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Debate as opera returns to curriculum
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08:26, February 26, 2008

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Beijing's primary and secondary school students yesterday found some favorite Peking Opera pieces of their grandfathers included in the new music curriculum.

However, the move has drawn criticism that untrained teachers and limited resources might discourage students from learning the 200-year-old art form.

The Ministry of Education decided earlier this month to start a Peking Opera pilot project in 200 schools in 10 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. It will involve 15 works of Peking Opera, both classical and modern.

Yesterday marked the start of the new school semester, and music teachers in 20 Beijing primary and secondary schools were required to learn how to perform Peking Opera before introducing it to their students.

In recent years, the popularity of Peking Opera, known as the country's national opera, has been in decline, as many young people find it difficult to understand, and prefer pop music.

Many educational professionals have called for its preservation and revitalization.

"The aim of the project is to help children develop an interest in the nation's unique cultural treasures," Wang Jun, an education bureau official, was quoted as saying by Beijing News.

Qi Zhenjun, principal of Chaoyang Primary School in Beijing, supported the project. He said it will enhance the identification of traditional Chinese culture among youths.

"Students who are familiar with pop music will find new interests in Peking Opera," he said.

One of Qi's students, Wang Zipeng, 12, is looking forward to his first opera class.

The sixth grade student began to show an interest in the art form when he watched it on TV with his grandfather several years ago.

"Pop songs go out of date, Wang said. "But Peking Opera lasts forever."

Wang Xinxia, who teaches third and fourth graders at the Chaoyang school, admitted Peking Opera "is a challenge" for both teachers and students.

"The majority of music teachers do not know how to perform Peking opera," Wang said.

Source: China Daily

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