China News Service, London, February 24th

: How to integrate Chinese and British cultures through music and art education?

  ——Exclusive interview with Cao Qun, a British music and art educator

  Author Ouyang Kaiyu and Peng Xinyi

  Cao Qun is an artist and educator who is deeply involved in the field of music. He has been committed to Sino-British international education cooperation for 20 years and has held leadership positions in many universities in the UK.

Having worked in Western education circles for many years, he has unique insights into Chinese and Western music art and educational practices.

Recently, Cao Qun accepted an exclusive interview with China News Service's "East-West Question" and talked about his practice and thoughts on integrating Chinese and British cultures through music and art education.

The interview transcript is summarized as follows:

China News Service reporter: Could you please introduce what role music and art can play in eliminating cultural barriers?

Cao Qun:

Music and art are a good medicine to eliminate cultural barriers.

First of all, music has the unique function of expressing and communicating emotions.

As the universal language of mankind across borders and nationalities, music directly touches people's emotions.

By listening to and appreciating each other's music, people from different cultural backgrounds can feel each other's emotions and resonate, thereby enhancing mutual understanding and respect.

  Secondly, music is a natural tool to promote cultural exchanges and is an art form with rich connotations and great expressiveness.

By learning, performing and appreciating music from different cultures, people can peek into and understand the traditions, history and values ​​of other cultures, promoting cultural exchanges and healthy dissemination.

Due to its inclusive nature, music art can naturally integrate multiple cultural elements. Music from different cultural backgrounds can be organically combined and learn from each other through interaction and collision, which further enriches the diversity of music.

In February 2024, "Echoes of Love - Young Musicians Series" arranged by music students studying in the United States was played at the World Trade Center Station in New York.

Photo by Liao Pan

  At the same time, music and art education helps cultivate people's aesthetic ability and artistic literacy.

The educational role of music and art is subtle and helps to shape the common value identity of the group.

By appreciating and creating music, we can deepen our understanding and experience of shared values, and promote social harmony and the progress of human civilization.

By learning and inheriting national music, different ethnic groups will naturally enhance the inheritance of national culture.

  At the end of 2023, I was invited to participate in the opening ceremony of the first UNESCO "Film Heritage" International Film Festival and the "China Day" performance in Paris, where I experienced first-hand the appreciation and welcome of Chinese music and art by guests from many countries around the world.

In short, music art is of great significance in eliminating cultural barriers. It promotes understanding and tolerance between different cultures by communicating emotions, promoting cultural exchanges, integrating diverse cultures, improving artistic literacy, shaping common values, and enhancing national identity. , and then achieve cultural integration and social harmony.

On April 21, 2022, the "Paris International Chinese Day 2022" event was held at the Chinese Cultural Center in Paris. French Chinese enthusiasts performed traditional Chinese folk arts programs in Chinese at the event.

Photo by Li Yang

China News Service Reporter: In your experience of managing multiple educational institutions, how do you view the differences between Chinese and British music and art education?

Cao Qun:

China and the UK are completely different in terms of history, tradition, language and culture, and naturally have different educational philosophies.

For example, music and art education in China usually focuses on skills and performance, that is, optimizing students' music skills and performance capabilities through intensive systematic training and performance practice.

In view of this, teachers usually focus on skill inheritance and artistic performance.

The UK focuses on individual expression, that is, encouraging students to innovate and develop their unique personality and artistic creativity through music creation, and pays more attention to cultivating students' independent exploration and innovation abilities.

  In terms of teaching methods, China's music and art education usually adopts the traditional "one-on-one" form, with teachers demonstrating and explaining, and students imitating and learning.

This approach focuses on skill transfer and individual training.

British music and art education tends to adopt project-based and cooperative learning methods.

Teachers usually guide students to explore topics and organize group activities, so that students can learn how to study and innovate independently in practice.

  In terms of teaching content, the teaching content of China's general music and art education is usually based on the quintessence of China, that is, traditional ethnic music, supplemented by Western classical music and modern music.

In addition to traditional Western music, the general music and art education in the UK also involves pop music, rock music, electronic music and other music forms, as well as various types of ethnic music from around the world.

This difference reflects the different cultural backgrounds and historical heritages of China and the UK.

In November 2023, in Jiaozuo, Henan, a teacher from the primary school guzheng club was instructing students to play guzheng.

Photo by Cheng Quan

China News Service reporter: Given the differences in music education between China and the UK, what challenges do you face from cultural differences in teaching in the UK?

Cao Qun:

Challenges are around us.

First comes from the differences in concepts and methods.

Music education in China focuses on technical training and the study of classics, while the UK focuses more on cultivating students' originality and performance abilities.

Therefore, in the teaching process, concepts and methods must be constantly adjusted within a controllable space, not only to adapt to the requirements of the British music education system, but also to meet and match the expectations and receptive abilities of international students.

The second is to overcome language and cultural communication barriers and deal with the differences in the way of thinking of people with different cultural backgrounds.

This requires starting from the other party's perspective, putting yourself in their shoes, understanding each other, and trying to avoid any mutual misunderstandings.

The other is the difference in expectations or value orientations from students and parents.

It is necessary to maintain good communication with students and parents, understand their expectations, and be targeted in teaching.

  Challenges also involve cultural sensitivity and inclusion, which require extra care.

Faced with students and faculty from different cultural backgrounds, each of whom has different values ​​and customs, it is necessary to face up to, respect and understand these differences, maintain mutual information symmetry and open communication channels, and strive to create and maintain a teaching that is inclusive and respectful of diversity. environment.

In August 2022, at the Shanghai Concert Hall, foreign audiences were invited to take to the stage to interact with the artists and understand the charm of Chinese musical instruments.

Photo by Zhang Hengwei

China News Service reporter: How to promote students’ international vision and cross-cultural communication skills in artistic creation and educational practice?

Cao Qun:

I am responsible for international affairs. I usually improve students’ international vision and cross-cultural communication skills through the following measures: First, constantly introduce courses with international dimensions and incorporate these courses into the school’s mainstream teaching plans as much as possible to help students understand different culture and values, and develop their global awareness and cross-cultural communication skills.

  The second is to organize international exchange projects, establish friendly relations with schools in other countries, and organize exchanges and visits between students.

  The third is to organize various international cultural activities, such as different cultural festivals, art festivals and theme lectures, and invite people from different ethnic backgrounds to share their culture and experiences.

In addition to promoting such activities in prescribed ways by governments at all levels, the school also hires full-time employees to implement special tasks and make them institutionalized and normalized.

  The fourth is to provide cross-cultural training not only for students but also for faculty and staff to help them understand the differences and commonalities between different cultures and learn to respect and tolerate other cultures.

  Fifth, students and teachers are encouraged to participate in various international projects and competitions, providing them with opportunities to collaborate and work with partners from other countries.

In April 2012, the opening concert of China's Guest of Honor at the London Book Fair was held at London's Cadogan Concert Hall. Chinese and British singers sang "Song of the Yangtze River" on the same stage.

Photo by Wei Qun

China News Service reporter: In your many years of experience in education in the UK, how do you respond to and promote multicultural integration?

Cao Qun:

Britain is a diverse society.

No matter in terms of race or culture, dealing with and promoting multicultural integration is a work that is always on the road and never stops.

I advocate for the provision of multicultural education, reflected in the syllabus from early childhood to adulthood.

The content of diversified education includes the history, values, customs, customs, and customs of multiple cultures.

Its purpose is to enable students to better understand and respect different cultures and promote the integration of various cultures through diversified education.

  An important part is to create an inclusive learning environment that encourages students to think from the perspectives of different cultural backgrounds and respect each other's perspectives and experiences.

Teachers generally promote communication and understanding among students through guided discussions, group cooperation and other activities.

Assist in organizing multicultural activities, such as organizing various cultural festivals, art festivals or food exhibitions.

Another effective way is to help students improve their cross-cultural communication abilities through training and practice.

Through teachers organizing cross-cultural exchange projects or discussions, students are taught to listen to and understand ideas and opinions from different cultural backgrounds, and learn to express their own ideas and opinions correctly and effectively.

Students are encouraged to actively participate in multicultural activities, exchange projects, and volunteer activities, gain an in-depth understanding of other cultures, and enhance their international vision and cross-cultural communication skills.

In August 2023, the first concert of the London International Chinese Music Festival was held, and the London Orchid Qin Society performed "Three Plum Blossoms".

Photo by Ouyang Kaiyu

  I also take advantage of traditional Chinese festivals and various other cultural exchange opportunities to talk about Chinese culture all year round.

My school organizes celebrations for Chinese international students every year during Chinese festivals, and invites British teachers and students, international students from other countries, and local Chinese associations to participate.

During the international events held in China, we encourage school students to participate in various activities organized by domestic institutions and tell Chinese stories in conjunction with teaching.

From Grimsby, Croydon, Warwickshire, Leicester, Uppingham to London, all the schools I have worked in are friendly to China.

This not only reflects the friendship between the Chinese and British people, but also makes the Chinese students at the school feel cordial and harmonious.


Interviewee profile:

  Cao Qun, a British-Chinese, baritone singer, educator, and music critic.

Over the past twenty years, he has held leadership positions in many universities in the UK, and has been particularly committed to Sino-UK international education cooperation.

He has successively served as Vice-Principal of Grimsby College, Vice-Principal of Croydon College, Vice-Principal of Warwick College, Vice-Principal of the University of Leicester, Executive Vice-Principal of Westminster City College, Executive Vice-Principal of United College London Group, and Senior consultant of Pinghan Public School, senior consultant of European Council of International Schools, international consultant of Swansea University, etc.