Latest News:  
Beijing   Sunny    21 / 12 ℃  City Forecast

English>>Life & Culture

Forced piano exams for children hit false notes

By Zong Lei  (Shanghai Daily)

13:01, October 18, 2012

(Xinhua/Gao Xueyu)

While I was in Shanghai this summer, almost all my friends' children were busy preparing for the upcoming graded piano exams. As a result, many of my friends postponed our gatherings. I could sense that these exams were very important to them.

It is estimated that some 30 million children in China are learning piano. I do not know the percentage of those who take piano exams. The national number must be big, though, as in Shanghai alone about 30,000 children took part in the graded assessments this summer.

It is fortunate that these children are able to get exposure to musical art at an early age, since for our generation and those before ours, only the most talented or the elite could afford such a privilege.

However, when parents put too much weight on exams or even make passing them the ultimate goal of their children's piano learning, they miss the opportunity to cultivate in their children the appreciation of music.

Learning piano for the purpose of passing exams can easily erode children's interest in piano or even music.

Our friend's 7-year-old daughter was forced to practice the three required pieces for two hours daily during the four months before the exam. She had loved it, we were told.

However, playing piano is the last thing that she likes to do now. As a result, her parents have to make her practice with coaxing or or coercion.

They confessed that the endless repetition in the preparation for the exams was painful and that even they themselves, at some points, hated the music. But our friend added since every child was taking these exams, he did not want his daughter to "lag behind."

When most parents are keen to ensure their children get exam certificates, piano teachers have become complicit in the frenzy and are no longer teachers of music. We attended a piano party in Shanghai at a piano teacher's place, where 10 of her students played the pieces required for their exams. Frankly, the children were playing notes rather than music. In other words, they were not taught to understand the pieces and play them with their own expressions, but were taught to pass the exams.

Despite their expensive piano lessons, many children do not have basic music etiquette. At the piano concerts that we attended in Shanghai, I was impressed by the number of piano prodigies in the audience. I was, however, not impressed by their manners. Many of them seemed to be unaware of how to show respect to the performers and fellow listeners.

I feel strongly about all this because my 7-year-old son is also learning piano. He has just been admitted to the Precollege of Manhattan School of Music.

As parents, we want to create the best opportunity for him to develop his talent and pursue his interest. Yes, he needs our encouragement to practice, but when we hear him play with confidence and his own expression and see how much he enjoys theory and ear training, we know we are doing something right.

I only hope that parents would not attach too much importance to piano exams, rather, they attach importance to their children's experience of learning.

The author is a freelancer based in New York.

News we recommend




Peruvian band Perú Andino performs in Beijing

Red Beach stretches in golden autumn

Tips to prevent the common cold

Why there is no 'Gangnam Style' in China

Meal: A big thing for transnational marriages

'China First Kiss' stirs controversy


Related Reading

Leave your comment0 comments

  1. Name


Selections for you

  1. 'Gangnam Style' dances ease pressure

  2. Fighters conduct training

  3. Unforgettable moments you can't miss in Oct.

  4. Same-sex wedding performed in Fujian Province

  5. Snow sweeps some parts of China

  6. Europe offers solace after US ruling

  7. UK's Blind Summit and their puppets

  8. Impression on Tibet

Most Popular


  1. 2nd US debate sees candidates flex China muscle
  2. Abe's visit to shrine to dent China-Japan ties
  3. China, Japan and S. Korea must eye the best
  4. Editorial: Addressing the wealth gap
  5. 'Do the right things' for the economy
  6. Obama outperforms Romney in 2nd debate
  7. Commentary: Japan's propaganda war on Diaoyu
  8. To Put political label on Chinese investors unfair
  9. Tokyo's war crime recognition crucial
  10. China bashing: Shame on American politics

What’s happening in China

Same-sex wedding performed in Fujian Province

  1. China establishes fire-protection engineer system
  2. Self-made caricaturist draws life of migrants
  3. Beijing's first govt shelter for abuse
  4. Beijing's biggest transport hub gears up for action
  5. Cops blamed for death as crowds riot