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THE ROLES OF THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE SECTORS IN
THE DEVELOPMENT OF MUSIC EDUCATION
JOHN LAH BOH YONG
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF
FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE
DEGREE OF MASTER OF MUSIC
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
This thesis would not be successful without the advice and assistance from a
group of special people. The constructive comments and guidance of my supervisory
committee members, Dr. Camille Smith and Dr. Jennifer Thomas, were greatly
appreciated. They provided encouragement and valuable suggestions throughout the
course of my study.
Furthermore, I am especially grateful to my wife and son, Dolly and Kyrie, who
endlessly and unselfishly provide inspiration and motivation to my studies at the
University of Florida.
TABLES OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S ................................................................................................ ii
ABSTRACT ............... ................ ......... .............. vi
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
Purpose and V alue of the Study................................................................. ..... .....1
N eed for the Stu dy ...................................... ........................................... 1
2 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY .................................... .......................... ........ 3
The H history of M alaysia ........................................................ .. ...... ....
The Geographical Position of M alaysia ............................................... ............... 7
The Demographic Position of M alaysia ............................................... ............... 8
The Socio-Economic Conditions in Malaysia............... .................................12
The Educational System in M alaysia ........................................ ...... ............... 13
The M usic Education in M alaysia ......................... .... ................................... 19
3 THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT POLICY MAKING-GOVERNMENT IN THE
DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION .......... .......................25
A Unified System ............................................... .......... 25
Policy Changes Since 1970's .............. ........................................... 27
The Implementation of National Economic Policy (NEP).............. ...................29
The Implem entation of Look East Policy..................................... ......... ............... 31
The Implementation of Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020).............................................32
The Implementation of National Cultural Policy ....................................... .......... 34
4 THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC MUSIC
EDUCATION ...................................... .. .. ........ .. ........... 36
The Role of the Ministry of Education in Music Education................. ........... 36
The Establishment and Functions of Curriculum Development Center .............37
Malaysian Public Education .................................... ................... 38
Prim ary School System ....................................................... 39
Lower and Upper Secondary School System............................................... 41
Post-Secondary School System ........................................ ....................... 44
Tertiary Education ....... .......................... ........ ... .. ...... ........ .... 45
Teacher Training Colleges ........................... ............................. 47
M usic Education in the Public School System ............................... ............... 48
U niversiti of M alaya (UM )............................................................. ............... 50
University Putra Malaysia (UPM)...... ...................... ...............52
University Teknologi M ARA (UTM )....................................... ............... 54
U niversiti Sains M alaysia (U SM ) ............................................ ............... 56
University Malaysia Sarawak (UNAMAS)...................................................57
University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) ......................... ............. ............... 58
The Role of the Ministry of Information in Music Education...................................59
The Role of the Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Tourism in Music Education............64
The Istana Budaya (N national Theater) ..................................... .................64
The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO)............................... ............... 66
The N national Choir (N C)......................................................... ............... 67
Com posers Forum of A SEAN .................................... .......................... ......... 68
5 THE ROLE OF PRIVATE EXTERNAL MUSIC EXAMINATION BOARDS IN
M U SIC E D U C A T IO N ....................................................................... ..................69
The Emergence of Private Music External Examination Boards in Malaysia ..........69
The Role of Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) in Malaysia's
M u sic E du catio n ................................................................ ....................7 0
T he H history of A B R SM .......................................................................... ...... 70
The Curricula of A B R SM .................................................................................72
The Syllabi for M usic Performance: Pieces ................................. ............... 73
Scales and A rpeggios .................................. .............................73
A u ra l T e sts ..................................................................................................... 7 4
S ig h t-R ead in g ............................................................................... 7 4
T heory of M usic .................................................... .. ................. .. ...... .. 75
Yamaha Music Education System (YMES) .................................... ............... 75
T he H history of Y M E S .............................................................. .....................75
The Teaching Concepts of YMES ............................................... ...............76
C ourses O offered by Y M E S ...................................................................... .. .... 77
The Graded Exam nations of YM ES................................................................ 78
6 THE ROLE OF PRIVATE COLLEGES IN MUSIC EDUCATION .....................80
Government's Policies Toward Private Education ............... .................... ..........80
The H history of Private Education ...................................................... ........ ...... 81
The Tw inning Program .......................................................................... ............... 82
Sedaya C college ..................................................... ................. 84
International College of M usic (ICOM ......................... ...... ..... ..............86
Y am aha A cadem y of A rts and M usic ........................................ .....................86
O their P private M music C olleges................................................... .....................88
The Malaysia Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) of PETRONAS ................................88
7 SUM M ARY AND CONCLUSION ........................................... ........................ 91
REFERENCES ................... ........ ... ....... .. ..................... 93
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ...................................................................... ..................98
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of master of Music
THE ROLES OF THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT
AND PRIVATE SECTORS IN THE
DEVELOPMENT OF MUSIC EDUCATION
John Lah Boh Yong
Chairman: Camille M. Smith.
Major Department: Music
This study examines music education in Malaysia. It traces its historical roots
from the Eighteenth Century to the present, and illustrates the roles the Malaysian
government and private sectors play in the development of music education. It further
examines the influence of Western music on contemporary curriculum practices.
Purpose and Value of the Study
This study illustrates the role of the various Malaysian government organizations
in shaping public school music education. The study also includes the recent progress
developed by the private sectors in assisting the Malaysian government to make music
education more affordable and accessible among the public.
The Malaysian government plays an active role, initiating policies in music
education; the private sectors follow and implement the policies in their educational
system. The joint effort of both parties enables music education to become a more
essential area of study, rather than a leisure activity.
This study focuses on the past and recent developments achieved by both the
Malaysian government and private sectors that make Malaysia able to fulfill its Vision
2020 as a developing country.
Need for the Study
Throughout the development of music education in Malaysia, the country
experienced a series of transformations in its implementation of educational policies and
reforms and a rapidly booming economic growth during the process of privatization. As
one of the leading nations in ASEAN and Southeast Asia, both the Malaysian
government and private sectors' efforts deserve a place of prominence in the discussion of
music in this study. This study demonstrates how the government can work closely with
the private sectors to promote the concepts of music education in a multi-plural and racial
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The History of Malaysia
Peninsular Malaysia, formerly known as the Federation of Malaya, became an
independent sovereign nation on August 31, 1957. On that day, the Malayan Federation
became independent under an Alliance government headed by the United Malay National
Organization (UMNO) leader Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister. Malaysia
was later established formally on September 16, 1963, through the union of the federation
of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah.1 On August 9, 1965, Singapore left Malaysia
to become an independent country.2
Historically, Malaysia had continuous interaction with traders from China and
India. During the early centuries A.D., Indian contact with the Peninsula was mainly
confined to trade visits. It was through these encounters that North Malaya was drawn
into the complex of "Indianized" Kingdoms established in Southeast Asia in the fourth
century. The centralized position in Asia and abundant resources of produces and spices
had attracted sailors, traders, settlers and rulers from various parts of Asia for several
1 Officially, Malaysia still celebrates its Independence Day on August 31st every year.
2 Europa Publications Limited, "Malaysia," in Europa World Year Book, Vol.11 (Old Woking: Gresham
3 Craig A. Lockard, Dance ofLife: Popular Music and Politics in SoutheastAsia (Honolulu: University of
Hawaii Press, 1998) 209.
There seems to have been a desire to extend Chinese prestige in other parts of
Asia by offering protection against Siam. It is probable that the Chinese government
wished to investigate the use of sea routes4 as an alternative to the overland route to the
West, especially for merchants importing luxuries and spices. The influence of the
Chinese and Indians was especially strong during the rule of Prince Parameswara5 in the
kingdom of Malacca. During his reign, the trade of Malacca benefited greatly from the
oversea traders from China and India who used Malacca as a trading port.6 The important
economic and political influence of Malacca also enhanced the spread of both the Malay
language and Islam, which gradually became the main religion in the Malay region.
The spice trade in the Malay archipelagos eventually attracted Portuguese, Dutch
and British to monopolize the territory as their colonies. In the sixteenth century, the
Westerners participated in the spice business in the region and gradually planned for a
strategy to conquer the region.
The history of colonization in Malaysia started with the Portuguese invasion in
1511 and ended in 1957 when the Federation of Malaya became an independent nation
from the British. As defined by Naimah Ishak in his dissertation, "Colonization and
Higher Education: The Impact of Participation in Western Universities on Malaysian
Graduates Who have Returned to their Academic and Professional Lives":
Colonialism refers to capture and control of one country by another country
through political domination, economic exploitation and religious proselytism. It
represents subjugation of the colonies to the colonizer in the dynamics of
superiority-inferiority and oppressor-oppressed; through the colonizer's
4 China was the leading nation in the maritime navigation in Asia during that century.
5 Parameswara was the prince from Palembang, on the island of Sumatra, who fled to Malacca to establish
6 N. J. Ryan, A History of Malaysia and Singapore (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 20.
7 Lockard, 209.
educational, judiciary, government, banking systems and even though use of the
In the sixteenth century, Europeans began arriving in the region, bringing political
and economic influence. The Portuguese were the pioneers.9 In 1511, Malacca Kingdom
was invaded through Malacca Strait by the Portuguese led by Naval Commander Alfonso
Albuquerque.10 One of the main goals of the conquest was acquiring a share of the spice
trade, especially nutmeg, and cloves mainly from Maluku. The Portuguese venture
provoked religious as well as economic and political opposition.
The Dutch, whose goal was to control trade of the Malay Archipelago, took
further steps against the Portuguese and against the independent Sultanates. The Dutch
captured Malacca in 1641, bringing a period of prosperity for Johore in the South. Johore
retained a prestige derived from its past history, but it did not exert control over states on
the Peninsula. Although the control of the Dutch was limited, their presence tended to
restrict the advance of the Siamese into the Peninsula. The Dutch established only
commercial and contractual connections with the Peninsular States, concentrating
particularly on the tin mines in Perak State.
The invasion of the British into the region was due to the security of their growing
Empire in India and of their expanding tea trade with China. Moreover, Britain's
colonization from 1874-1957 was made possible by internal dissensions and the felt need
for a countervailing power to the Siamese and Dutch. British desire for protection in
8 Naimah Ishak, "Colonization and Higher Education: The Impact of Participation in Western Universities
on Malaysian Graduates Who Have Returned to Their Academic and Professional Lives." (Ph.D. diss.,
University of Oregon, December 2000), 5
9 Lockard, 209.
10 Nicholas Tarling, Nations and States in Southeast Asia (Hong Kong: Cambridge University Press, 1998),
return for trading security led first to the opening of two trading ports, Penang and
Singapore, which diverted trading focus from the Malacca.11 In the 1870's, as demand for
Malayan resources increased in the industrializing West, the British began intervening in
the turbulent politics of the Malay States, establishing indirect control.
The capture of Peninsular Malaya did not occur at one time, but in several stages
and periods. In 1786, the British acquired Penang Island from the Sultan of Kedah. The
founding of Penang in 1786 by Sir Francis Light marked the British penetration of Tanah
Melayu, and in 1795-6, Malacca was conquered. In the 1870's, the British Government
authorized intervention in several Malay States on the West Coast of the Peninsula and
the first Straits Settlement (Singapore, Malacca and Penang) was formed in 1826. The
central geographical position of these states served as a base for Britain's subsequent
conquest of Tanah Melayu, and thus Great Britain eventually had its opportunity to
invade the Malay Peninsula officially in 1874, after the political incidents in Perak.12 The
invasion resulted in the signing of the Pangkor Treaty in 1874. An important clause set
forth in the Pangkor Treaty was that
The Sultan received and provided a suitable residence for the British officer, to be
called Resident, who shall be asked and acted to his court, and whose advice must
be asked and acted upon on all questions other than those touching Malay religion
and customs. 13
1 Yogesh Atal, "Malaysia," in Dynamics ofNation-Building, ed. Vincent Lowes Bangkok: UNESCO
Regional Office for Education in Asia and the Pacific, 1984), 112-3.
12B. W. Andaya and L. Y. Andaya, A History of Malaysia (New York: St. Martins Press, 1982).
13 S. Maaruf, Malay Ideas on Development: From Feudal Lord to Capitalist (Kuala Lumpur: Times Book
International, 1988), 44-5.
The northern states of Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu, previously ruled
by the Siamese, were handed to British in 1909 after a mutual political agreement.14
Meanwhile, the Brookes family established its power in Sarawak as an autocratic state for
a hundred years, while neighboring Sabah belonged to the British East India Company as
a commercial location.15
Economically, the Peninsula had been increasingly drawn into a relationship with
the rest of the world. The tin of Perak State and the marine produce of the Johore
Archipelago had been important to the trade with China. Culturally, the settlements
particularly in Singapore played a prominent role on the Peninsula as an important
commercial trading port.16 They were sources for the spread of European culture in the
Nineteenth Century, with the mission at Malacca and the Keasberry School at Singapore.
During the British colonization, the settlements were both home for Chinese immigrants
and also stopovers for the Chinese and the Indians who worked in the mining and
The Geographical Position of Malaysia
Situated in Southeast Asia, north of the Equator, Malaysia claims a total area of
330,434 squared kilometers.18
14 Rahimah Haji Ahmad, Norjannah Ismail and T. Marimuthu, "Interface of Education with Employment
and Leisure in the Context of Alternative Futures: Malaysia," in Education and Polity 5, eds. UNESCO
(Bangkok: UNESCO Principal Regional Office, 1987), 4.
15 Lockard, 210.
16 Until today, Singapore is still the busiest and most important commercial and trading port in Southeast
17 Tarling, 17.
18 Tourist Development Corporation Malaysia (TDC), Malaysia: A General Guide (Kuala Lumpur:
Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 1988).
Malaysia's geographical position is the most important factor to take into account
if one is to understand its past and even its present and future.19 Because of its
position in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is not landlocked but is wide open to the
outside world. Malaysia politically links the Southeast Asia mainland with the
archipelago, and is characterized by geographical position.20
Peninsular Malaysia is separated from the states of Sarawak and Sabah on Borneo Island
by a distance of 530 kilometers of the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia consists of
eleven states, extending from the Asian continent to Thailand as its neighboring country,
and is almost entirely surrounded by the Sea of Malacca and South China Sea. Sarawak
and Sabah (East Malaysia) share the territories with Brunei and Indonesian Kalimantan
on Borneo Island. The total land mass is 329,749 squared kilometers, larger than the state
of New Mexico.21 The physical make up of both Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia
is generally one of coastal plains and interior with jungle-covered mountains. The climate
is categorized as equatorial.
The Demographic Position of Malaysia
The earliest proof and oldest artifact of human habitation in Malaysia was found
in the Niah Cave in Miri, Sarawak. A human skull estimated to be 35,000 year old22 was
found as the evidence. Throughout the history of Malaysia, there are generally three
ethnic groups as Malays (47 percent), Chinese (24 percent), Indigenous (11 percent),
Indians (7 percent), and other races (11 percent). The overall estimated population in the
year of 2000 was 23.3 million.
19 Ryan, 2.
20 Lockard, 209.
21 U.S Department of State (2002); available from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2777.htm: internet,
(accessed 11 May 2002).
First, Malays were believed to be the original descendents from Deutro-Malay
settlers. The Deutro-Malays basically were Mongoloid, the same race as the first
immigrants from Yunan, China (Proto-Malays). They had a reasonably high standard
material culture and they had acquired the knowledge of metal. They scattered from the
Peninsula to the islands of the Malay archipelagos. The final wave of immigrants,
together with the Deutro-Malays, later formed the Malay population of the Peninsula.23
Evidently, these people preferred not to be nomads and were established in villages.
Malays were less involved in the modern economy and maintained a more conservative
social life style, but their lives were improved by several economic policies.24
Second, during the early Ming Dynasty, a series of missions visited Tibet, Java,
Siam, Bengal and the Malay Peninsula. The Chinese Government accepted
Parameswara's request to protect the Malacca Sultanate. As a result, in 1403, a Chinese
fleet led by an admiral arrived at Malacca from China.25 Among the series of visits from
China, perhaps Cheng Ho made the most prominent and frequent visits to Malacca.
Traders and immigrants from China flocked to Malacca because trade became the main
enterprise of Malacca. Inter-racial marriages between the Malays and Chinese were not
uncommon during the Era of Parameswara. The second main group of Chinese was
believed to have made the political exodus to Malacca during the rule of Manchu
Regime. They left China with their skills and they became mainly agricultural sector
workers and tin miners during the booming period of British colonized Malaya. The
Chinese soon became the primary force in commerce and dwelt mainly in the urban
23 Ibid., 6.
24 Lockard, 210.
25 China was the leading maritime navigator in the region of Asia during that time.
area.26 Chinese immigration continued until the global depression of the 1930s when
there was an excess of departures over arrivals. The Alien Ordinance of 1933 drastically
curtailed the immigration of adult Chinese males.
Third, about 2500 B.C., the inhabitants of the Peninsula whom the early Indian
traders and voyagers encountered had originally entered the Peninsula from the North.
These people were the Proto-Malays, who moved south from Yunan, China into a long
series of migration. Between 2500 B.C. and 1500 B.C., they moved farther south
through the Peninsula and on to the Malay archipelagos.28 In terms of livelihood, they
could cultivate the land and begin farming by means of shifting cultivation. Various
indigenous peoples of Malay stock, predominantly non-Islam in religion, lived in the
mountains as the Orang Asli,29 and in Sabah (the Kadazans being the major group) and in
Sarawak (the Ibans being the most numerous of the various Dayak people). Musically,
initial descendents of animistic Proto and Deutro-Malays formed the earliest groups
performing music for rituals, worship and leisure.30
Fourth, during the early centuries A.D., Indian contact with the Peninsula was
largely due to trade visits. Later, certain areas, especially the northern state of Kedah,
were made suitable for Indian permanent trading settlements. The Indians introduced
their culture and religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) to the region. Similarly, the later
group of Indians came to Malaya because of the employment opportunities offered at the
26 Lockard, 210.
27 Ryan, 4.
28 Ryan., 5.
29 Orang Asli are literally the indigenous people in the rural and the remote areas in Malaysia.
30 Salehhuddin Haji Mohd Salleh, "Traditional Music in Malaysia: Its Promotion and Development," in
Forum Papers, ed. E. E. Joseph (Singapore: National Arts Council of Singapore, 1994), 25.
rubber plantations. Indian immigration was largely a response to the labor requirement of
the expanding rubber industry. By 1921, Indians constituted 70 percent of the estate
population and 15 percent of the total population. At the outbreak of the Second World
War, the pre-independence Government of India imposed a ban on the further
immigration of unskilled laborers.
The early outside music influences came from India at least one thousand years
ago.31 Indian musical influence began when their monks and priest brought among others,
their arts and literature. They introduced shadow play.32 A performance of Ramayana,
and Mahabharata, to the Malay performing arts; and they introduced to the Malay-
traditional music and their musical instruments for example, cylindrical drums and the
Malaysia has been termed the archetype of the "plural society". Generally, the
Malays represent the dominant ethnic group and are largely involved in the government
bureaucracy and rural agriculture. With slightly half of the population, Malays dominate
politics and bureaucracy, although most Malays remain concentrated in the rural areas.
The Chinese and Indians are descendents of the migrants who arrived in the mid
Nineteenth Century to work in the colonial economy. With a little over a third of the
population, the Chinese generally monopolize commerce and the urban economy. The
indigenous people have played a major socio-political role. Last, the Indians, about a
31 James Chopyak, "Music in Modem Malaysia: A Survey of the Music Affecting the Development of
Malaysian Popular Music," inAsian Music 18, No.4 (Kuala Lumpur: Asian Music Publishing, 1987), 111.
32 Shadow play is a theater art in which the shadows of the puppets are projected on the screen to describe a
33 Salleh, 26.
tenth of the population, live mainly in the urban area, but also in agricultural and rural
areas.34 The Indians were dominant in the rubber estates and the railway department.35
The Socio-Economic Conditions in Malaysia
Since independence in 1963, the Malaysian Government has implemented
aggressive social and economic development programs. Five development plans have
been launched, beginning with the First Malaysian Plan (1965-1970). In the past,
emphasis on agricultural and rural development had strengthened the economic position
of the country. As the world's leading producers of rubber, tin and palm oil, Malaysia
viewed population growth as a positive factor, facilitating rapid socio-economic
development. On the other hand, to deal with important social and economic problems,
recent major policy goals of the Malaysian government have been directed toward
eradicating poverty and narrowing the economic and social gap between the ethnic
Another major government plan is Vision 2020 in which the Government vows to
produce a highly industrialized and technologically advanced country by the year of
2020. According to the information reported by the U.S. Department of State, Malaysia
has been successfully developed from a commodity-based to a manufacturing nation.36
Today the Government of Malaysia seeks to make the leap to a knowledge-based
economy. At independence, Malaysia inherited an economy dominated by two
commodities-rubber and tin. In the forty years following independence, Malaysia's
economic record became one of Asia's best. Benefiting from manageable population size,
34 Lockard, 215.
35 Andaya and Andaya, 1.
36 U. S. Department of State, internet.
abundant natural resources, and entrepreneurial talent, Malaysia generally enjoyed a
prosperous economy from 1963 into the 1990's, leading some observers to group it
among the Asian "Little Tigers." High annual per capital GNP enabled Malaysia by 1985
to surpass nations like Portugal and Hungary. Consequently, major achievements such as
the mega constructions of Cyberjaya, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur Tower, and PETRONAS
Twin Towers were recently added to the landmarks of Malaysia on the world map.
Cyberjaya boosts to be the hub of Super Multi-Media Corridor to the world; Putrajaya is
the newest administrative center for government bureaucracy and also the residence of
the Prime Minister; Kuala Lumpur Tower serves as satellite center for communication
and broadcasting; and PETRONAS Twin Towers claims to be the world's tallest office
tower. Recent developments have shown that Malaysia has turned its direction from the
basic agricultural society to an industrialized and a high-tech nation.
The Educational System in Malaysia
At one time or another, the Portuguese, Dutch, Siamese, Japanese and British
occupied or controlled what is now called Malaysia. Chinese and Indians who had come
into the country as laborers in the mid-Eighteenth Century subsequently adopted
Malaysia as their homelands. The British, however, were the most influential group and
set the pattern in Malaysia for many institutions of government and education.
English education dates back to the establishment of the Penang Free School in
1816. The first free school was founded by Rev. R. S. Hutchings. He wanted English to
be taught to those who wished to seek employment in government and commercial
activities.37 Rosanani Binti Hashim, a researcher on Malaysian education, calls Malaysian
7 K. G. Tregonning, The British in Malaya (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press 1965), 71.
education free because it was open to all children regardless of their races, creed, or
color.38 The Raffles Institution in Singapore was built in 1823, and the first government
English school, later known as the Clifford School, educated the sons of the Malay ruling
class. During that period, the London Missionary Society established Schools in the
Malay States to promote Christianity.39 According to William Milne, a Scholar associated
with the London Missionary Society, the aim of these missions was to combine the
diffusion of general knowledge with the promotion of Christianity. The London
Missionary Society was the pioneer of educational missions in Malaya, working in the
colony from 1815 to 1847, at which time it left permanently for China.40 Malay college
was established in 1905 to train sons of Malay nobility for government services. The
demand for English education grew, but the percentage of Malay children (15%) enrolled
by 1936 remained low compared to the Chinese (50%) and Tamils (28%). After the
period of colonization of the land, education in Malaysia was still patterned after the
British model in structure, governance, language, and even curriculum.41
One of the earliest forms of education in Malaysia was undoubtedly semiformal
religious education directed by the religious hierarchy for the sons of the Sultans and the
aristocracy. Religious education taught mainly the Quran, the holy scripture of Muslims,
and was later emphasized as the basis for formal education in the Malay language.42
38 Rosnani Binti Hashim, "Educational Dualism in Malaysia: Implications for Theory and Practices" (Ph.D.
diss., University of Florida 1994), 78.
39 Syed Muhammad Naquib Alatas, Western Concept of Knowledge (Kuala Lumpur: Times Educational
40 Hashim, 39.
41 P. G. Altbach, Comparative Higher Education: Knowledge, the University and Development
(Greenwich, CT: Ablex Publication Corporation, 1998).
42 Robert W. Jr. McMeekin, Educational Planning and Expediture Decisions in Developing Countries with
a Malaysian Case Study (New York: Praeger Publisher, 1975), 143.
Before the independence of Malaya, Malay-medium schools were the Pondok (hut)
schools and the Islamic religious Madrasah schools. The Pondok schools organized
around a particularly Ulamak (Islamic religious scholar) and taught Islam as well as
academic and vocational subjects. The Madrasah schools followed a set of curriculum
and used Arabic as the language of instruction in an effort to preserve the Islamic identity
of Malay society. Government sponsored Malay-medium schools began in the Nineteenth
Century. In 1903, the focus of Malay vernacular education shifted to a study of Malay
culture and emphasis was placed on Malay literature printed in Rumi (Latin character)
rather than Jawi (Arabic). The foundation of Malay education was the learning of the
Quran and traditional Malay education was mainly the transmission of Quranic
teaching.43 Kelantan was the only state that was successful in both religious and secular
education.44 Because Kelantan was one of the Unfederated Malay States (others included
Johore, Kedah, Terengganu and Perlis) that were of no interest to the colonial
government, that government did not impose any educational policy. Hence Kelantan had
the option of initiating its own curriculum and the kind of education and training that best
benefited its own people.45 As for Malay aristocracy and traditional elite, they were given
an English education as well as training in government administration, in accord with the
British political and economic needs.
4 Ishak, 93.
44 K. K. Kim, Malay Society: Transformation and Democratization (Kuala Lumpur: Pelanduk Publication,
45 Ishak, 94.
Early Chinese education was organized by the localized Chinese community and
was oriented toward the China homeland. Early Chinese education was mainly funded by
voluntary contributions, donations and fees paid by the Chinese community. Financial
assistance to Chinese schools was first made in 1974 and was prolonged until most
Chinese education was either partially or completely assisted in the 1960s.46 Kuo Yi
(common or national language in China) was adopted by the Chinese community in
Malaya to be used as instruction in primary schools. Confucian classics were taught as
the core of a curriculum that was influenced greatly by Chinese politics and intellectual
trends emphasizing subjects such as geography, history, culture, and current events of
China. Little emphasis about their own country of current residence was taught.
Curriculum content was about their immigrants' mother country, the medium of
instruction was their mother tongue, and the teachers were even imported from their
motherland.47 During the 1920-30's, Chinese laborers were phased out of the mining
industry, changed to other occupations and began to consider Federated Malay States as
their home. The British government wanted to influence Chinese education by providing
teacher training education and recognizing Kuo Yi as the medium of instruction.48
Initially, education for Indian children was provided by missionaries in school at
the agricultural estates in Penang, Malacca and Singapore. The colonial government
encouraged the education of Indians by opening in 1870 Tamil-language schools in Perak
and Negeri Sembilan. Texts were imported from India and instruction was offered
46 McMeekin, 143.
47 Abu Zahari, Perkembangan Pendidikan Di Malaysia Sebelum Merdeka Hingga Ke Zaman Sesudah
Merdeka (Kuala Lumpur: Pernerbit Fajar Bakti SDN. BHD., 1980).
48 Curriculum Development Center, National Education Philosophy (Kuala Lumpur: Curriculum
Development Center Publishing, 1989), 4.
primarily in Tamil. Emphasis was on India's history, culture and geography, with little
about the country in which the students now lived. In 1937, the colonial government
began training Tamil teachers. After World War II, the curriculum was revised to include
Malayan oriented materials and focused on practical skills for employment. Through the
1940's, rural Tamil-medium primary schools continued to be maintained by estate
owners, missionaries and committee of local residents. Meanwhile, schools in urban areas
were supervised by the government. Schooling beyond the primary level had to be
continued in English-language schools.
During the colonial rule of the British, English education provided the
opportunities for all ethnic groups to continue their education beyond primary schools to
bridge the gap between the four various ethnic groups who could share a common
curriculum and language. Post-secondary education opened up with the establishment of
the Federal Trade School in 1931 and the agricultural College at Serdang, Selangor and a
technical school.49 During the pre-independence period, several political leaders
representing three various vernacular schools voiced their opinions about the principles
of education as follows;
* Multicultural schools are essential for the education of the future citizens of a
united Malayan Nation,
* There are two official languages, Malay, and English; and both must be taught,
* There must be a single system of education and a common content in the teaching
in all schools.5
49 Andaya and Andaya. 1982.
50 Federation of Malaya, "About Education Policy" in Parliament Paper No.67 (Kuala Lumpur: Malayan
Government, 1954), 8.
After independence, Malaysia began building a nation in which all the ethnic
groups could be identified. As it is stated by the constitution of Malaysia since its
Declaration of Independence:
Education is the responsibility of the Federal Government and Parliament is the
legislative authority... The right to educate is one of the fundamental liberties, as
is the right of the religious groups to maintain their sectional schools... All pupils
have equal treatments.5
Parliament's enactment in 1957 of the Education Ordinance stated that Bahasa
Malaysia was made a common national language and culture of the different ethnic
groups in the country. The Federation of Malaya prior to independence did not have an
overall educational policy or a national standardized curriculum. By 1955, the pre-
independence government felt the need for a national unified educational policy, and a
committee was set up under the chairmanship of the then Minister of Education, Tun
As reported by Dato Abdul Razak bin Hussain, the head of the committee of
Education, the goals were a national system of education acceptable to the people of the
Federation as a whole, satisfying the needs and promoting their cultural, social, economic
and political developments as a nation, with a view to making Malay the national
language of the country while at the same time preserving and sustaining the growth of
two language and culture of other communities living in the country.52 The objectives of
education perceived as important at that time were as follows:
* To bring together the children of all races under the national educational system
in which the national language is the main medium of instruction;
51 Embassy of Malaysia, The Role of Government in i. ii0, ,10r, 1,l,,1 the National Educational System
Washington D.C.: Embassy of Malaysia, 1976).
52 Dato Abdul Razak Bin Hussain, Malaysian Education Committee's Report (Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian
Government Press, 1956), 1.
* To forge a common Malayan outlook through a common syllabus for all schools
so that whatever language then use, all pupils will follow the same curriculum;
* To enable all children between six and seven year of age to find places in primary
According to the statement published by the Curriculum Development Center, a
departmental branch of Ministry of Education in Malaysia:
Education in Malaysia is an on going effect toward further developing the
potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce
individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically
balanced and harmonies, based on firm belief in God. Our efforts are focused
towards creating Malaysian citizens who are knowledgeable and competent, who
possess high moral standards, and who are responsible and capable of achieving a
high level of personal well-being and able to contribute to the harmony and
prosperity of the family, the society, and the nation at large.53
The Music Education in Malaysia
Music in the eyes of the Malaysians during the colonial era was considered to be
from Western culture and not the local traditional music.
The definition of music is different in the Asian sense, especially in a multi-
religious nation such as Malaysia. Music has never been a part of an Asian
tradition. It has always been Western in concept and practice.54 Furthermore,
music education was seldom considered a specialized sub-discipline of music
Music education began in the missionary schools, where singing in the school
choir was introduced. Later development included the establishment of marching bands
and ensembles of woodwinds such as recorders.56 Commonly, music is recognized as a
peripheral subject in Malaysian schools because, in general, there is insufficient
53 Curriculum Development Center. 1.
54 Mohd Nazri Ahmad, "The Status of Music Education in Malaysia: Implication for Future Growth and
Development" (Master thesis, Northwestern University, August 1977), 13.
55 Johami Abdullah, Pendidikan Muzik Semasa (Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, 1993), 2.
56 Patricia Marie Ooi, "A Description and Comparison of Two Prominent Keyboard Music Education
Systems and Their Implications for Music Education in Malaysia" (Master thesis, University of Miami,
awareness of the importance of music in the aesthetic development of the child.57
Cultural interaction among the ancient Malay Archipelago included Malaysia, Indonesia,
parts of Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines. The influence of musical instruments
and structures from the Middle East, India, and China, and the process of colonization
from Portugal and the British were the origins of the Malay traditional music.58
In the very first English schools, built in Malaya in the 1800s, music was offered
only as a curricular subject and was part of the formal curriculum.59 Common musical
activities in schools included choir, brass band, and choral speaking (group performances
of English poems). Singing of English folksongs and children's songs also occurred in
English classes as a means of teaching the English language. Each school had at least one
teacher who could play the keyboard or who had a Western music background. Many
popular and patriotic songs were written by the British composers who did not consider
local influence.60 According to Abdullah, music classes were broadcast by Radio
Malaysia in the 1950's.61 School children would gather in the school hall to listen to these
lessons. Only schools in the city, however, were privileged to receive this benefit. The
use of small percussion instruments, the recorder, and the military brass band were only
available in the cities.62
57 Ministry of Education, Elementary Music Syllabus (Kuala Lumpur: Literacy Agency, 1972), 1.
58 Salleh, 25.
59 Abdullah, 6.
60 Ramona Tahir, "Musical Experience from an Islamic Perspective: Implications for Music Education in
Malaysia" (Ph.D diss., Northwestern University, 1996), 23.
61 Abdullah, 6.
62 Tahir, 24.
Primary school curriculum is viewed as a crucial milestone in the history of
Malaysian music education. Every Malaysian child, irrespective of social-economic
background, now has the opportunity to learn music as a matter of right rather than
Malay schools conducted their music lessons in Quranic recitation assisted by the
singing of the Nasyid (generic Malay term for Islamic religious songs).64 The late and
noted ethnomusicologist Lois Ibsen al Faruqi has described Quran recitation as
cantillation that is combined with improvised monophonic melody and parlando rubato
style.65 Meanwhile, the Chinese school children learned their folksongs of Chinese origin
and the Indian children learned their Tamil cultural and religious songs.66 Music taught in
schools before and after independence was the singing of the British patriotic songs.
Courses offered at the Malayan Teachers Training College in England and Malaya, and
later Malaysia followed the similar curriculum from the English Training Colleges.
Music lectures were British.67 Music was not the core of the academic in curriculum
vernacular schools; Ahmad explained this as a lack of experienced music teachers with
background in music education and also because Malaysia followed a teaching
curriculum similar to that of the British which lacked specific goal and direction.68
During 1960-63, as the Canadian Colombo plan adviser to Sarawak, Dr. Gloria M. Smith
63 Abdullah, 12.
64 Ivy Yeong-Tsuey Yap, "An Examination of the Kodaly Music Education: Applications for the Cross-
Cultural Learners" (Master Thesis, Central Washington University, 1992), 45.
65 Abdullah, 6.
66 Yap, 44.
67 Ahmad, 14.
68 Ahmad, 13.
listed four general aims and objectives of the music course in Malaysia:
* To nourish and develop the love of music which is natural in all children,
* Music exists as a human need. It is a wholesome activity, and increases the joy of
* Music is a valuable form of intellectual activity. It develops craftsmanship,
attention to detail, and the spirit of the artist in the striving for perfection for its
* Every pupil has arrived at a conception of music as one of the beautiful and fine
things of his life.
On the other hand, Dr. Smith also explained that the music teacher should enjoy
music himself and must be enthusiastic to encourage students in interacting with music;
must possess the sense of intonation; and must be familiar with musical notation and
sight-singing for further progressive study69
It was in the 1970s that Malay schools began music classes for their students. The
music syllabi included singing in Nasyid (singing of Islamic religious songs), Kingiran
(pop group with guitar), and Anklung ensemble (bamboo instrument ensemble). At the
same time, in Chinese vernacular schools choir, percussion ensembles, and brass band
had long been popular. The Chinese schools taught music using Solfage and organized
Chinese orchestras. The situation of music in the Indian schools was however poorly
operated and music was only officially introduced after 1983 when the primary school
curriculum was begun.70 The formal inclusion of music in Malaysian schools occurred
when music became an optional subject for the Lower Certificate Examination (L.C.E) in
1972. The examination syllabus consisted mostly of classical Western art music.71 The
69 Gloria M. Smith, ed., The Full Teaching Syllabusfor Junior Secondary Schools (Sarawak: Borneo
Literature Bureau, 1964), 3.
70 Tahir, 24.
71 Ibid., 25.
music situation at the teacher training level improved with the introduction of the
integrated Teacher Training Program in 1973. Under this program, four separate music
courses are offered as follows:
* MUSIC I: A first year basic course of one hour a week for all student teachers.
* MUSIC II: A second year basic course of two hours a week for all student
teachers in the early childhood courses, including exposure to pre-school work.
* MUSIC III: A second year course of three hours a week for specially selected
student teachers doing the early childhood course, to prepare them for teaching
music in primary classes with exposure to pre-school work.
* Music IV: A second year optional course of five hours a week for student teachers
doing Early Adolescent Course to prepare them to teach music in upper primary
and lower secondary classes.
Music I and II are the enrichment courses designed for all student teachers
without further advancement; examinations are offered for Music III and IV.72 All
training colleges in Malaysia offer music I and II but the specialist Teachers Training
Institute at Kuala Lumpur has been given the responsibility of training music teachers.
The Specialist Teachers Training Institute was also directed to start a one-year in-service
course in music for trained teachers who had some previous knowledge of music. The in-
service program was initiated in 1971. By the end of 1977, about 110 music teachers had
completed their courses. Each of these teachers becomes an itinerant music teacher
teaching in at least four primary or secondary schools.73
In 1970, two teams of music committees were formed under the aegis of the
Ministry of Education with the task of drawing up syllabi and guidelines for Primary and
Secondary Schools. The members of the committees were made up of professional
72 Ahmad, 14-5.
73 Ahmad, 15.
musicians, music lecturers, teachers from the various medium schools, and
representatives from the Ministry of Education. By the end of 1972, both syllabi and
guidelines were ready for printing. These became officially sanctioned for the music
curriculum in the public schools.
In 1979, the Malaysian Cabinet issued the directive that music would become a
mandatory subject for all students in the primary schools. The Curriculum Department
Center of the Ministry of Education was given the task of establishing a curriculum for
music for Primary One to Primary Three. A pilot test was conducted and the curriculum
was implemented in 1983. A second stage of the curriculum was later supplemented to
Primary Four through Six.74
Music is also offered as examination subject at different levels. The Junior High
Examination uses the music syllabus prepared by the local examination syndicate. Both
the High School and Senior High School Examination use both syllabi were prepared by
Cambridge University Overseas Examination Syndicate in collaboration with the local
Examination Authority. The Senior High Music diploma is recognized as a prerequisite
by British universities and music conservatories.75
74 Tahir, 26.
75 Ahmad, 16.
THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT POLICY-MAKING IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF
A Unified Educational System
The Federation of Malaya prior to its independence did not have an overall
educational policy or a national standardized curriculum. By 1955, the pre-independence
government felt the need for a national education policy and a committee was set up
under the chairmanship of the then Minister of Education, Tun Abdul Razak. His report
concluded that needs were as follows:
A national system of education acceptable to the people of the Federation as a
whole and which will satisfy the needs and promote their cultural, social,
economic, and political development as a nation, having regard to the intention to
make Malay the national language of the country while preserving an sustaining
the growth of two languages and cultures of other communities living in the
Since its Declaration of Independence, Malaysian has been playing the key role in
the implementation of music programs at its learning institutions. Within the
government's bureaucratic administration, Ministry of Education, Ministry of
Information, and Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism are the most prominent and
active departments in policy-making and promotion of music education. Malaysia has a
rich multi-ethnic culture in which music is one of the influential components. A national
identity needs to be established in order to find the common ground and meanwhile, to
unify the different cultural backgrounds of the ethnic races.
1 Education Committee of Malaysia, Report of the Committee (Kuala Lumpur: Government Press, 1956), 1.
For the improved unity of the nation, the Malaysian government has found that it
is necessary to implement certain nation-building policies-especially in education,
culture, economy, and politic, so that the differences between the diversified ethnic
groups may be rectified. One of the principal characteristics of the Malaysian education
system is its multi-ethnic and multi-lingual makeup. Since its independence and even
before, Malaysia has had four separate educational streams at the primary level, one for
each of the major ethnic communities: Malays, Chinese, Indians and an English language
stream. Until independence secondary education was provided only in English in the
public schools and Chinese in private schools supported by the Chinese community. A
few of the most important policy implementations and changes will be examined and
discussed chronologically in order to identify the suggestions and improvements that
have proven important to the development of Western music education in Malaysia.
Late in 1970, the Education Planning and Research Division of Malaysia's
Ministry of Education sponsored a large sample survey of upper secondary schools. The
survey was administrated by Harold, S. Beebout, a Fulbright Fellowship recipient doing
research in Malaysia. The purpose of the research was to examine the relationships
between educational inputs, background, or environmental factors affecting the upper
secondary schools, and a dependent performance variable based upon changes in test
scores of the two-year upper secondary cycle.2 Beebout successfully demonstrated that
there are production function relationships between educational inputs and academic
educational policy. He states that these concerned (1) the efficiency of the school input
mix, (2) equity in the provision of school inputs, and (3) economic factors that affect the
2 Robert W. Jr. McMeekin, Educational Planning and Expediyure Decidion in Developing Countries: With
Malaysia Case Study (New York: Praeger Publisher Inc., 1975). 157.
relationship.3 In this chapter, I will discuss the educational policies that affect the
development of the learning institutions in Malaysia.
Policy Changes after 1970s
A few notable changes occurred in the education policy after the 1970's. After the
independence, the Malaysian government developed a new educational policy based on
the Razak Report (1956) and Rahman Talib Report (1960). The task of the assigned
committee was to plan for a unified educational system that promoted the Malaysian
identity; the use of Bahasa Malaysia as the language of instruction, aided by restructured
public service examinations, teacher training programs and the teaching service
structure.4 A policy change made in 1969 called for the progressive elimination of the
English language stream, beginning with the first grade in 1969 and proceeding by one
grade each year through the secondary level. This means that the only secondary
education available will soon be in Bahasa Malaysia. Elimination of the English language
stream was ordered following serious racial disturbances in 1969, better known as "May,
Thirteen" in 1969. The tragic racial incident that occurred created instability in the
educational system. To the Chinese and Indians, who were accustomed to the English
language system, the policy appeared to favor the Bumiputra. The policy was necessary,
however to integrate the different races with the unified national language, Bahasa
3 Harold S. Beebout, "The Production Surface for Academic Achievement: An Dissertation Study of
Malaysian Secondary Education" Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1972), 197.
4 T. Neville Postlethwaite and R. Murray Thomas, eds., Schooling in the ASEAN Region (New York:
Pergamon Press, 1980), 107.
5 McMeekin, 107.
In 1972, National Vernacular Schools and the National-Type English Schools
were combined, with the Malay language as the language of instruction.6 In 1977 the
national religious secondary school for selected students based on high achievement in
the primary school evaluation examination was introduced. In 1979, the Malaysian
Cabinet Committee recommended that all Muslims students be required to sit for Islamic
Religious Knowledge in National Examinations.7
In 1980, the Report of the Cabinet Committee accepted by Parliament emphasized
that education and training should be accessible to all, a Malaysian-oriented curriculum
should be developed, and basic education with emphasis upon the 3R's (Reading, Writing
and Arithmetic) at the primary level should be introduced with emphasis on science and
technology in education as a whole.
In 1983, the implementation of the New Primary School Curriculum was carried
out, emphasizing the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic and the Malay
language. In 1987, National Education Policy was formulated to create Malaysian
citizens who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically balanced and
harmonious, based on a belief in and devotion to God. Furthermore, it was that same year
that the Ministry of Education's name was changed from Kementerian Pelajaran
(Ministry of Academic) to Kementerian Pendidikan. (Ministry of Education). As a matter
of fact, the change of the official name more appropriately and correctly describes the job
description of the department. In 1989, the Integrated Curriculum for secondary schools
6 Rosnani Binti Hashim "Educational Dualism in Malaysia: Implications for Theory and Practice" (Ph.d
diss., University of Florida, 1994), 17-8.
7 Cabinet Committee, Review of the Implementation of Education Policy (Kuala Lumpur: Kementerian
Pelajaran Malaysia, 1984).
was launched, emphasizing the growth of a balanced personality, the integration of
"Universal Values", and greater usage of Malay language across the curriculum.
Under the new laws passed by the Ministry of Education in 1995, pre-school
education is part of the national education system; provisions are made for the monitoring
of private education; improved technical and polytechnic education are provided,
emphasis is given to the basic education of the three R's (reading, writing, and
arithmetic); and emphasis is also given to spiritual education and required disciplinary
The Implementation of National Economic Policy (NEP)
National Economic Policy (NEP) was announced in 1970 and proclaimed that
national unity is the overriding objective of the country. Statistics consistently revealed
that the household incomes of Malays, particularly in the rural areas, lagged considerably
behind those of Chinese. At the same time, Tamil estate workers and many indigenous
people often lived in poverty and there were some impoverished Chinese as well.9 A
stage has been reached in the nation's economic and social development where greater
emphasis must be placed on social integration and more equitable distribution of income
and opportunities for national unity and progress.
NEP's main objectives are clear and precise to achieve national unity by
eradicating the predominantly parity between the predominantly Malay
Bumiputra and predominantly Chinese Non-Bumiputra.10
8 Malaysian Ministry of Education (2002); available from http://www.moe.gov/English/kpm/glimpse.htm;
internet, (accessed 11 May 2002).
9 Craig A. Loachard, Dance of Life: Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia (Honolulu: University of
Hawaii Press, 1998), 230.
10 E.T. Gomez and K.S. Jomo Malaysia's Political Economy: Politics Patronage and Profits (New York:
Cambridge University, 1999) 24.
The NEP aimed to restructure the wealth among the three major races,
particularly in creating a Malay business community and achieving thirty percent
ownership for Bumiputra11 in the private sector, with non-Malays owning forty percent
and foreign investors thirty percent by 1990.12 The NEP alarmed many Chinese, and
critics charge that the NEP mainly transfers Chinese wealth to politically connected
Malay entrepreneurs while fostering a culture of mediocrity. Yet the policy promised for
the first time to substantially restructure socio-economic patterns deeply rooted in history,
especially during the period of colonization.
In higher education, recommendations were made to rectify ethnic imbalances in
public universities of Malaysia. These include reducing ethnic profiling the higher
education, admission of Malay students into facilities with lower number of Malays,
helping Malay students in remote areas, revising admission exemption for Bumiputra,
and creating financial assistance for Malay students.13 In line with the NEP, one of the
steps taken by the government was to promote educational priority for the Malays. One
of the affirmative actions taken by the government was known as "positive
discrimination." It was implemented to facilitate equity and access in education to the
Malays so that they can enhance their reputation in the commercial sectors.14 The aim of
NEP for higher education is to meet the new human resource needs of the country,
11 Bumiputra generally consists of Malays and other indigenous races, with Malays cover a larger
12 Loackard, 230.
13 Naimah Ishak, "Colonization and Higher Education: The Impact of Participation in Western Universities
on Malaysian Graduates Who Have Returned to Their Academic and Professional Lives" (Ph.D diss.,
University of Oregon, December 2000), 127.
14 Molly N.N. Lee Private Higher Education in Malaysia (Penang: School of Educational Studies Press of
University Sains Malaysia, 1999), 197.
especially in the industrial and commercial sector. Higher education is expected to
provide greater impetus for economic growth.15
The Implementation of Look East Policy
In 1981 Malaysia's Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad,
announced the initiative to learn from the experiences of Japan and South Korea in the
nation-building of Malaysia. He considered the secret of Japanese success and its
remarkable development and progress to lie in its labor ethics, morale, and management
skills. He felt a program enabling young Malaysians to learn in Japan would contribute to
the success of socio-economic conditions in the country. This initiative is well known as
"Look East Policy." The Look East Policy stressed emulation of Japan while also
encouraging Malaysians to adopt their work ethic. The new strategy of economic reform
included free enterprise and an expanding state sector.16 The policy encouraged
cooperation with Asian businesses in preference to those from North America or Europe.
As a result, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese firms were avidly courted to bid on
construction projects and to otherwise join in Malaysian ventures. Enthusiasm for Asian
cooperation was prompted by a backlash against Western influence in Asia and the desire
to include Asian market to Malaysia's manufacturing sectors.1
For this mission Malaysia decided to send a delegation of students abroad to
Japan, to study not only academics and technical knowledge but also to learn the labor
ethic and discipline of the Japanese. The plan consisted of two parts. First, Malaysian
15 Tapingkae, ed., Higher Education and Economic Growth in SoutheastAsia (Singapore: Regional
Institute of Higher Education, 1976).
16 Lockard, 229.
17 Drew O. McDaniel, -E,.,l. ..'. >,,; in the Malay World: Radio, Television, and Video in Brunei,
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore (Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1992), 181.
students would be dispatched to Japanese universities and institute of technologies.
Second, trainees would be dispatched to Japanese industrialized sectors and training
These two plans have been totally funded by the Government of Malaysia and, in
exchange, the Government of Japan sends Japanese teachers to Malaysia to train students.
Generally, the Look East Policy is made up of six programs:
* Academic Education Program,
* Technical Education Program,
* Japanese Language Program for Malaysian Teachers,
* Industrial and Technical (In-Plant) Training Program,
* Short Term Training for Malaysian Executives, and
* Business Management Training and Attachment Program with Japanese
The Implementation of Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020)
Since the early 1980s the Malaysian government, led by Prime Minister Dato' Seri
Dr. Mahathir Mohamd has emphasized development, modernization, and
industrialization as national economic targets.19 In February 1991, a speech entitled
"Malaysia: The Way Forward" was delivered by Prime Minister Mahathir during the
launching of Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020):
Malaysia should be developed not only in the economic sense. It must be a nation
that is fully developed along all the dimensions: economically, politically,
socially, spiritually, psychologically, and culturally. We must be fully developed
in terms of national unity and social cohesion, in terms of social justice, political
18 Embassy of Japan at Malaysia (2002); available from http://www.embjapan.org.my; internet, (accessed
11 May 2002).
19 Gomez and Jomo, 169.
stability, our system of government, quality of life, social and spiritual values,
national pride, and confidence.20
The objectives of Vision 2020 were outlined as follows:
* A united, peaceful and harmonious Malaysian nation,
* A psychologically liberated, secured, confident, respected, and robust society
committed to excellence,
* A mature, consensual and exemplary society,
* A fully moral, and ethical society with citizens strongly imbued with spiritual
values and highest ethical standards,
* A culturally, ethically, and religiously diverse, liberally tolerant, and unified
* A scientific, progressive, innovative, and forward looking society,
* A caring society with a family-oriented welfare system,
* An economically just society with inter-ethnic economic parity and,
* A full competitive, dynamic, robust, resilient, and prosperous economy.
More important, Vision 2020 proposes a "fully developed country" status by the
year 2020 and aims for a more competitive, business oriented, self-sufficient, diversified,
adaptive, technologically advanced, and entrepreneurial environment with a strong
industrialized background, a society equipped with a strong work ethic, and emphasis on
quality of life.21
In higher education, Vision 2020 actually propelled the enrollment at the degree,
diploma, and certificate levels. To meet the manpower requirements of a rapidly growing
economy, enrollment in the degree and diploma programs increased from 131,725 in
20 Adapted from the original speech by the Prime Minister for the official announcement of the Vision
21 Ishak, 133.
1996 to 190,188 in 1998.22 While it is important to be sensitive to Vision 2020,
universities in Malaysia exist not only to transmit knowledge but also to be more creative
in order to meet social, industrial, and political needs. According to the 1991 UNESCO
report, higher education also contributes to national and economic development,
preservation, and transmission of cultural heritage and protection of the physical
The Implementation of National Culture Policy
Under Dr. Mahathir's regime during the 1980's, the federal government devised a
National Culture Policy to mold a unified culture in a multi-ethnic society. But the policy
has been much criticized, especially by the non-Malays who consider it discriminatory. It
is used mostly to prohibit artistic developments considered undesirable. A government
effort to revive a more overtly Malay orientation was widely derided and has had little
success. And Malay critics argue that the government has actually done little to preserve
the rapidly disappearing traditional arts. The policy is aided by the fact that the major
National Front political parties (known as Barisan Nasional (BN)) directly or indirectly
control nearly all the mass media, including the major newspapers and all radio and
television. Many Non-Bumiputra have resisted or resented government attempts such as
increasing emphasis on Malay language in education and public life to build national
unity and identity. Yet unlike during the colonial era, more Non-Bumiputra have become
22 Ibid., 140.
23 UNESCO, Trends and Issues Facing Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific (New South Wales:
University of New England, Australia, 1999).
fluent in Bahasa Malaysia (National Language), the medium of instruction in most
secondary schools; English declined to a lesser importance.24
24 Lockard, 239-40.
THE ROLE OF THE MINISTRIES OF EDUCATION, INFORMATION, AND ARTS,
CULTURE, AND TOURISM IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC MUSIC
The Role of the Ministry of Education in Music Education
Education, used in a broad sense, is a lifelong process which begins and stops
when one'slife is ended. It is a process which takes place in a variety of settings:
the schools; the families; the religious groups, in personal interchange and
experience; through formal, informal and non-formal channels.1
Under the administration of the Ministry of Education, the educational system has
two levels, the federal and state. At the federal level, the Ministry of Education is
responsible for the implementation of education policy and the administration of the
entire educational system. The Minister of Education is responsible for making decisions
on policy matters either singly or in consultation with his Cabinet members. The Minister
is assisted by the Deputy and Political Secretary. The chief executive officer in the
Ministry is the Secretary-General, who is directly responsible to the Minister and is in
charge of the administrative functions of the Ministry. In addition, there are two major
operating divisions in the Ministry of Education. First is the Administrative Division,
consisting of the divisions of Finance and Accounts, Development and Supply,
Scholarships and Training, Establishment and Services, Administration, Higher
Education, and External Affairs. Second is the Professional Division consisting of
divisions of Educational Planning and Research, Schools, Education Media Service,
1 UNESCO, Futures and Education, (Bangkok: UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Asia and the
Pacific, November 1983), 2-8.
Teacher Training, Federal Inspectorate of Schools, Examination Syndicate, Technical and
Vocational Education, Curriculum Development Center, Registration (Schools and
Teachers), and Islamic Religious Schools. At the state level, the state Director of
Education is the executive head through whom the Ministry of Education operates. He
implements the Government's educational policy in his state and performs administrative
functions relating to registration, examinations, finance, scholarship, and staffing. He is
also responsible for the proper management of all schools. The staff in a State Education
Office consists of education officers, organizers, assistant organizers on the professional
side, and a number of other executives, clerical, and lower staff personnel.
Educational planning is planned at two levels. At the national level, it establishes
parts of the overall economic planning headed by the National Development Planning
Committee. At the ministry level, it is coordinated by the Educational Planning and
Research Division.2 Among all the departments and divisions, it is important to describe
the establishment and functions of the Curriculum Development Center (CDC) as it is the
policymaker and pacesetter of the national curriculum for all public schools.
The Establishment and Functions of Curriculum Development Center (CDC)
The Curriculum Development Center (CDC) became an operating agency in
January 1973, and acquired the status of a full-fledged division of the Ministry of
Education in May 1974. Its establishment was the culmination of over a decade of effort
in curriculum development undertaken by the Ministry of Education. The functions of
CDC include curricular research, educational experimentation, evaluation, testing,
training, development, and the implementation of curricular changes for the improvement
2 Postlethwaite and Thomas, 120.
of the quality of education in Malaysian schools. Since its inception, CDC continually
conceptualizes the tasks in the development of a strategy for effective and meaningful
curricular improvement in the country. CDC evidently provides not only the impetus for
concerted action and commitment by the government in terms of the increase in the
number of curriculum programs, but also indicates clearly the need to set up an institution
with the corresponding infrastructure to fully implement the policies launched
previously.3 In short, the CDC is responsible for bringing the Malaysian curricula up-to-
date and to ensure that it meets the changing needs of the Malaysian society. Increasingly
CDC is viewed as more than the development of subject syllabi, teacher guides, and
student textbooks. The need to improve the quality of teaching practices and
effectiveness in student learning has recently been receiving greater attention from the
Center, prompted by the Ministry of Education.
Malaysian Public Education
As mentioned earlier, the Ministry of Education had its name changed from
Ministry of Academic in 1979. Consequently, the Ministry of Education plays the most
vital and crucial role in the development of the music education in Malaysia. Since its
independence, the ministry has made its objectives clear and precise:
* To achieve quality manpower for national development,
* To achieve democratization of education, and
* To inculcate positive values.
Under the scheme of the Ministry of Education, there are four levels of national
education: first, the primary level; second, the secondary level, third, post-secondary
level, and fourth, tertiary education. The structure of education follows a pattern
3 UNESCO, 7.
originated from the British: six years of primary schooling (Primary 1 to 6) followed by
three years of lower secondary education (Form 1 to 3), two years of upper secondary
(Form 4 to 5), two years of post-secondary (Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth) and three to
four years of higher education.4 A major policy change was made in 1966, extending
open and free education from Primary One to Form Three. Beyond Form Three, the
system branches into various specialized streams, generally categorized as science or art
stream. The great majority of students remain in the arts and sciences streams of general
education, hoping to gain admission to the university or at least to higher level
specialized schools such as polytechnic or training college.
University education has grown very rapidly since independence. The University
of Malaya, which established its principal seat in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, has
grown to full capacity enrollment of about 9,000. The university of Penang, founded in
1968, has achieved the status of a full higher education institution. The former
Agricultural College at Serdang is being upgraded to prepare not only middle-level
agricultural technicians but also to provide full university education in agriculture and
related specialties. Most schools are either government-sponsored or government-aided
schools. These schools receive financial aid as well as their supply of teachers from the
Ministry of Education. There are an increasing number of private schools providing
education at all levels, from kindergarten to college level.
Primary School System
Primary education lasts for six years and is free to all races regardless of color,
and creed. All primary schools use a common content syllabus and seek to develop the
4 McMeekin, 144-5.
basic skills in communication; civic competencies; moral, aesthetic and spiritual values;
physical, intellectual and emotional development; and scientific knowledge, attitudes and
skills.5 The curriculum for primary school is standardized, prescribed, developed and
constantly reviewed by the Curriculum Development Center of the Ministry of
Education.6 This is to ensure that all students will follow the same course content
reflecting a Malaysian outlook. Primary schools are divided into three streams according
to the language of instruction. Those in which Bahasa Malaysia is the language of
instruction are called national schools. The schools in which the language of instruction is
either Chinese or Tamil are referred to as national type schools.
In all streams, the national curriculum is followed, but the hours of instruction
vary, especially in the language area. Approximately, 60 percent of the children attend
classes in Malay medium schools, 32 percent in Chinese medium schools, and 8 percent
in Tamil medium schools. Each school conducts its own evaluation of students. Tests are
administered regularly according to the decisions of the principals. In addition,
centralized assessments are conducted annually for all students through Primary 6. The
test is used to determine the level of the student's achievement and to determine the
remedial activities required before the students may enter a secondary school.
Nationwide, Standard Five Assessment Examination was introduced in 1967 to
assess students' achievement at the end of the fifth grade of primary school in the key
5 Malaysian Ministry of Education, National System of Education in Malaysia [typewritten draft] (Kuala
Lumpur: Ministry of Education, 1979), 4.
6 Joann Bye Stedman, Malaysia: A Study of the Educational System of Malaysia and a Guide to the
Academic Placement ofStudents in Educational Institutions of the United States (Washington D.C.:
American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions, 1986), 8.
7 Stedman, 8.
subjects of the language of instruction and the second language, mathematics, science,
geography, and history. Promotion from year to year in primary school is automatic.
However, several reforms in the examination system had been taking place during the
1990's. The Standard Five Assessment Examination was changed to Ujian Pencapaian
Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) or Primary School Achievement Examination in order to
evaluate the cognitive achievements of the students at the end of primary education
(Standard Six). The main objective of the reformed examination is to evaluate the basic
learning skills of the primary school children and also their ability in the Bahasa Malaysia
as the national language, second language if the students belong to the Chinese and Tamil
national type of Primary schools, mathematics, and science. All the subjects covered are
listed in the Kurrikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Rendah (KBSR) or Integrated Curricula for
Primary Schools. The grading distribution system ranges from A to E: A (excellent), B
(Good), C (Fair), D (Weak), and E (Poor).8
Lower and Upper Secondary School System
Secondary school education is also under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of
Education and is patterned after the British system of education. The aims are to raise the
level of general education of the people, to fully develop the human resources of the
nation and to supply the manpower requirements of the rapidly growing economy of
Malaysia. The secondary school system is divided into two parts: lower secondary (Form
One to Form Three) and upper secondary (Form Four to Form Five). After six years of
primary education, children are automatically promoted to secondary schools. Bahasa
Malaysia is the medium of instruction in public secondary schools and English is a
8 Ministry of Education of Malaysia (2002); available from http://www.moe.gov.my/~lp/upsrlpm.htm;
internet, (accessed 11 May 2002).
required second language. Removed or transition classes are offered to the students who
previously have Chinese or Tamil as the medium of instruction in their primary schools.
The Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP), equivalent to Lower Certificate of Education (LCE)
was introduced in 1960 for Form Three students. It is a standardized external public
examination that is set by the Ministry of Education Examination Syndicate.
To earn the full certificate, the students must sit for a minimum of six and a
maximum of eight subjects at one sitting. The subjects cover agricultural science, art,
design, craft, Islamic religious knowledge, Christian religious knowledge, commerce,
geography, history, home science, industrial arts, integrated science, language,
mathematics, modern mathematics, music, and technical drawing. The certificate is a
minimum qualification for some types of employment and for entrance to higher
education.9 Only those students with a Grade A Certificate (receiving an aggregate of 34
points or less on the five best subject exams taken) are allowed to continue on in Form
Four in academic secondary schools. Students with Grade B or C certificates (receiving
aggregate of more than 34 points for the five best subject exams) continue in vocational
training schools. Students who pass the SRP are selected to continue their education at
the upper secondary level. They are placed into a science or art stream depending on the
aggregate scores of their SRP. The upper secondary school examinations are patterned
after British Ordinary Level Exams. Successful candidates are awarded the Sijil Pelajaran
Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education (MCE) The MCE or SPM is an
external, competitive, standardized public examination and is prepared and administered
by the Ministry of Education Examination Syndicate. Students who are planning to leave
9 Stedman, 14
schools and enter the work force usually leave after this exam. The subjects offered in the
SPM include Bahasa Malaysia, a compulsory subject, general language, general religion,
mathematics, sciences, arts and crafts which include music, and the technical and
commercial arts. To earn a full SPM certificate, students must sit for a minimum of six
and a maximum of nine subjects with Credit in Bahasa Malaysia. Recent examination
reforms during the 1990's have required students to take the Penilaian Menengah Rendah
(PMR) or Lower Secondary School Evaluation Examination.
PMR is characterized as the centralized national exam with the evaluation of the
academic subjects as the most important element in the lower secondary education. All
candidates of PMR have least six years of Primary education and another three years of
Lower Secondary Education. Candidates from Chinese and Tamil national type schools
are required to have an additional year of transition class after they complete the six years
of Primary Education.
The examined subjects and distribution of grades of PMR are very similar to
UPSR's. However, PMR decides the kind of academic streams, whether science or art, if
the students get the better aggregated results. After the reformed examination system,
passing Bahasa Malaysia with Grade A is compulsory for all students to receive the full
certificate of SPM. The result of SPM naturally determines the kind of scholarship for
which students are going to apply and the schools to which they will be admitted. SPM
covers a wider variety of subjects, including the seven major subjects of Bahasa
Malaysia, English, Islamic Education, Moral Knowledge, History, Mathematics, and
Science. Minor subjects consist of English literature, Malay Literature, Geography, Art
Education, Foreign Languages, Music Education, Agricultural Science, Commerce,
Principles of Accounting, Basic Economics, Home Science, Mechanical Drawings,
Electronic and Mechanical Engineering, Design, Information Technology, Physics,
Chemistry, Sport Science, Islamic Knowledge, Bible Knowledge, Machine Repair and
Maintenance, Geometry Drawings, Construction Engineering, Catering Technology,
Automobile Maintenance, Childhood Development, Horticulture and Landscape, Pastry
and Bakery Learning, Beauty Consultation, Catering Technology, Air-Conditioning,
Tailoring, Food Science, and Gardening. The distribution of grade report is as 1A, 2A
(Excellent), 3B, 4B, 5C, 6C (Merit), and 7D, 8E (Pass).10
Post-Secondary School System
Students successfully completing SPM exams were originally admitted to Form
Six for the Cambridge Higher School Certificate. However, when Bahasa Malaysia
became the language of instruction, the Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination
was administered in Bahasa Malaysia and was called the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan
Malaysia (STPM). Until 1981, the Higher School Examinations were conducted by the
University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate. Since 1982, the STPM has been
administered by the Malaysian Examination Council, which is under the Ministry of
Education but is separated from the Malaysian Examination Syndicate. Grades for the
STPM are based on both paper grades and subject grades. The subjects cover accounting,
applied mathematics, art, biology, chemistry, divinity, economics, foreign languages,
geography, geometry, history, music, physics, pure mathematics and statistics.
Furthermore the subsidiary subjects cover additional chemistry, physics, art, biology,
British Government, economics, foreign language, general paper, geography, history,
10 Ministry of Education of Malaysia (2002); available from http:// www2.moe.gov.my/-lp/spm ipm.htm;
internet, (accessed 11 May 2002).
music mathematics and statistics. A paper is the individual sub-section of an examination.
Papers are not weighted equally; each paper is given a score from 1 (high) through 9
(low). Passing the right papers within the set of papers is important to the overall or
subject grade. In order to earn the full certificate, the students must pass the General
Paper and one of the following sets of examinations: 1. Three principal subjects, 2. Two
principal subjects and two subsidiary subjects, and 3. Two principal subjects with a
certain standard and one subsidiary subject. The general paper is reported only as full
pass or fail.
As education becomes increasingly international in character, Malaysian
universities are becoming more contemporary in outlook. Each university has developed
its own competitive strengths, positioning itself as a center of selective excellence.
Courses and programs are demand-driven and sensitive to changes in the global
environment. In an effort to meet the ethnic admissions targets in the universities, some
Malaysian universities have developed one and two year pre-university programs called
Matrikulasi or simply matriculation programs, designated to prepare Bumiputra students
to enter the university. The programs vary in content and sometimes in regulation but
generally follow a similar pattern.
The Malaysian public universities all have three governing bodies: a court, a
council, and a senate. The court is the formal legislative body and meets once a year to
receive the annual report of the university from the vice chancellor who is the chief
executive and principal academic officer of the university, the report of the audited
accounts, and new statutes enacted during the year. The Council, which meets monthly, is
the executive body of the university that rules on all matters of the university except
academic affairs. The senate of the university meets once a month to consider the
academic affairs of the institution. It is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and comprises the
Deans of Faculties, Institutes, Directors of Centers, Heads of Departments, Chairmen of
Divisions and academic representatives.
Entrance requirements for the universities vary from university to university.
Some universities take into account the current ethnic enrollment target and some require
the MCE results. Applications for degree programs are processed through a centralized
admission office of the Ministry of Education, known as Unit Pusat Universiti (UPU).
The registrar of each of the universities sits on a committee that advises the Ministry of
Education on admission policy guidelines administered by UPU. The current affirmative
action program after the implementation of New Economic Policy is designed to raise the
socio-economic levels of the Bumiputra students and to establish quotas for each ethnic
group in the university system. The entrance requirements for each university generally
require the STPM or successful completion of their own matriculation program for
entrance. The language of instruction at the universities is mixed. National policy dictated
that the language of instruction in all of the universities was to be Bahasa Malaysia
beginning in 1983. However the reality is constrained by the problem of supply and
demand.11 All universities have been directed to structure their degree program on the
four-year model. While some universities have been authorized to grant graduate degree
programs for a number of years, the graduate academic programs have been actively
developed in recent years. The distribution of the grade classification is rewarded on the
11 Stedman, 59.
following schemes: First Class, Second Class-Upper Division, Second Class-Lower
Division, Third Class, General or Pass. The Third Class and General or Pass degrees are
not usually acceptable for entrance to graduate schools.
Teacher Training Colleges
Prior to 1956, full time teacher training for Malay primary schools was available
at Sultan Idris Training College in Tanjung Malim, in the state of Perak, and in Malay
Women's Training College in Malacca. Teachers from various vernacular primary and
secondary schools were also trained by a system of weekend training at normal Training
Classes or Teachers Preparatory Classes. Some teachers were trained at two teacher-
training colleges in the United Kingdom. A small number of teachers for upper-
secondary classes in the English-medium schools received their teacher training
education at Raffles College, Singapore.12
The system of training during the period 1956-70 showed a gradual transition
towards the national identity as contained in the Tun Razak report. The purposes of the
teachers' training colleges are to allow teachers who have graduated from these schools to
have comparable qualifications and to serve in all government assisted schools,
irrespective of the medium of language.
Since 1964, institutions for secondary training have been organized on the basis
of specific fields of study. For the better training of music teachers in Malaysia, the
Ministry of Education has established Music Teacher Training Colleges throughout the
country. The most important training center for musicians has been located at Specialist
Teachers' Training Institute (STTI). It was officiated by then Minister of Education
12 Postlethwaite and Thomas, 135.
Abdul Rahman Talib on June 8 1960. STTI offers training courses to teachers who are
dealing with special subjects such as music, physical education, English, Mathematics,
Malay, home science, arts, counseling, special aid education, Chinese, and religion, from
primary to secondary schools. The STTI in Kuala Lumpur conducted a one-year
supplementary course for qualified teachers in various subjects normally not offered at
the university level.13 In 1966, STTI was formally renamed Maktab Perguruan Ilmu Khas
(MPIK) or Special Education Teachers' Institute. In the 1990's, joint education training
programs are linked between the Malaysian government and the United Kingdom, New
Zealand, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. As a result, several diploma and degree
programs are well established.
Music Education in the Public School System
In the new primary school curriculum, the academic components include:
* Basic Communicative Skills, (Language and Mathematics)
* Man and the Environment, (Science and Social studies) and
* Self-Development. (Art, Music, and Physical Education)
The aim of including music as part of the components is to allow students to
develop an interest in and appreciation for music, songs, and dances of the Malaysian
culture. Specifically, Western music is taught to enable students to recognize and read
musical notes and terminologies and later, to compose melodies according to their levels
Meanwhile, the core of the lower and upper secondary national schools is
emphasized-Malay and English language, Islamic education or moral education,
mathematics, science, history, geography, physical education, art education, living skills
13 Ibid., 135.
and foreign language. In short, the integrated curriculum emphasizes the integration of
universal values in all subjects.14 Statistically, the distribution of time allocated to music
lesson decreases gradually from the primary schools to secondary schools as more
diversified subjects are introduced at the secondary level. As successful entrance
examinations are required for the promotion to the next level in secondary education,
more students dedicate their time mainly on the core subjects of the examination. Music
is generally not considered a core subject by most teachers, but instead an elective
Even though general music lessons are compulsory in the primary schools, most
secondary schools do not offer any music lessons during regular class hours. Music clubs,
ensembles and other music activities often meet during regular school hours so that
students with musical interests can pursue their learning. However, the activities after
school are not coordinated and integrated as compulsory course for students.
By the time music students reach post-secondary school and university levels,
music is considered the major area of study for their future career and profession. Unlike
the United States, music appreciation is not popularized and commonly accepted as an
academic subject in the area of humanities in the Malaysian higher learning institutions.
For example, attempts have been made at Universiti Malaya to offer any students taking
co-curriculum credits general music classes like beginner guitar, beginner violin, dance
troupe, choir, and ethnic instruments such as erhu, tiba, (Chinese origin) sitar, tabla,
(Indian origin) gamelan, and keroncong (Malay Origin). Since music is better grouped as
14 Hashim, 288.
a specialized subject in the tertiary education in Malaysia, several public universities that
offer a music degree will be discussed next.
University Malaya (UM)
On October 8th 1949, Universiti Malaya (UM) was founded in Singapore as the
premier university in the country. UM has a unique history that can be traced to the
colonial days of the Federation of Malaya. In 1960, the government of two territories,
Malaya and Singapore, indicated their desire to change the status of the original branch
university to the national institution. With the passing legislation came in 1961, the
university at Kuala Lumpur, Malaya was officially established on January 1 1962.
Since its establishment, UM has grown to become a reputable institution of higher
learning in ASEAN and Asia. The 1999 statistics showed that there were 25,000 students
enrolled for the first degree, higher degree, certificate, and diploma.15 Presently, the
university caters to 16.6 percent of those within the tertiary education age group. On the
other hand, UM was the first government university to be privatized. Changes have been
made in its system of governance and organization since its privatization. Organizational
changes include replacement of the university council by a university board of directors,
reduction of the number of senate members, abolishment of the university court, and
delegation of powers to senior officers in the appointment of specific categories of staff.
Privatization has also enabled the university to set up companies, participate in equities,
and commercialize research findings through joint ventures and collaboration.
The music degree programs--including Bachelor, Master and Doctor of
Philosophy degrees are offered by the Cultural Center. This Center began its humble
15 Malaysian Education Promotion Council, Education in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Education
Promotion Council Press, 1998), 90.
history by first establishing a dance troupe to perform mainly the Malay cultural and
traditional dance throughout the country and internationally. Music group lessons in
gamelan, keroncong, (Malay origin), Chinese orchestral instruments, and Indian
instruments and western instruments such as pianos, violins, and guitars were later
introduced as co-curricular subjects.
The incursion of the degree program in music at the Cultural Center is only a
recent phenomenon. A lot of degree program applicants were previously music teachers
at both primary and secondary schools who wanted to enhance their musical knowledge
and teaching experiences. The requirements of the Bachelor of Performing Arts include a
six-semester study program in three major disciplines: music, dramatic arts, and visual
design. The Master of Performing Arts has only been offered since November 1999. Its
first of semester study covers core theoretical subjects, while the second semester
subjects prepare candidates for research into their respective interest areas: music, drama,
dance, visual design, and arts management. The Doctor of Philosophy degree program
also covers the same areas of discipline mentioned earlier for Bachelor and Master
degrees. The main requirement for this program is research toward a thesis or
dissertation. The Cultural Center program curriculum offers PELAKON, the acronym for
Pentas Lakon Universiti Malaya, literally as UM's Acting Stage. It was founded in 1982
and is presently a very active group comprised of students and staff. Founding member,
Associate Professor Said Halim has been the chief advisor since its establishment.
Reputation-wise, PELAKON has won awards at the national level theater festival known
as Pekan Teater Kebansaan. The Cultural Center Orchestra (CCO), conducted by Dr.
Hashim, consists of fifty-six members who perform for concerts and special occasions
such as convocation.16
University Putra Malaysia (UPM)
University Putra Malaysia (UPM) was formerly known as Universiti Pertanian
Malaysia, literally the Agriculture University of Malaysia. It ranks as one of the oldest
and biggest universities in the country, located at Serdang, in the state of Selangor. UPM
started as a traditional agricultural university focusing on undergraduate education and
research in agriculture and related fields. Its roots go back to May 21 1931 when the
school of agriculture was officially announced and opened on a twenty acre site in
Serdang. The main objective was to train future officers of the Malaysia's Department of
Agriculture. On June 23 1947, its status was elevated from school to college. In 1971, the
college merged with the Faculty of Agriculture, Universiti of Malaya to form Universiti
Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) with three pioneer faculties: agriculture, forestry, veterinary
medicine, and animal science. The first degree students graduated in 1973. In the early
1980's, UPM expanded its scope by including science and technology to meet domestic
and global markets and gradually also included arts and social sciences and information
technology. The turning point for the university occurred in 1994 when it took the bold
step of shedding its agricultural image to become a highly technological institution that
encompasses a bigger spectrum of fields of study. The official change of its name to
University Putra Malaysia on April 3 1997 signified the university's new commitment to
become the leading center of excellence in the region.
16 University Malaya (2002);available fiom lup \ "\ \ .cc.um.edu.my/budava/facilitv/html; internet,
(accessed 11 May 2002).
The music degree program at UPM has currently expanded from Bachelor to
Master degrees that are offered by the Faculty of Human Ecology's Music Department
known as Universiti Conservatoire (UC). In the undergraduate programs, three majors are
offered: Music Technology, Music Education, and Music Performance. All three
programs take a minimum of three years to complete and consist of core module courses,
specialization modules, and electives. The graduate programs are research-based, and
specialization areas are offered such as musicology, composition, early music education,
music education in schools, instrumental pedagogy, music synthesis, digital audio and
Since its establishment of the music programs, Universiti Conservatoire has had
several outstanding research publications by Minni Ang and S. S. Wong in "Computer
Music Playback Quality: Digital Audio Reproduction Versus Synthesized Sound,"
Cheong Jan Chan in "Malay Folk Songs in Ulu Tembeling: Its Potential for A
Comprehensive Study," and Ai Ling Liew in "Towards An Effective Approach to Violin
Teaching in a Group Environment for Young Children with Reference to the KPSM
Approaching the technological age of the Twentieth-First Century, UC has added
several specialized facilities, including Multimedia and Internet Laboratory, Music
Technology and MIDI Laboratory, Digital Recording Studio, Percussion Laboratory,
Gamelan Laboratory, Piano Laboratory, Music Education Laboratory and Music Library.
The faculty members of UC also provide consultation in music curriculum development,
musical arrangement, new compositions and orchestration, music book and sheet
1 University Putra Malaysia (2002); available from http://www.music.upm.edu.my: internet, (accessed
publications, multimedia and web site consultancy and development, and they offer
courses and seminars custom-made for specific demands. In fact, UC hosted the First
International Music Technology Conference in Southeast Asia, abbreviated as MusTech
Asia' 2000. It was held from March 16 to 18, 2000 at the Mines Beach Resort Hotel,
Serdang. The UC was able not only to pioneer this regional event, but also the study of
music technology in Southeast Asia. The conference had attracted participants from all
over the world from Argentina, England, Japan, Singapore, U. S. A., and Malaysia itself.
Since its inception, one of main goals of the UC has been to establish a
professional and high quality orchestra that consists primarily of students. The Universiti
Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra was set up in July 1996, with the pioneer batch of
music undergraduate students. The orchestra debuted on April 5 1997. The orchestra's
repertoire is primarily comprised of classical Western art music from the different style
periods. Its current conductor, Professor Zakhid Khaknazarov, was former conductor of
the Moscow and St. Petersburg Orchestras, National Orchestra of Uzbekistan, and several
other celebrated orchestras in Europe. The orchestra currently has two performing
groups, the Symphony Orchestra, which is the department's main orchestra, and the
Sinfonia, which is the department's training orchestra.
University Teknologi MARA (UTM)
The history of Universiti Teknologi MARA started in 1956 with the formation of
Dewan Latehan Rida, an experimental center offering student preparatory courses for
rural youths whose medium of instruction was English.18 RIDA is the acronym for the
Rural and Industrial Development Authority, established in 1950 to assist and train rural
18 University Teknologi MARA (2002); available from http://www.uitm.edu.my/index.html; Internet,
(accessed 11 May 2002).
indigenous people to improve their economic status and provide commercial training.
Dewan Latehan RIDA began its operations in November 1956. The program includes
courses affiliated with the London Chamber of Commerce. In 1960, Dewan Latehan
included a few more programs, stenography, secretary, (affiliated with Cambridge
Overseas School Certificate), and accountancy (affiliated with Australian Society of
At the Bumiputra Economic Congress held June 5 to 7, 1965, new proposals were
debated concerning the effectiveness of the activities conducted by RIDA. The official
name was changed to MARA, known as Majlis Amanah Rakyat Act and passed by the
Parliament after the congress. Under the new administration, Maktab MARA became the
most active unit under the MARA. In 1966, Maktab MARA began running its course for
the Diploma in Business Studies affiliated with Ealing Technical College of London. As
a result, Maktab MARA became its external examiner to guarantee the standing of the
On October 14 1967, Maktab MARA relocated to Shah Alam in the state of
Selangor for further expansion, and had its name promoted from Maktab (Training
Center) to Institut (Institute). On June 1976, Institut Teknologi MARA (ITM) was placed
under the Ministry of Education instead of RIDA. On August 26th 1999 Prime Minister,
Mahathir announced ITM was going to be called University Teknologi MARA. The main
objective of UTM has remained the same: to improve and safeguard the socio-economic
conditions of Bumiputra. UTM has consistently developed and introduced active
measures that ensure access for all Bumiputra who wish to enter higher learning
institutions at the lowest possible cost. UTM's music department is part of the faculty of
University Sains Malaysia (USM)
The Universiti Sains Malaysia has an extraordinary history of finding its ideal
location for its campus. The campus was relocated three times in search of an ideal place
for future expansion and development.
The Universiti Sains Malaysia was first initiated by the Penang State Legislative
Council in 1962 and was built at Sungai Ara. The opening ceremony was officiated by
the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj on August 7 1967. In 1969,
the college was renamed as the University of Penang to accommodate a growth in the
student population. A loan from the Ministry of Education enabled the university to
change its venue to the Malayan Teachers' Training College at Bukit Gelugor. The
university finally resided its permanent campus on five hundred-acre coastal land at
Minden in 1971.
USM has been developing and expanding its academic program since its
establishment. It has a student population of approximately 20,000, comprised of both
undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Its variety of fields, particularly in research, is
outstanding and prominent. As its most recent achievement, USM became the only
winner of the Asian Innovation Award (Anugerah Inovasi Asia) from Malaysia. Since its
inception, USM has implemented a higher education system as opposed to the traditional
faculty system. Under the new revolutionary system, the faculty of each school could
decide the needs of a more focused degree in a chosen field of study; and at the same
19 Malaysian Education Promotion Council, 101-2.
time students are given the opportunity to explore other areas of study offered by another
The undergraduate music program especially promotes its emphasis on the
subjects of "Music of Asia, Africa and the Pacific" and "Music of Malaysia." "The Music
of Asia, Africa and Pacific" introduces the students to the music of Asian, African and
Pacific societies. These structured courses includes study and analysis of style, forms and
musical structure and selected societies; compositions of music cultures based on various
musical concepts such as rhythm, mode, scale, tuning system, structure, and form; and
the context of ritual and the relationship between music and language. "Music of
Malaysia" examines the traditional music of Malaysia such as Wayang Kulit, Mak Yong,
Gamelan; some ethnic instruments from Sarawak and Sabah, urban music such as the
music of Bangsawan (for example Joget, Inang, Dondang Sayang) and of the Malay
orchestra; and current popular music.
University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS)
University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) is one on the most recent universities
established by the Ministry of Education. It is the first public university built in East
Malaysia, in the state of Sarawak. The university was incorporated on December 24
1992. The first group of students was enrolled in July, 1993, with the ideal location at
Kota Samarahan near the capital city, Kuching.21 Its undergraduate programs have been
designed to prepare students to meet the needs of society and industry. The core courses
at UNIMAS incorporate technology and management to prepare the graduates to adapt to
20 University Sains Malaysia (2002); available from http://www.usm.mv/en/gen-view-all.asp ; Internet,
(accessed 11 May 2002).
21 University Malaysia Sarawak (2002); available from hIp \ \\ \ .unimas.my/en/welcome.htm ; Internet,
(accessed 11 May 2002).
their future work place. A strong statement comes from the Faculty of Applied and
Creative Arts' Music Department: "History has proved that music and song, movement
and dance, acting and recital play an important part in the cultural life of the world over."
This department has committed to two programs: its Drama and Theater Program,
and its Music Program. The Drama and Theater program offers specialization in acting,
directing, dance, and scenography. Drama and Theater is a field that is rapidly expanding
in the service industry. Presently more than three hundred companies produce drama,
television programs and films in Malaysia. The professional theater is growing in both
the quality of its presentations and into its reception in society. Students at UNIMAS are
trained to become scriptwriters, actors, directors, designers, and composers.
The Music Program is divided into three streams of specialization: vocal,
instrument and ensemble, music education, and music technology. The music curriculum
is continuously revised to meet the challenge of the future and to fulfill the demands of
the international market. Graduates are given the opportunity to be involved in the public
and private sectors, as performing musicians in national and privatized orchestras and as
managers of organizations in areas related to music.
University Malaysia Sabah (UMS)
University Malaysia Sabah is the second university established by the Ministry of
Education in East Malaysia, and the very first in the state of Sabah. UTM was established
on November 24, 1994 by the act of the Parliament. The university first started with three
schools--School of Science and Technology, School of Business and Economics and
School of Social Sciences. In mid-1995, other schools were added: School of Engineering
and Information Technology, School of Education and Social Development, School of
Psychology and Social Work, School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, School of
International Tropical Forestry, School of Art Studies, and two research institutes-the
Tropical Biology and Conservation Institute and the Borneo Marine Research Institute. In
January 1999, UMS established its branch campus in the Federal Territory of Labuan
where an international branch campus was set up. The branch campus specializes in
International and Off-Shore Business and in Finance and Multimedia Technology. The
main campus, consisting of nine hundred and ninety-nine acres of land, located at Kota
Kinabalu, was officiated open by the current Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir
Mohamad, on September 19 2000. The School of Art Studies offers a music program that
includes classical Western Art Music, Western Popular Music, Malay Traditional and
Ethnic Music, and Contemporary Music. The music program provides up-to-date music
technology subjects such as sound synthesis, computer sampling, music business
management and recording.22
The Role of the Ministry of Information in Music Education
The impact of the mass media-recording, radio, television, cinema, and cheap
prints upon students has been recognized by music educators. Many Children
entering the first grade today are pretty sophisticated specimens, in a musical as
well as in a general way, especially owing to T.V. watching.23
Malaysian Government's Ministry of Information is divided into five branches.
First, the National Film Department-Film Industry began in Malaysia in the 1930's with
the making of Malay films. After six decades, it is now a significant industry with a wide
range of activities and has its role in the development of the country's economy. Official
22 University Malaysia Sabah (2002); available flolll lip \ \ \ .ums.edu.my/pps/konten; Internet,
(accessed 11 May 2002).
23 Charles Seeger, "World Music in American Schools: A Challenge To Be Met," Music Educator Journal,
(October 1972): 111.
films and documentaries are being produced by Filem Negara Malaysia to record the
Malaysian history and heritage. The National Film Department produces almost 150
films annually reporting governmental activities and programs, through features,
documentaries and trailers.
Second, the Broadcasting Department-Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) is the
body responsible for national broadcasting. RTM provides both entertainment and
information about government's program and activities.
Third, the Information Department-also known as Jabatan Perkhidmatan
Penerangan Malaysia-is responsible for ensuring that the philosophy, vision and policy of
the government is known and supported by the people. The Information Department has
four main divisions: field, civic and community services, press and liason, publication
and visual production.24
Fourth, since its inception in 1981, Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Nasional
Malaysia (FINAS) or the National Film Development Organization, has grown from a
small federal agency of twelve employees to its present staff of one hundred and twenty
persons. Over the years, FINAS has established an additional two branches--The Film
Training Program and the FINASPOST-Post Production House.25
Last, BERNAMA, the Malaysian National News Agency, a statutory body, was
set up by an act of Parliament in 1967 and began its operation in May 1968.
BERNAMA's role as a source of reliable and current news is well known among local
and international media including government agencies, corporations, universities and
24 Vincent Lowe, "Malaysia," In Dynamics of Nation-Building, ed. Yogesh Atal (Bangkok: UNESCO
Regional Office for Education in Asia and the Pacific), 136.
25 FINAS Malaysia (2002); available from http://61.32.133/finas/sejarah.htm; Internet, (accessed 11 May
individuals. BERNAMA continually conducts research to upgrade the quality of its
products and services in which include real-time financial information, real-time news, an
electronic library, dissemination of press releases, event management, photo, and video
The Ministry of Information plans and coordinates the information dissemination
activities of the government. It is responsible for evaluating, regulating, and monitoring
the electronic and broadcasting activities in the country.27 The role of RTM is particularly
important in music education because of its ability to reach the children through music.
The history of radio in Malaya began in the year of 1921 when an electrical
engineer from the Johore Government, A. L. Birch, brought the first radio set into
the country. He then established the Johore Wireless Association and commenced
broadcasting through 300-meter waves. This was followed by the establishment
of the same association in Penang and the Malayan Wireless Association in Kuala
On April 1, 1946, the Department of Broadcasting was established in Singapore.
In the early 50s, broadcasting activities in Malaya were operated from a temporary studio
in Kuala Lumpur, and in 1956 were moved to the Federal House. It was here that
broadcasting in Malaysia grew with the establishment of several stations throughout the
country, including East Malaysia. Commercial advertisements were aired for the first
time on radio in 1960. It was another milestone for the broadcasting industry when
television services were introduced on December, 28, 1963 from the studio at Dewan
26 BERNAMA (2002); available from http://www.bemama.com/history.htm ; internet, (accessed 11 May
27 Telekom My Library (2002); available from hip \ \\ \\ .mlib.com.my/public/ent/ent.htm ; internet,
(accessed 11 May 2002).
28 Radio Television Malaysia (2002); available fiomi Imp \ \ %\ .rtm.net.my ; internet, (accessed 11 May
Tunku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Ampang. Broadcast operations then moved their office to
the Angasapuri Complex where it began its telecast on October 6, 1969.
Radio and Television were merged under the Ministry of Information. It was in
the Angkasapuri Complex that rapid development in broadcasting for both radio and
television began. Today, Malaysians enjoy listening to six public radio channels twenty
hours a day in Malay, English, Mandarin, and Tamil. Television Malaysia started its early
morning telecast on March 1, 1994. TV 1, the primary channel, TV 2, the golden channel,
are the two public television channels, with other private channels such as TV 3 and NTV
7 joining the broadcasting business. In addition, cable TV, ASTRO was introduced as
recently as the end of 2000s to enable the television audiences to receive close to one
hundred channels internationally. RTM's radio and television production consists of six
separate specialized units as: Development and Agricultural Services, Public Affairs,
Religious Affairs, Sports, Drama, and Entertainment. These divisions broadcast both
radio and television shows in various languages to aide programs acquired from external
sources.29 On the other hand, the instructional radio service began to serve the education
sector after World War II. The early broadcasts from headquarters in Kuala Lumpur
concentrated on radio courses for primary schools, although they were gradually
extended to secondary schools in the 1960s. The Ministries of Information and Education
cooperated in the production of the programs. This arrangement continued until 1970
when the entire effort was transferred to the Ministry of Education.
All educational broadcasting is now the responsibility of the Ministry of
Education's Educational Media Service (EMS). Educational programs are broadcast four
29 Drew O. McDaniel, E,. ,.i ... >,,;. in the Malay World: Radio, Television, and Video in Brunei,
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore (Norwood, New Jersey,: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1992), 119.
days a week in four different primary languages over three channels. Approximately ten
hours are transmitted every day. At the secondary education level, all courses are based
on the curriculum. Because Malaysian schools operate on two different periods (schools
are divided into morning and afternoon sessions), educational programs are also divided
into two time slots.30 Educational radio programs include topics such as Islamic religion,
Malay literature, music, and English grammar. Instructional television started in 1972 and
is managed by the EMS. It is oriented more toward higher primary and lower secondary
subjects. To enhance the efforts of the teachers in the classrooms, the EMS, incorporating
the Education Television Service (ETV), the audio-visual aids program, and the radio
service, were be to further extended during the Third Malaysia Plan (1976-1980) to
provide a wider coverage of the national schools.31
RTM evidently plays a part in music education as a messenger of the Malaysian
government. Information and communication technologies enable children to be exposed
to the education system through the broadcasting media. Since music is an interactive
process between the teachers and the students or among the students themselves, it needs
a friendly classroom atmosphere to encourage active involvement in the learning process.
The Ministry has the vital responsibility of introducing music to the students in the daily
curriculum in the form of performance, music appreciation, participation, and activities
during the class period.
0 McDaniel, 131.
31 Postlethwaite and Thomas, 142.
The Role of the Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Tourism in Music Education
The Istana Budaya (National Theater)
It was in 1964 that the Ministry of Information in collaboration with the Ministry
of Arts, Culture and Tourism (then called Ministry of Culture and Social Welfare)
submitted a proposal to build the National Cultural Center of Malaysia. It was to be sited
in Lembah Pantai, between the Malaysian Broadcasting Center and University of Malaya.
In addition, the National Cultural Center was proposed to incorporate other components
such as the National History Museum, National Art Gallery, National Planetarium,
National Theater, and Cultural Shopping and Restaurant Center.32 In 1972, the National
Cultural Troupe was established as an amateur body affiliated with the purview of the
Promotion of Arts Section, Culture Division, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. The
troupe focused its activities on the development of the art of dancing and traditional
music. The home of the National Cultural Troupe was relocated one year later from its
temporary activity center at Wisma Keramat to its permanent residency at the National
Cultural Complex at Tun Ismail Road. The dance troupe was renamed a branch of Istana
Budaya (National Theater) under the administration of Kumpulan Budaya Negara (KBN)
which is a division under the Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Tourism Malaysia.
It was in 1994 that KBN assumed an organizational form and became known as
Panggung Negara, or literally the National Theater. This institution embodied the spirit
and philosophy of Malaysian performing arts and flourished and proved destined for
higher international achievements. Ultimately, the Panggung Negara was officially
declared by the Prime Minister, Mahathir and named Istana Negara on September 15,
32 Istana Budaya Malaysia (2002); available fiom Imp \ \ \ .istanabudava.gov.my/profile/history.htm;
internet, (accessed 11 May 2002).
1999.33 The Youth Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1982 and was elevated to the
National Symphony Orchestra and began functioning as a professional body in 1993. The
National Choir was formed in 1992.
The latest achievement has been the completion in 1998 of the National Theater's
auditorium known as Panggung Sari at Tun Razak Road, accommodating any drama,
plays, musical, recital, concert, opera and special functions. The Auditorium takes pride
as the first theater in Asia with sophisticated stage mechanisms for theater performance
and production. It is proudly positioned as one of the top ten sophisticated theaters in the
world and at par with the Royal Albert Hall in London. The building costs two hundred
and ten million Malaysian Ringgit, which is equivalent to fifty-two and a half million U.S
dollars. Its architectural design was based on a blend of the various aspects of the Malay
culture. The exterior roof is modeled after the Malay's traditional moon kite known as
Wau Bulan, and the staircases leading to the grand entrance are depicted as the staircases
of a traditional Malay Malacca House.34 The auditorium has a seating of more than a
thousand, with eight hundred and twenty at the Stalls on the first floor, three hundred and
twenty-two at the Grand Circle on the second floor. Furthermore, its orchestra pit can seat
an audience of ninety-eight people when the need arises. The building is facilitated with a
box office, a ballet studio, a costume studio, thirty dressing rooms complete with toilets,
shower, wardrobe and closed circuit TV equipment, plus offices of touring theater
33 Istana Budaya Malaysia (2002); available fiom l hip \ \ \ .istanabudaya.gov.my/profile/index.htm;
internet, (accessed 11 May 2002).
34 Istana Budaya Malaysia (2002); available filoi hitp \ \ \ .istanabudaya.gov.my/profile/arc.htm;
internet, (accessed 2002).
The National Theater plays a key role in introducing the various ethnic music,
dance and drama to its people. Since its inception, it has offered not only traditional and
cultural music but also western art music. The National Symphony Orchestra and
National Choir are the most recent establishments in the area of Western Classical Music.
Concerts are organized regularly by both Orkestra Symphony Kebangsaan (National
Symphony Orchestra, NSO) and National Choir (NC) for the general public. Unlike
private music organizations, both NSO and NC belong wholly to the National Cultural
Center and are comprised of mainly of local residents who show musical talent and
The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO)
In the case of NSO, most orchestra members are full-time musicians. The
orchestra is part of the National Cultural Group, which is under the Production Unit. In
the case of NC, The NSO has assisted the National Theater in producing high quality
classical music for the community. The diversity of culture in the country has
dramatically contributed to the personal and musical growth of NSO since its inception in
1993. Internationally, NSO maintains a diplomatic relationship with all Embassies, High
Commissions, Corporate Companies, and Foundations in Malaysia by catering to the
needs for superb entertainment. Several concert performances of NSO include
internationally acclaimed conductors and soloists and who have brought new challenges
for the orchestra to a higher level of performance experience. The orchestra is particularly
interested in extending its activities in the field of music education. In 1998, the Music
Unit launched the Youth Symphony Orchestra along with the Youth Choir as an avenue
for youth to improve their musical and singing potentials. Their works constantly
encourages young talents to participate more actively in its educational program.
Children are offered tickets at a lower price with parents and orchestral camps and
seminars are organized for children during the school holidays to cultivate musical
The National Choir (NC)
The National Choir (NC) was founded in May 1991 under the Ministry of
Culture, Arts, and Tourism. It was initiated by the Ministry for a purpose of establishing
an internationally acclaimed choir to represent the country's culture. The choir started
with only ten children between the ages of twelve and sixteen years old. The original
group represented Malaysia in the Second World Children's Choir Festival held in
Nagoya, Japan in August 1991. Currently, the choir is made up of eighty members from
different age groups. The National Choir is comprised of three main groups: the Children
Choir, the Consort, and the Main Choir. Its repertoire includes Western classical music
from different style periods, traditional local and international folk songs, popular music
and songs from musicals. The choir performs in several languages including English,
German, Italian, French, Mandarin, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia. It not only holds
concerts locally but also internationally. Concerts have been held at the ASEAN
Children's Choir Concerts in Quezon City, the Philippines, and Phoenix, U.S.A., and
Singapore respectively.35 Furthermore, the choir gives joint concerts with Selangor
Philharmonic Choir, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Penang State Symphony
Chorus. This choir, under the direction of the Australian conductor, Roland Peelman has
performed Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana."
35 Sabah Tourism (2002); available from http://www.sabahtourist.com; internet, (accessed 2002).
Composers Forum of ASEAN
Internationally, the National Theater has been an active participant in the
Composers Forum on Traditional Music, a project initiated by the Philippines in 1989 on
behalf of the Committee on Culture and Information (COC) that coordinates all arts and
information projects of the ASEAN Secretariat. The aim of the forum is to provide
interaction and exchange between composers, ethnomusicologists, and traditional
musicians by bringing them together in a two-week residential program located at a
different ASEAN country36 each time. Consequently, composers experience the rich
variety of traditional music and incorporate it into their compositions. The Composers
Forum purposely does not include Western music in order to provide an exclusive
environment for ASEAN composers to work within the parameters of the musical
cultures of ASEAN.37
Musically, the Istana Negara represents the Malaysian government by presenting
its music to the world. It strikes a balanced repertoire by including both Malaysian
traditional music and Western classical music, and introduces them to its audience locally
and internationally. The three main ethnic groups of Malaysia definitely help the country
create a variety of well-blended cultural and traditional music as well as Western art
36 ASEAN countries are referred to the nations in Southeast Asia and Indo-China and regions.
3 Salehhuddin Haji Mohd Salleh, "Traditional Music in Malaysia: Its Promotion and Development," In
Forum Papers, ed. E.E. Peters (Singapore: National Arts Council of Singapore, June 1994), 1.
THE ROLE OF PRIVATE EXTERNAL MUSIC EXAMINATION BOARDS IN
The Emergence of Private Music Examination Boards in Malaysia
A large number of Malaysian public schools only have general music courses for
children in the primary schools, and music is not compulsory in the secondary schools. In
fact, it was only in 1983, that formal music education was begun as a required curriculum
in all primary schools.1 Since most public schools in Malaysia do not provide any
instrument rental or music ensembles, most parents have to enroll their children in
commercial music centers if they show any interest in music. Dr. Tahir points out eight
weaknesses in the present public schools' music program:
* Lack of training among music teachers,
* Lack of musical talent of some of the music teachers,
* Limited quality of the music curriculum,
* The requirement that music teachers follow the curriculum strictly,
* Lack of resources for repair,
* The community 's lack of acceptance of music,
* Lack of agreement about basic matters of music education, and
* Lack of cohesiveness.2
Commercial music centers have flourished, especially in the urban areas of
Malaysia where learning a musical instrument is considered a family heritage and an
aesthetic art. Commercial music centers offer music lessons in most popular instruments
1 Ivy Yeong-Tsuey Yap, "An Examination of the Kodaly Music Education: Applications for the Cross-
Cultural Learners" (Master thesis, Central Washington University, 1992), 41.
2 Johami Abdullah, Music Education in Malaysia: An Overview (Kuala Lumpur: Music Department of
Specialist Teachers' Training College, 1990), 13.
such as piano and guitar; and are affiliated with one of the foreign examination boards,
mainly from Great Britain, Japan or Australia. Currently, among the competing overseas
affiliated music examination boards in Malaysia the Australia Music Examination Board,
Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), Guildhall School of Music
(London), Trinity College of Music (London), Yamaha Music Education System
(YMES), Technics Academy, and Kawai Music School. Deserving primary consideration
are the roles of the two most important oversea music examination boards--Associated
Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) from England and Yamaha Music Education
System (JMES) from Japan.
The Role of Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) in
Malaysia's Music education
The History of ABRSM
The Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) was established in
1889, consisting of four major leading music conservatories--the Royal Academy of
Music, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music and the Royal
Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in the United Kingdom.3 According to a report
given by Rudolph Sabor, at the time of writing in 1986 ABRSM calls upon 517
examiners, Guildhall 86, Trinity 70, and London College 96. ABRSM covers the greatest
volume of music examinations in the United Kingdom. ABRSM has the international
reputation of being the leading provider of graded music examinations, with the
3 Patricia Marie Ooi, "A Description and Comparison of Two Prominent Keyboard Music Education
Systems and their Implications for Music Education in Malaysia" (Master thesis, University of Miami, May
examination grades recognized as "international benchmark", understood by a majority of
music teachers and music colleges in over eighty countries worldwide.4
The goals and aims of the ABRSM are to promote the development of musical
enjoyment and to enhance the quality of teaching.5 ABRSM has over one hundred years
experience in providing music examination syllabi; and its system of graded music
examinations are offered in over thirty instruments, vocal, music theory, and practical
musicianship. Exams are conducted in over eighty countries worldwide, with an
estimated 500,000 candidates taking the examinations annually. The ABRSM operating
network covers several countries in the continents of Africa, North and South America,
Asia, Australasia, and Europe.6) In Malaysia, ABRSM is among the earliest institutions
that offered systematic music examination syllabus.
The Assessment and Examination Unit of the Ministry of Education bears the
major responsibility for organizing the music examinations of ABRSM nationwide.
According to Robert Morris, chief executive of ABRSM, the first ABRSM music
examination in Malaysia was held in 1984, with John Sterling as the first appointed
examiner, and examinations were conducted only in Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Currently, there are more than forty centers in Malaysia with an estimated thirty
examiners conducting the examinations annually.8 The ABRSM examination panel is
comprised of over five hundred appointed honorable members, many of whom are
Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (2002); available from
llhp \ "\ \ .abrsm.ac.uk/libretto/may02/news/html; internet, (accessed 11 May 2002).
6Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (2002); available from
llhp \ "\ \ .abrsm.ac.uk/teachers.html; internet, (accessed 11 May 2002).
8 ABRSM internet, teachers.
outstanding music professionals from the performing and teaching areas in the United
The Curricula of ABRSM
The examination curricula of ABRSM provide music candidates with a
comprehensive scope of study by incorporating performance, music theory, and
musicianship. Among all instrumental examinations, piano is the most popular chosen
instrument. Most music teachers utilizing the ABRSM system are mainly self-employed.
While the system allows music teachers some degree of flexibility in their teaching
approach, ABRSM also provides opportunities for teacher development through its
organization of music education seminars. Seminars concerning the changes and updating
of examination syllabi are regularly organized for teachers locally. The examination
syllabi incorporate the evaluation of music performance, music theory, and musicianship.
The evaluation of music performance consists of the performance of three pieces (20
percent each), scales and arpeggios (14 percent), aural tests (12 percent), and sight-
reading (14 percent). The levels are divided into Distinction (90-100 percent), Merit (80-
89 percent), Pass (66-79 percent) and Fail (0-65 percent). In the case of music
performance, an appointed ABRSM examiner evaluates and provides written comments
and scores on the evaluation form. The practical examination is graded from level one to
eight. Instrumental examinations cover piano, bowed strings, brasses, woodwinds,
harpsichord, organ, guitar, harp, percussion and voice. Apart from solo graded
examinations, ABRSM also offers practical examinations for piano duet and instrumental
9 Ooi, 40.
Syllabi for Music Performance: Pieces
While deciding on the choices of the pieces from the required repertoire, wise
teachers agree with their students on a judicious choice of pieces. The teachers suggest
three different pieces that present a challenge both technically and musically.10 The
objectives and requirements of the pieces are, first, the technical progress which results
from study and mastery; second, the opportunity of impressing the examiner with a
faultless performance; and lastly, the contrasting moods of the pieces. Well before the
examination date, the candidates should be able to play with some degree of confidence
and ease, so that they can concentrate on the music's quality, convincing the examiner
that they have found and are able to convey the mood and the meaning of each of their
Scales and Arpeggios
As stated by Ruldolph Sabor in his book, "How to Do Well in Music Exams,"
Young musicians cannot be expected to realize, but have every right to know that
practically every piece of music contains scales and arpeggios, and that the
purpose and indeed the beauty of growing up on a diet of scales and arpeggios lies
in its prolific effect on further effort. The teachers are advised to point out such
passages in music by various composers and demonstrate how a great deal of
repetitive work can be cut short by scrupulous attention to this section of the
syllabus. Teachers might mention that there are only a few scales to be learned,
but once made perfect they need hardly be practiced again when encountered in
The importance of playing scales and arpeggios is always overlooked by most
music students and teachers as they are not the most impressive and attractive part of the
examination package. However, Sabor has made it clear that scales and arpeggios as they
eventually are utilized are the souls to the content of the pieces. Scales and arpeggios are
10 Sabor, 117.
1 Sabor, 119.
required to be even and fluent. There should be little hesitation in responding to the
examiner's request, and in the higher grades, the speed should be enterprising and
commanding but not extreme.
Aural tests devised by the four major examination bodies investigate a candidate's
sense of time, pitch and rhythm, musical memory, powers of concentration, and speed of
reaction. Ideally, aural training should be practiced before the student's first lesson with
his or her teacher. It is strange that the key to musical appreciation and its performance
that opens the door to all music has been landed with the cheerless name tag, "Aural
Training." According to Sabor, the author of "How to Do Well in Music Exams" the
person with poor listening powers lives with a massive handicap, the equivalent to the
color blind in a picture gallery. 12
As for requirements, accuracy of notes is less important here than obtaining
glimpses of the kind of music one tackles. As the student's familiarity with the repertoire
grows, the skill in coping with the music will increase, with a corresponding decrease in
the number of errors. Sight-reading really provides constant opportunities for browsing.
Teachers should tell students to keep strict time, however slow; go for rhythmic accuracy
even at the expense of note accuracy; never ever stop to repeat anything at all. Once the
student has formed the habit of regular browsing, he or she is bound to grow in
confidence and expertise.
12 Sabor, 120.
Theory of Music
The examinations for theory of music cover Grades One to Eight. On the other
hand, all instrumental candidates are required to have passed Grade Five examinations
for theory of music before they can proceed to any higher instrumental examination.
ABRSM really insists that all students should have passed Theory Grade Five before they
can take any of the practical exams Grade Six to Grade Eight. The curriculum of the
theory of music consists of keys and key signature, time and time signatures, notation and
rests, musical signs, terms and abbreviations, intervals, scales, forms, ornaments, chords,
cadences, harmonization, transposing, modulation, figured bass, established composers
and their standard works.13 The passing marks for theory of music exams are 66 percent.
The theory of music is its grammar. All students are encouraged to learn the rules and
they will begin to speak the language.
Yamaha Music Education System (YMES)
The History of YMES
For the very first time, young children were invited to participate in the trial
music lessons organized by Yamaha Music Schools in the Ginza district of Tokyo in
1954. However, it was in 1959 that the first official Yamaha Music School was begun
and the curriculum was changed from organ to the teaching fundamentals of music.14
Twelve years later, the Yamaha Music Foundation (YMF) was founded under the
authorization of the Ministry of Education in Japan. YMF is in charge of the development
and enhancement of the Yamaha Music Education System (YMES): the training and
13 Ibid., 137.
14 Ooi, 44.
monitoring of Yamaha teachers internationally, the organization of music popularization,
activities on an international basis, and music publication and production. The YMES is
at the moment operated in over forty countries throughout North and South America,
Southeast Asia, Australasia, and Europe. A 1999's statistic showed that YMES had a
student population of about 200,000 worldwide.15
Yamaha Music Malaysia (YMM) was founded by Mr.Yo Kiang Beng in 1974.
Since 1974, YMES has been carried out in the intensive network of Yamaha Music
schools nationwide. YMM has nine branches and ninety dealer companies. Its
headquarters are located at Kuala Lumpur to coordinate and oversee the maintenance and
the networking of the companies. YMM is the sole distributor of all Yamaha musical
instruments and also the publication of a variety of music books.16 YMES is only
operated in the Yamaha Music Schools where the music teachers are trained totally for
the specific music courses. Music courses offered include individual and group lessons
for students from age four through adults. The courses are designed and developed
according to specific age groups.
The Teaching Concepts of YMES
Throughout the courses, five learning concepts are followed closely by the
Yamaha music teachers:
* "Timely education" stresses the importance of designing a curriculum that is
compatible with the age group,
* "Ears First" emphasizes the effectiveness of aural training and that training of the
aural senses should precede other aspects of music making,
15 Yamaha Music Foundation, Creating Music for Tomorrow (Tokyo: Yamaha Music Foundation
16 Ooi, 45.
* "Keyboard as a learning tool" outlines the effectiveness of the keyboard in
teaching children the fundamentals of music,
* "Sequential layering of skills" deals with the process of teaching the children
through imitation, patterning, repetition, and expansion, and
* "Group Learning" promotes musical learning, and allows for creativity.17
Courses Offered by YMES
The Junior Music Course (JMC) is particularly invested with the five concepts of
musical learning mentioned above. It is designed for pre-school children between the
ages of four and six. The course consists of a two-year program and it is conducted in a
group setting of ten to twelve children with the involvement of parents during the class
hour. JMC is made up of four different levels, with each level taking about six months
and it takes two years to complete the four levels. Children who complete JMC
requirements can continue their music education in the extension courses: the Junior
Extension and Advanced Courses. These advanced levels take another four to six years of
music education. At these levels, children continue their group lessons and are required to
take individual music lessons to address performance development.
Recommended graduates of JMC undergo a music audition and successful
candidates proceed to the Junior Special Advanced Course (JSAC) instead of going
through the usual extension course route. During the course of JSAC, the scope of
learning is broader than the extension courses, with higher musical expectations in
performance and composition skills. In these YMES courses, keyboard, especially organ,
is used as the major learning instrument. Later, children in the YMES can select a major
instrument.18 The YMES curricula include lyric singing, rhythm stepping, keyboard
17 Ooi, 46.
18 Ooi, 47.
harmony with transposition, sight-singing, notation, music appreciation, creativity, and
An outstanding characteristics of YMES teaching methods is the process of
learning which in which includes four consecutive steps:
* Perception (Listening),
* Verbalization (Singing),
* Actualization (Playing and performing), and
* Comprehension (Understanding).19
The Graded Examinations of YMES
YMES offers Yamaha Graded Examinations in the forms of Achievement Tests
for beginners (level 13-10), the lower Grade Examination (level 9-6), and the Higher
Grade Examination (level 5-3) for professional levels. In the Yamaha examination
system, Level Nine is the initial grade and Level One is the highest grade of achievement.
These examinations are available for piano, electronic organ, and guitar. Honorary
awards (level 1 and 2) are awarded to students with excellent performance achievement.20
YMM has assisted the Malaysian Government in the encouragement of mass
music literacy in the nation. Some of obligated responsibilities include the training of the
public school music teachers through various training workshops, incorporating the use
of pianicas (a smaller model of portable piano operated by blowing air through the mouth
piece) and recorders, and providing assistance in setting up the drum corps and marching
bands for the public schools. One of these projects has been the development of the four-
19 Ibid., 48.
20 Ibid., 49.
year electronic keyboard curriculum in collaboration with the Institute of Technology in
Even though differences exist between ABRSM and YMES, both examination
boards contribute to the enrichment of the music education program in Malaysia. Both
boards are responsible for introducing Western art music to the people of Malaysia and
play an important role in assisting the Ministry of Education. Music was part of education
introduced into Malaysia by both ABRSM and YMES. Both systems are the main forces
in upgrading the performance skills of music students. The examination achievement of
both systems actually represents the entrance ticket to the next professional level.
Students are allowed to use the examination results as the pre-requisite to the level of
music major. In fact, both ABRSM and YMES systems are so popular that most public
and private universities and colleges require music degree applicants to pass certain
professional levels before they can be admitted to the institutions.
In addition to the benefits of music education, both ABRSM and YMES assist the
Malaysian government by organizing concerts and other musical activities to elevate the
level of music awareness among the Malaysian people. ABRSM, with the collaboration
of the British Council, consistently holds concerts and instrumental competitions,
especially in the area of Klang Valley, at Kuala Lumpur. YMES organizes annual
Yamaha Organ Competitions to search for musical talent and genius among music
students. Even though these agencies are not part of the Malaysian government, they are
important factors in the development of public music education.
21 Ooi, 59.
THE ROLE OF PRIVATE COLLEGES AND INSTITUTIONS IN MUSIC
Government's Policies Toward Private Education
Private education sector is defined as comprising all educational institutions that
were privately founded and where some significant proportion of decision-making
responsibility remains in private hands, even though government may provide
substantial resources and control.1
Since 1995, Malaysia's Ministry of Education has successfully pushed through six
pieces of legislation to position Malaysia as a regional education hub:
* The Education Act 1996,
* National Council on Higher Education Institutions Act 1996,
* Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996,
* National Accreditation Board Act 1996,
* Universities Colleges (Amendment) Act 1996, and
* National Education Fund Board Act 1997.
The National Council on Higher Education Institutions Act 1996, the Private
Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996, and the National Accreditation Board Act 1996
have all directly affected the development of private higher education in Malaysia.
National Council on Higher Education Institutions Act 1996 reflects the government's
intention to have in place a unified administrative organization to oversee both the public
and private education sectors, and also to ensure greater coordination of the higher
educational system. The main responsibility of the National Council is to plan, formulate,
and determine national policies and strategies for the development of higher education.
1 Estelle James, "Public Policies Toward Private Education: An International Comparison," In International
Journal of Educational Research 15, no.4 (1991): 360.
The Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 defines the government's regulatory
control over all private education institutions. Under this act, approval must be obtained
from the Ministry of Education before private institutions can be set up or any program
can be offered to students. All private colleges with the presence of Bumiputra2 are
required to include compulsory subjects such as Malaysian Studies, Islamic Studies, and
Moral Studies. All private colleges must also conduct their courses in the national
language, with some allowed in English as a medium of instruction if approved by the
Ministry of Education. Finally, the National Accreditation Board Act 1997 establishes an
accreditation board to formulate education policies on the quality control of courses in
various degree programs. This board also provides an evaluation mechanism and quality
assurance for accredited programs in the private colleges.3
The History of Private Education
Private education is no longer a new phenomenon in the Malaysia educational
scene. Its humble beginnings took the forms of tuitions centers, independent Chinese
schools, commercial colleges, and second chance schools. Today private education is
made available at every educational level. According to Molly Lee, Associated Professor
of Education at Universiti Sains Malaysia, the historical development of private
education of Malaysia is closely related to educational reforms in the national school
systems.4 In the 1960's, the attrition rates in the national school system were high due to
the fact that the system was selective. Students who failed their public examinations had
2 Bumiputra is referred to the native people of Malaysia; it includes both the Malay and the indigenous
3 Molly N.N. Lee, Private Higher Education in Malaysia (Penang: University Sains Malaysia Press, 1999),
to continue their education in private institutions, better known as "second chance
schools" that offered them optional solutions. Besides these second chance schools, there
were also private colleges that offered commercial studies and courses, especially in
accounting and business management that were affiliated with overseas higher learning
institutions. During the 1970's, dropouts from national schools dwindled as the school
system strove toward universal secondary education. The private schools changed their
direction to the provision of pre-university courses, while selection for entrances to Sixth
Form (Post-Secondary Education) in the government schools continued to be very
competitive. Commercial, semi-professional and professional programs continued to be
popular as the structure of Malaysia's economy began to shift from agricultural sectors to
manufacturing and service sectors. Moreover, the process of democracy in secondary
education resulted in an increasing demand for higher education in the late 1970's. The
1980's and 1990's observed a significant progress in private education, especially at the
post secondary levels.5
The Twinning Program
One of the most attractive packages offered by the private higher education
sectors is the Twinning Program. Its concept involves a mutual agreement between a
local private institution and one or a consortium of foreign universities to run the
Twinning Program initially in the local college, to be followed in the overseas university
for the final part of the program.6 The foreign university decides on the curriculum,
evaluation, and institutional standard of the program. Agreements often specify
5 Ibid., 2.
6 Lee, 9.
conditions related to accreditation, course equivalency, curricula, responsibilities,
qualifications and requirements of academic staff, admission criteria, and educational
amenities. Under the Twinning Program, every qualifying student is guaranteed a place in
the foreign university upon successful completion of the course requirements taken at the
local institution. The student can transfer to the agreed university for the next level.
Generally, each student has to spend two years at the local institution and another
two years at the foreign university, better known as the "2+2 program." Under the revised
policy, the number of year at the local institution has been increased to three years or
better known as 3+1 program. This new program saves the cost of living expenses at the
oversea institution. Upon completion of both segments, a degree is conferred by the
The Twinning Program offers not only a cheaper route to obtain a foreign degree
but also allows local higher learning institutions to share in a part of the tertiary education
business. Factors such as field of study, location and reputation of the foreign university,
number of years, and duration of the study can all contribute to the final cost of the
Twinning Program. A student utilizing the Twinning Program can save about four
thousand to ten thousand U.S. dollars a year.7 The average tuition fee for a guaranteed
credit transfer program is only approximately forty percent of the tuition fee for the
Twinning Program, due to the fact that there is no franchise fee charged by the foreign
institution. Furthermore, the cost of the administration is cut to a minimum by the foreign
Since the inception of the Twinning Program, foreign universities from the United
Kingdom, Australia and United States have been active leaders interested in this
innovative idea in higher education. Popular degree programs such as business,
management, accounting, finance, engineering, computer science, information
technology, and medicine were included from the beginning of the Twinning Program. It
was later that other programs such as fine arts, psychology, languages, and music were
included to cover a wider range of academic degree programs. Traditionally, music is not
a popular degree program, but rather a teaching training program. As a result, many
students only aim for music as an educational career but not a professional ideal in the
Several private colleges in Malaysia that offer music degree programs particularly
in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur deserve consideration.
Sedaya College, formerly known as the Canadian Institute of Computer Science
was founded in 1986 at Petaling Jaya in the state of Selangor. The college took up its own
permanent residency at Cheras, Kuala Lumpur in 1998. Sedaya College opened another
branch at Sibu in East Malaysia. The college currently has a student population of two
thousand with one hundred and forty-five academic staff, twenty percent of the students
are international students. The College offers a 3+0 program8 that enables students to
study all three years at its college and obtain their degrees from a foreign university in the
United Kingdom without leaving Malaysia. It offers a second 2+1 or 2+2 twinning
program that requires students to complete two years of higher education at its college
8 In Malaysian education system, 3+0 refers to number of years the students have to spend locally plus
internationally to complete the required courses.
and to take the remaining at the foreign universities. This program has been tremendously
successful with the linked agreement with the universities in the United Stated. All
programs allow students to study general subjects at Sedaya College before applying to
transfer credits to universities in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United
Kingdom, and Canada. Students complete the remainder of the their area of specialization
at universities abroad. Since the inception of the music program in 1990, Sedaya
College's Faculty of Music and Performing Arts offers a twinning degree program with
the following: Western Illinois University, West Virginia University, and the State
University of New York at New Paltz in the United States; the University of Newcastle in
Australia; and Middlesex University in Britain. The diploma in music is also offered
locally with a choice of specialization in classical, modern music studies, and audio
Over the years, Sedaya's music programs have mainly been classically oriented,
training musicians to become well versed in all areas of Western art music. Upon
completion of the degree program, students are qualified to be music merchandisers,
broadcast engineers, audio engineers, music producers, jingle writers, and composers.
Sedaya College was the first private college to establish music as a degree program. The
majority of students who have transferred to other foreign universities to complete their
music degree have graduated as music teachers, and as music therapists and lecturers in
Malaysia, Singapore and the United States. Sixty-five percent of its transferred students
pursue their masters and twenty-seven percent complete their doctoral degrees.
9 Sedaya College (2002); available from http://www.sedaya.edu.my/music/index/html; internet, (accessed
11 May 2002).
International College of Music (ICOM)
International College of Music was established in November 1995 in Kuala
Lumpur and it is the premier private music college to provide music students with a
complete learning experience in the fields of contemporary music, professional song
writing and music technology. Since its establishment, ICOM has been affiliated with
Berklee School of Music at Boston, U.S.A. ICOM offers a three-year program for
diploma students in the areas of performance, arranging, music synthesis, and music
production and engineering. The performance majors receive extensive theoretical and
practical training, focusing on style analysis, private instrumental instruction, and
ensembles. The arranging majors learn concepts related to instrumentation, orchestration,
music technology and composition in a variety of musical genres and styles. The music
technology major covers the musical aspects of production as well as the principles of
sound engineering, real-time performance synthesis, studio and audio design and
production techniques. The curriculum also offers traditional and folk instruments of
Malaysia so that students will have a better knowledge of their musical history and
culture. ICOM owns a 150-seat concert hall, several acoustically designed private
practice rooms, a recording studio, a computer and synthesizer laboratory, an ear training
laboratory, a comprehensive music library, and a campus bookstore.
Yamaha Academy of Arts and Music
Yamaha Academy for Arts and Music is a branch of the Yamaha Music Malaysia
(YMM) that emphasizes higher education in music. It was established for students to
pursue a career specifically in music.10 The academy provides advanced music education
10 Yamaha Music School (2002); available from http://www.yamahamusic.com.my/Arts/artsmain.html;
internet, (accessed 11 May 2002).
leading to a music diploma in the areas of performance, music management and
administration, music marketing and consultation, arrangement, music production and
jazz. The diploma program offers two years of courses locally. Then students can receive
under the Twinning Program further training in performance, music and art management
at Middlesex University in Wales, for one year. The students can also choose Monash
University in Perth, Australia to specialize in performance, composition, musicology and
ethnomusicology. The Australian program requires students to study abroad for their
second, third, and fourth years.1
The academy is well equipped with the Yamaha Festival Hall where student
recitals, concerts, and master classes are held. It also has for its students' benefits several
practice rooms, a piano laboratory, a resource center, an audio visual laboratory at Music
Production Room. Besides the diploma degree, the academy offers performance courses
designed for the individual musician's needs, it equips them with the necessary skills to
undertake external examinations or to gain entrance into institutions of higher learning,
improve their performance ability in festivals and competitions, and assist in
interpretation of music. This program guides students to further external music
examinations that are affiliated with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Trinity
College of Music, Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, and Yamaha Higher
1 Yamaha Music School (2002); available from http://www.yamahamusic.com.my/Arts/avd.html; internet,
(accessed 11 May 2002).
12 Yamaha Music School (2002); available from http://www/yamahamusic.com.my/Arts/perform.html;
internet, (accessed 11 May).
Other Private Music Colleges
There are also other private music colleges offering music diplomas and
Twinning Degree Programs. Both the Ocean Institute of Audio and Technology and the
School of Audio Engineering offer programs in music production and audio engineering;
Malaysia Institute of Arts (MIA) offers a diploma program that can be transferred to
other universities in China, United Kingdom and Unites States. Colleges such as
Stamford College, INTI College, and Kolej Damansara Utama offer music appreciation
courses as elective subjects in the area of humanities.
Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) of PETRONAS
The process of privatization occurs immediately in the commercial, industrial and
government bureaucratic sectors. Since the government is pursuing privatization, the
nation's economy has progressed and has been developed in the direction of Vision 2020.
Many government-owned companies have been partially privatized to facilitate better
administration and efficiency. PETRONAS (National Petroleum) is one of the best
examples to demonstrate the concept of privatization.
PETRONAS is one of the nation's leading petroleum companies, both locally and
internationally. Since its privatization, the company has experienced tremendous
expansion and growth in its profits and personnel. PETRONAS continues to assist the
government not only economically but also structurally, socially, and educationally
through its successful program to train a better generation of skillful workers and its
commitment to develop and improve social conditions. One of the most recent
achievements of PETRONAS is the completion of the PETRONAS Twin Towers at the
Kuala Lumpur City Center claims to be the world's tallest towers and is fully equipped
with a mega shopping complex, an entertainment site, a recreation park, and a majestic
auditorium known as the Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS, or Philharmonic Hall of
PETRONAS. The auditorium is a center of excellence for the performance and
appreciation of Western classical music. It welcomes those who are serious connoisseurs
of Western classical music as well as those who are newcomers to the art form. The
auditorium is the permanent residence of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO).
Architects Cesar Pelli and Associates and Acousticians Kirkegaard and
Associates were responsible for the design and the acoustic system for the auditorium.13
The design is set in the traditional shoebox shape of the great European concert halls built
in the Nineteenth Century. Unique acoustic devices have been incorporated into the
design of the auditorium to maximize its natural acoustic qualities. It represents a fusion
of both Malaysian and Western cultures. The auditorium is equipped with a modern pipe
organ for both solo and large group performances. The orchestra consists of one hundred
and five players headed by the Dutch conductor, Kees Bakels, assisted by the Malaysian
resident conductor Chean See Ooi. The MPO debuted in mid 1997 and the first rehearsal
took place on July 1, 1998. This was followed by an inaugural concert at Dewan
Philharmonik in August 1998. The MPO's repertoire includes a broad artistic program
designed to appeal the widest possible audience. Besides its regular concerts
MPO hosts an international concert series featuring many of the world's great
performers, such as Sir Neville Marriner, conductors Andrew Litton, Yan Pascal
Tortelier, Jiri Belohlavek, James Judd, Mark Elder, Donald Runnicles, John Nelson, and
Manfred Honeck; the English Chamber Orchestra with Pinchas Zukerman, the King's
13 Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS, [Concert Program] (Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS,
Singers, flautist, James Galway; a series of rush hour concerts, concerts for children, and
a variety of other musical events. Although the main emphasis is on the performance of
Western classical music, the artistic program actually integrates other complimentary
musical styles, including traditional Malay music and dance Chinese opera, Indian
classical music, and Jazz. In addition, the MPO presents a series of music education
activities throughout Malaysia to train the younger generation of musicians. The MPO
has arranged a mini concert series for children as education packages offered to the
parent. Children can also enroll in private instrumental lessons with the members of
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Public school music education had its humble beginnings in the primary schools
in Malaysia in the eighteenth century. After thirty-nine years of being an independent and
sovereign state, Malaysia has included music education at all levels of its educational
system from kindergarten through university. Upon the completion of a music degree
program at most public universities, graduates are now able to continue their education at
the graduate level. Scholarships, academic grants, and government loans are now more
accessible, a factor has motivated graduates to strive for higher excellence in higher
education. Malaysia is now equipped with more qualified and experienced music
teachers, specialists, lecturers, and professors.
Secondary school graduates have the option to continue their learning experiences
at private colleges under the Twinning Program, a joint-collaboration between local
colleges and foreign universities. The statistics from the research of Molly Lee show that
the number of students enrolled in private colleges has increased from 35,600 in 1990 to
127,594 in 1995.1 This significant increase enables students to have the exposure to
learning Western music culture at a lower cost.
The return of oversea graduates actually supports the structure and framework of
the music staff at most music higher learning institutions. These talented graduates bring
1 Molly N.N. Lee Private Higher Education in Malaysia (Penang: Universiti Sains Malaysia Press, 1999),
their capabilities and performance experiences that will help shape the next generation of
musicians. Many music departments at universities and colleges have academic staff who
have studied in Australia, Great Britain, and the United States. Consequently, the
Western music influence brought back by the oversea graduates in Malaysia has been
greater than before.
There is no bad music education system, but just some bad music teachers.
A popular statement by most music teachers in Malaysia clearly demonstrates the
current scenario of Malaysian music education. There is no doubt that music teachers
now are more abundantly available in the school system in Malaysia. However, both the
evaluation system and assessment process need to be implemented. For this reason, the
Ministry of Education's Accreditation Board and Teachers' Training Colleges bear the
major responsibility to ensure that the music training and learning at all levels of school
are regulated constantly. The cooperation between the Malaysian government and the
private sectors will play a crucial role in deciding the future of music education in
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