The context: Understanding inclusivity in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, inclusivity is not just a policy, but a way of delivering special education that embraces individual differences and celebrates diversity. The Hong Kong government is adopting a dual-track approach, where students with severe disabilities receive intensive support in special schools, while others with special educational needs (SEN) attend regular schools alongside their peers. The goal is to help students, teachers and parents recognise, accept and respect individual differences. In this blog post, our focus extends beyond the traditional localised understanding of inclusivity to look at its cultural dimension. Our exploration goes beyond addressing just the collaboration with SEN students, as we ask questions and delve into the broader context of inclusivity to achieve arts for everyone who receives formal music education in Hong Kong.
We ask: What do we mean by ‘all’?
But what does ‘all’ really mean in this context? Although music is a compulsory subject in the Hong Kong education system, the current inclusive education policy lacks additional teacher training and professional resources to support their teaching. Research has identified challenges, including inadequate knowledge of SEN, inexperience in handling classroom diversity, and a lack of in-service support (see for example Wong et al., 2019). How can we create genuinely inclusive opportunities and support school music teachers’ needs?
‘Although music is a compulsory subject in the Hong Kong education system, the current inclusive education policy lacks additional teacher training and professional resources to support their teaching.’
We ask: What about the music we teach and learn at school?
The formal education system in Hong Kong was developed and modelled on the British system in the early 1900s, under British colonial rule. As a result, music education in Hong Kong has been dominated by Western music. Since the handover from the British to China in 1997, integrating diverse musical cultures has been a challenge. Schools are now encouraged to teach the Chinese National Anthem and emphasise local traditions to promote patriotism (CDC, 2003). For example, traditional Cantonese opera is taught as a means to preserve Chinese culture, but it often clashes with students’ modern identities, making it less appealing. Moreover, teachers lack confidence and motivation in teaching traditional Chinese music due to their Western-centric training (Ho, 2006; Leung, 2014). This perpetuates the dominance of Western music which has hampered the promotion of a truly inclusive music curriculum.
In our pursuit of achieving music for all, we draw upon Small (1998, p. 10), ‘to music is to take part in a musical performance in any capacity, and the meaning of musicking is in the relationships that the performance creates amongst the participants’. Music is not a passive act of listening, but an active form of participation that creates connections among performers and listeners. ‘Musicking’ allows us to explore the intersections between different practices, enabling us to focus on the creative process rather than just the final product (Schippers & Bartleet, 2013).
We believe school music teachers should tap into community resources and collaborate with practitioners. Through this process, decisions are made collectively to develop a holistic, balanced and inclusive music curriculum in our society. This collaborative process leverages practitioners’ expertise in specific genres and school music teachers’ insights into classroom dynamics and school cultures. By adopting this alternative approach, educators and practitioners liberate themselves from existing constraints, envisioning the potential of music for all. Through the integration of varied resources, we can foster an inclusive musical environment that captivates and resonates with each and every student.
Curriculum Development Council [CDC]. (2003). Arts education key learning area: Music curriculum guide (Primary 1–Secondary 3). Hong Kong Government.
Ho, W. C. (2006). Challenges to values education in Hong Kong school music education. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 26(2), 225–241. https://doi.org/10.1080/02188790600937383
Leung, B. W. (2014). Teachers’ transformation as learning: Teaching Cantonese opera in Hong Kong schools with a teacher–artist partnership. International Journal of Music Education, 32(1), 119–131. https://doi.org/10.1177/0255761413491174
Schippers, H., & Bartleet, B. L. (2013). The nine domains of community music: Exploring the crossroads of formal and informal music education. International Journal of Music Education, 31(4), 454–471. https://doi.org/10.1177/0255761413502441
Small, C. (1998). Musicking: The meanings of performing and listening. Wesleyan University Press.
Wong, M., Chik, M., & Chan, E. (2019). Primary music teachers’ efficacy in Hong Kong’s inclusive classrooms. Music Education Research, 21(5), 517–528. https://doi.org/10.1080/14613808.2019.1670151