Exploring strategies for developing Western classical music education in the Sultanate of Oman

Aljabri, K. (2017) Exploring strategies for developing Western classical music education in the Sultanate of Oman. Doctoral thesis, Royal College of Music.


The initial aim of this research was to assess whether it was possible to introduce Western Classical Music (WCM) into the Omani school music curriculum. Oman is a model for establishing, firstly, whether it is possible to introduce WCM to a school regime in which it has never previously existed and, secondly, how such an introduction can be most effectively implemented. There was no published research in this area and, as this research developed, the initial stance evolved and modified, leading to broader conclusions. This has implications not only for music education in Oman but also for wider discussions about the role of WCM in non-Western music education and its potential expansion in non-traditional spheres. The thesis reports on both the cultural and historical context of music and music education in Oman, as well as the attitude of Omani Islam to the permissibility of music within an Islamic state. Previous global attempts to introduce alien musical traditions into their curricula are reviewed to establish what lessons might be learned alongside the educational models and approaches adopted within English schools. The English observations are used to design investigative pilot schemes (including alternative pedagogies), which were conducted within four Omani state schools. Throughout the thesis, qualitative research makes use of ethnographically informed case studies and five research methods: semi-structured interviews, surveys, participant observation, field notes and documentation. Data are analysed thematically and via descriptive synthesis in order to identify key concepts and themes and, thus, to arrive at holistic strategies for a potential introduction of WCM into the National Curriculum (NC). Findings suggest that it is possible to introduce WCM into an outward-looking country with links to external governments and an established music scene. Religious reservations were largely overcome by public debate while cultural resistance was soothed by an emphasis on the equal status of national music alongside non-native music education. Observations in English schools found that learning outcomes are dependent on a number of factors including the individual ability of each teacher, teaching resources and a receptive environment. The Omani pilots, in turn, suggest that the incorporation of WCM into the NC requires additional elements such as cultural sensitivity, detailed planning and comprehensive, open debate. Additionally, it was not the musical genre that created the successful outcomes but, rather, the pedagogy. The desired outcome, therefore, was not to effect the introduction of WCM into the Omani national music curriculum per se but to open up the school music curriculum to a more progressive model of pedagogy. This research has implications for the introduction and expansion of new musical genres into National Curricula.

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