Learning through Popular Music, Lessons for the General Music Programme Syllabus in Singapore

Project Number
OER 17/12 ED

Project Duration
July 2012 - October 2016


This project seeks to investigate the identity, role and function of popular music within education in Singapore. Creating, performing and responding to popular music genres acts as an apt medium of expression considering the complex nature of an ever-shifting demographic mix and strategies to bring about more effective social integration across communities-of-practice (Wenger 1998) engaging the larger cosmopolitan society in Singapore. This project identifies five key research questions: 1. What does the teaching of popular music entail? 2. How can popular music be taught effectively? 3. What benefits are accrued to immersion in popular music within the school culture and communities-at-large in Singapore and beyond? 4. What is the place for popular music in the school going curriculum in educational policy? 5. How can a study of the ways in which popular music affects learners impact future MOE policies, initiatives and practices? The GMP document supports the value of popular music beginning with musical skills of composing, improvising and recreating extending to identity formation and multiplicity in identity negotiation in group dynamics (MOE 2008, pp. 7-10). Current broader educational aims are to develop creative, imaginative and socio-culturally well-tempered individuals and popular music has an important educational role to play in this respect. Dairianathan and Lum (2010) and Dairianathan and Francis (2012) have discovered how popular musics re/iterate their place in the music curriculum for music as lived and living space. Secondary factors crucial to this research are: (a) to examine the place of popular music in local public and international schools across Singapore, (b) to draw out the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for school-going youth to be engaged in popular music and (c) to critically examine popular music immersion in relation to the objectives established in the GMP syllabus (MOE 2008). Popular music is characterised by: (i) Interdisciplinarity (music, dance, poetry, theatre etc); (ii) It suffuses the lives of school-going youth in their out-of-school curriculum. (iii) Skill acquisition is frequently gained through more informal learning than is usual in institutional settings (Green, 2002). (iv) Participation in popular music by various communities seems to cut across ethnic, religious and age boundaries which makes popular music participation an interesting study in social integration. (v) Engaging in popular music potentially provides students life-long engagement. The impact of popular music in the classroom has not been fully explored.

Research Themes
Music & Arts

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 13 (2014): Using Popular Music to Excite Students
NIE Research Briefs No. 16-009: Learning Through Popular Music, Lessons for the General Music Programme Syllabus in Singapore

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