A group of sixteen secondary school trainee music teachers had noted that Indian music featured in a current GCSE syllabus and decided to explore the musical practices of India and the Punjab together as a group. There was already some knowledge of this within the group. Some had attended classical Indian recitals and there was knowledge that had recently been researched in preparation for the session.
I joined the group for the first part of the morning and had in mind the question:
How could a GCSE Area of Study that included the music of the Indian sub-continent open the minds of pupils to fresh ways of thinking about music and the ways in which it is practised?
What would it mean to view it as a socio-cultural practice?
How could its otherness be recognised?
I had written earlier about the dangers of ‘sameing’ that lead to an avoidance of the complexities of difference. (See https://jfin107.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/gcse-music-and-the-dialogue-of-difference/) Was I making a fuss about nothing?
In Gary Spruce’s ‘Culture, society and musical learning’ chapter in the book ‘Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School’ he points out that recent music scholarship proposes that ‘ … music can be understood fully and by implication, taught effectively if only one takes into account the social, political, cultural and economic factors that impact on its production, dissemination and reception.’ 
In this view the musical features, techniques and processes of Indian Classical music can only be made sense of inside a much larger web of human worldly activity that is much more than a GCSE syllabus is likely to recognise. And much more than what is conveniently labelled as ‘context’.
‘Context’ would seem an inadequate way of describing what is being proposed. The idea of context allows this worldly-wise music to be reduced to an add-on-by-the-way category and with culture thought of as a way of life discounted.
Turning to the trainee teachers and their workshop, they were well into making Indian Classical music. I’ve long been fascinated by the alap with its tasting and testing of the rag and then the moment of change locking into the thing itself. I think I would want to explore this in some depth along with why this rag and how can it claim to possess a particular ethos.
How are such meanings socially-culturally constructed?
What political circumstances lie behind the need to fix musical meanings?
As I thought about possible talking points I was reminded of the industry that has grown up around GCSE Areas of Study, the bite size information packs and the vast store of information about the music of India that is out there. Alas, information is not knowledge of any variety.
One trainee wanted to know about how Indian classical music had changed over time. Were its practices time-bound?
Just how old is the classical Indian musical canon?
How do its religious roots relate to its developing structures?
What is the significance of cyclical patterns?
Then, of course there is Bhangra and Bollywood and more opportunity to
‘embrace complexity, resists early closure and allow time for pupils to explore unexpected pathways into deeper learning, responding with flexibility to follow new turnings.’ 
To offer such a rich topic as just one segment of an Area of Study would seem to be parsimonious by an exam board.
 Spruce, G. (2016) Culture, society and musical learning. In (eds) Carolyn cooke, Keith Evans, Chris Philpott and Gary Spruce, Learning to Teach in the Secondary School. Routledge.