China defuses song and dance over Peking Opera

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has made clear that a pilot programme teaching traditional Peking Opera in schools would not be compulsory after it drew criticism from Internet users who said forced instruction would turn students off.

China’s Education Ministry said classic and modern Peking Opera pieces added to the music curriculum at 200 schools in 10 provinces for the new semester in March were only “a promotional course” to help students better appreciate Chinese culture.

“The opera classes are by no means a nationwide compulsory class, but pilot programmes implemented in certain schools from March to July,” Xinhua news agency quoted Education Ministry spokesman Wang Xuming as saying.

Wang said the programme was still under trial and his ministry would solicit opinions from all circles.

The course had drawn fire from some Internet users, and media commentaries had questioned how music teachers, themselves untrained in Peking Opera, would educate students in the complex gestures and trilling vocals.

Chinese education authorities have been criticised for other attempts to give students’ a broader scope of learning.

Parents in Zhengzhou, capital of China’s central province of Henan, had voiced concerns that a compulsory course teaching children “Shaolin boxing” -- a martial art created by the region’s famous Shaolin Temple -- might lead to children becoming more violent, Tuesday’s China Daily said.