?

    The same applies to music. What do we want our students to get out of doing GCSE music? o become the future audience? To appreciate and understand a wide variety of music? To become performers? Musicologists? Compserts?
  18. gilly33

    gilly33 New commenter

    My opinion of teachers of music has really improved since reading these posts and I feel quite bad for my past judgement. I am not a music teacher but married to a pro musician and educator. I also have spent most my life studying music. It is refreshing to hear the comments on ways to change the curriculum and I can see how passionate about the subject many of you are.
    I do have a couple of things to add. My suggestion of Italian terms was really concerning those performing pieces where it is important to understand the tempo and other directions in the music written in Italian.
    Finally can somebody please explain why so many music teachers tell children that a crochet counts 1 (beat) instead of whole note, half, quarter and eighth. They learn fractions from y2 so they could understand.
  19. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    Neither system is really 'correct'. A "quarter note" is nothing of the sort in 3/4 for example. Pupils understand crotchet = one beat in 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 5/4 etc (even if that's not the case for 6/8 et al). Indeed, I think of it that way myself.

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