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SCHOOLS

Germans stop learning to play music

Few countries have produced more acclaimed classical composers than Germany. But there are discordant signs that the home of Bach, Beethoven, Wagner and Handel could be squandering its musical heritage.

Germans stop learning to play music
Photo: DPA

The number of households where musical instruments are played has declined by nearly 30 percent over the past four years, according to a new survey which suggest instruments are falling silent or disappearing altogether.

Just 17.7 percent of households now make any of their own acoustic music, according to a study “Music-making and musical instruments in Germany”, published on Wednesday.

The survey, commissioned by the Union of the Musical Instrument and Musical Equipment Industry (SOMM) and carried out by the independent Society for Consumer Research (GfK), was based on a representative poll of 11,000 Germans.

The rate of decline which it revealed should certainly set alarm bells ringing – as recently as 2008, 25.6 of households percent were still playing, meaning that the number of musical homes has declined by almost 30 percent in just four years.

“It´s terrifying how far these numbers have fallen,” said Daniel Knöll, head of the instrument-maker´s union. “Instruments are just lying around in seven million households.”

But it´s not only those with a financial interest in the musical trade who should be concerned. These figures cast some doubt on where the next generation of musicians will come from.

Although half of all children aged between six and eleven begin learning an instrument, less than half of those are still playing by the time they leave school. They often cite time pressures and rival interests as the reason for their abandonment.

A marked generation gap is opening up between the Mix-tape and the Facebook generations: a clear majority of those actively making music are now aged between 30 and 59.

Wider benefits from playing an instrument could also be lost. Picking up a violin or tinkering around with a keyboard are not only of a source of pleasure to many, but scientists now believe that regular practice could support a range of cognitive functions, from encouraging language development to helping overcome learning difficulties.

Of particular interest for a rapidly ageing society is the observation that making music appears to slow – or even prevent – mental deterioration in old age.

The solution, according to Knöll, starts in Germany´s schools.

“We need to bring music-making back into the schools,” he said.

And perhaps the internet itself could provide part of the solution to young people´s lack of musical knowledge. According to Knöll, “video-tutorials are springing up all over the place.”

DAPD/The Local/pmw

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DISCRIMINATION

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

Parents with Arabic-sounding names get a less friendly response and less help when choosing schools in Sweden, according to a new study from the University of Uppsala.

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

In one of the largest discrimination experiments ever carried out in the country, 3,430 primary schools were contacted via email by a false parent who wanted to know more about the school. The parent left information about their name and profession.

In the email, the false parent stated that they were interested in placing their child at the school, and questions were asked about the school’s profile, queue length, and how the application process worked. The parent was either low-educated (nursing assistant) or highly educated (dentist). Some parents gave Swedish names and others gave “Arabic-sounding” names.

The report’s author, Jonas Larsson Taghizadeh said that the study had demonstrated “relatively large and statistically significant negative effects” for the fictional Arabic parents. 

“Our results show that responses to emails signed with Arabic names from school principals are less friendly, are less likely to indicate that there are open slots, and are less likely to contain positive information about the school,” he told The Local. 

READ ALSO: Men with foreign names face job discrimination in Sweden: study

The email responses received by the fictional Arabic parents were rated five percent less friendly than those received by the fictional Swedish parents, schools were 3.2 percentage points less likely to tell Arabic parents that there were open slots at the school, and were 3.9 percentage points less likely to include positive information about the municipality or the school. 

There was no statistically significant difference in the response rate and number of questions answered by schools to Swedish or Arabic-sounding parents. 

Taghizadeh said that there was more discrimination against those with a low social-economic status job than against those with an Arabic name, with the worst affected group being those who combined the two. 

“For socioeconomic discrimination, the results are similar, however, here the discrimination effects are somewhat larger,” he told The Local. 

Having a high economic status profession tended to cancel out the negative effects of having an Arabic name. 

“The discrimination effects are substantially important, as they could potentially indirectly influence parents’ school choice decision,” Taghizadeh said.

Investigating socioeconomic discrimination is also important in itself, as discrimination is seldom studied and as explicit discrimination legislation that bans class-based discrimination is rare in Western countries including Sweden, in contrast to laws against ethnic discrimination.” 

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