Don't you run the risk of training musicians who all sound like clones of each other?
No, not at all. It simply ensures a strong grasp of the basics. We must be careful not to generalise or oversimplify here. To say that I teach a graded curriculum doesn’t mean that that is the entirety of what we cover in the lessons, or that the student is solely there to learn how to pass an exam.
The syllabus presents a balanced starting point. The top grade, grade 8, is the equivalent of a level 3 qualification, an A-level, which 16 year olds complete. Obviously a pre-professional level, but a solid base.
Students following this curriculum are guaranteed a good exposure to lots of things, from theory and rudiments, to reading and musical styles, including improvisation. I use these all as starting points to explore further concepts.
I also rarely work through graded material with older drummers or those that come to me for specific things. The vast majority of my graded work is with young beginners, because it provides them with the fundamentals and a sense of achievement.
Creative musicians need a strong grasp of the fundamentals, which the graded path can provide. It’s not the only way, and I make it clear when I offer it that it is just one path, and not for everybody.
Standardisation of the fundamentals is not the same thing as pulling all the individuality out of the musician, or the creativity out of the lessons. It is just a starting point.
I would also respectfully suggest that my American friends commenting on it in a negative manner are doing so without actually understanding what the syllabus is, what it contains, and how it works, and are instead making false assumptions about the process and contents of the syllabus. I think if you saw what was involved and how it worked you might be more impressed than you might think.
From a personal perspective, it doesn’t matter to me either way. If the grading body collapsed tomorrow, it wouldn’t affect my lessons, it would just mean I could no longer offer that particular path. I have a grade 8 that I got over a decade ago. It’s nice to have, but it doesn’t define me as a musician.