The music schools certainly contribute very little to the music industry which, in Poland, hardly exists despite the high number of trained musicians the system produces. Young Polish musicians often have to go abroad to finish their training because the approach both to playing and marketing music is so narrow. Furthermore, very few teachers, whether in academies or music schools, attend teaching courses or maintain their own skills through having lessons themselves. This has serious consequences for the way they teach and, thus, the mentality and skill base of the students they train.
The Ministry of Culture is now responsible for music education in all schools. To keep themselves busy, the politicians and bureaucrats seem to be constantly engaged in re-writing programmes that can never been implemented. These programmes can never be implemented for one very simple reason: the Ministry has no authority to require the gmina, the local authorities, to introduce its programmes to their schools. It is the Gmina who pay.
Given some of the ideas going around the corridors of the Ministry, this failure may not be undesirable. However, through their inability to engage with the problem, the political classes and, thus, the education system, are failing the country. Perhaps they don’t care? The fact that only 1% of state money given for the 2010 Chopin Year was spent on education indicates how much importance the Ministry of Culture attaches to music education for the general public. That none of the Chopin capital education projects was either finished or funded for legacy activity is damning evidence. Quite simply, music does not matter in the Ministry of Culture. Then how can the Ministry be responsible for the musical education of the nation?
Nor is the Ministry the only problem. There is the problem of the availability of qualified, quality teachers and, even more dramatic, the policies of the National Opera and the National Philharmonic. These great institutions are unique in the whole of Europe in not having any effective educational and outreach programmes. They enjoy a self-imposed isolation from the people whom they exist to serve: the general public, not the chosen elite. This is a grave and scandalous failure on the part of these heavily state-subsidised bodies and one which their political paymasters seem happy to ignore.
What can be done to save the future? Is this a lose-lose situation? Not necessarily. The question is very simple: How can the gmina be encouraged to introduce music and the performing arts to their schools when no leadership or example is given by the great national institutions in the capital? Part of the problem, but only a part, is money. The rest is goodwill, imagination and organisation.
What is needed is a National Performing Arts Educational Centre for Schools: an inspiring flag-ship example, an education power house for the whole country. The Centre would have an outreach programme for training teachers to use performance skills in the classroom; a place where model programmes would be run with ordinary school children as an example for schools and other institutions throughout the country; a place where these skills could be developed not only for the classroom but also to help management and business develop skills essential for good business practice. Obviously, developing new teaching material will be a priority and musical theatre will be a key area for development.
Why musical theatre? Because it has something for everyone: singing, dancing, acting, technical requirements and organisation. A musical theatre performance in a school enables children to work together for a shared objective and receive the all important recognition from their peers when they perform. A performance that is open to friends and parents puts the school at the heart of the community. Apart from school sports matches, when and where else is there space for this most important experience?
The initial funding should be for 5 years with a minimum annual budget of 500.000 pln. This funding should come from private sources. Since business has a vested interest in young people, building links with business and education is highly desirable. It is a staggering fact that almost no adolescents get any form of careers advice before they leave secondary school or before they chose their higher education options. Most children are constrained to follow their parents` advice and study subjects that they perceive will offer a job for life rather than develop the mind. This might have worked 20 years ago. Today it is redundant thinking. We have enough lawyers. The Centre could build links between business and the young by developing visits to business sponsors and buddy programmes between individual employees and children.