Here in the UK we are in the midst of our spring exam session, with our exciting new ARSM (Associate of the Royal Schools of Music) diploma fast becoming a feature of the regular exam day.
Candidates across the world are now taking the ARSM, with entries confirmed in many countries, including China where I was last week. I was there to introduce and explain this new diploma in detail to interested music teachers, and to outline the value and benefits of ARSM for teachers and students.
During the week I visited four cities, presenting seminars in the capital, Beijing, Dalian in the north east, Wuhan in central China, and Hefei in the east. It can be hard for us in the UK to grasp quite the size and scale of Chinese cities and their populations. The smallest of the cities I visited has a similar sized population to Greater London, whereas Beijing, with a population of just under 25 million, has around three times this number!
At each seminar it quickly became apparent that there is a thriving and growing community of committed, motivated young instrumental teachers in China, keen to develop their music teaching skills, knowledge and understanding. There were around 100 teachers at each seminar – sometimes more.
Many Chinese candidates have already passed Grade 8, so a diploma which gives purpose and direction to their learning and progress is of real relevance and interest. Teachers welcome ARSM as an accessible first diploma which provides all-important focus and motivation for their advanced students.
At the seminars there was a real sense of positivity towards the opportunity ARSM can provide for students. There was particular interest in the flexibility around programme choice, which allows candidates to build on already familiar pieces while exploring new repertoire. Everyone was also keen to find out about the ARSM marking criteria. Uniquely, these include a focus on ‘performance as a whole’, with marks awarded for overall, holistic aspects of performance. This is designed to encourage a rounded musical approach which balances both artistry and skill.
ABRSM exams are growing in popularity in China. For advanced students the ARSM offers a letter-bearing qualification with no language-related requirements. In China, as elsewhere, teachers and students are often concerned about the big gap between Grade 8 and our DipABRSM diploma. As a new assessment to bridge this gap, ARSM is already proving to be both welcome and popular.
As always, it’s a privilege to meet so many inspiring teachers, eager to learn more about music teaching and about this new qualification. In the coming months, I’m very keen to help and support teachers in understanding this important addition to our exams and assessments. In the meantime, you can explore the syllabus and watch our ARSM films!