Indian schools in UAE making Indian dance, music lessons compulsory


Generation at risk of losing touch with their culture, says Dubai artist

Dubai: Indian performing arts should be a compulsory subject across Indian schools in the UAE, according to an artist leading a campaign to preserve culture and heritage.

Jogiraj Sikidar, founder and director of Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts in Dubai, said a generation risks alienation with classical Indian music and dance unless children are taught them in school.

Two Indian schools in Dubai – GEMS Heritage Indian School and GEMS Modern Academy – have already made the subject mandatory and, Sikidar said, more are expected to follow.

He added that unless Indian performing arts are made part of the curriculum, they will slowly fade out, losing a part of Indian culture and identity. And because it takes years to learn the arts, children must be taught from a young age, Sikidar said.

At the two schools, a total of around 2,500 children from grade one to six are taking daily classes in vocals, dance or instrumental music, taught by teachers from Malhaar. Parents are not charged extra for the classes, Sikidar said.

‘Make it compulsory’

“You have to make it a compulsory subject otherwise it will never happen; people will always treat it an as option or hobby,” he added.

Sikidar said besides the cultural value, the performing arts help children use the brain’s “creative half”, build confidence and communication skills, increase their university admission prospects and even improve behaviour by teaching them anger management.

“With the way the world is moving, how Artificial Intelligence is taking over, these qualities will be most important when children grow up. Performing arts are no less important than, say, maths and science.”

According to Sikidar, this is the first time a movement has begun to make Indian performing arts a mandatory school subject.

Approved classes

The classes are approved by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), he said.

Malhaar, in association with the schools, organises “internal exams” and certificates for grades one to three. Grades four and above take “external exams” and certificates from visiting examiners from “widely recognised” performing arts accrediting bodies in India and London.

“Other schools can see the results, now that it’s happening; they’re getting convinced to make it mandatory.”

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