The Victorian Music Workshop Report (School Music Action Group, 2007) sadly revealed that music education in Australian schools is in crisis. Across all schools the quality of music education was found to be variable with some students having limited provision, and with 10 percent of children missing out entirely. This report reinforced the findings of the Stevens Report (Stevens, 2003), commissioned by the Music Council of Australia in 2003, which found that students could go through 13 years of education without any participation in formal music education. One issue that was found to be conducive to the poor status of music education is the lack of music education support services.
These music education support services are: advisory teachers, curriculum specialists and music education officers who have the goal of improving the quality of, and access to, music learning. This need for music education support services is further highlighted by the Victorian Music Workshop Report (School Music Action Group, 2007) which found that there is a lack of musical competence in the existing teacher workforce. It is estimated that more than 75,000 Australian teachers are unable to deliver a music curriculum.
The current lack of music support services is detrimental to not only the learning and teaching of music, but also to the learning in non-musical curriculum domains, e.g. Literacy. The importance of music for students is well researched and will be discussed below, focusing on how it helps students become “Happy People” or inspired to “go into music”.
Music education uniquely contributes to the emotional, physical, social and cognitive growth of students. Music in schools contributes to both instrumental and aesthetic learning outcomes, transmission of cultural heritage and values, and student’s creativity, identity and capacity for self-expression and satisfaction. Suzuki (Dalcroze, Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, MLT) reinforces this view that it develops the child as a whole, making them a well-rounded “happy person”. Bartel (2014) states music teachers, consciously or unconsciously, are playing a role in the education of students who will go on to a professional career in music, and that the music curriculum is designed for this. One of the highest compliments music teachers can receive is that someone that they have taught was inspired to “go into music.”
Poor provisioning of the music curriculum through the lack of music support services effects the whole curriculum. One of the skills that the children may never have a chance to develop, as stated in the ACARA Music Curriculum from Foundation to 2, is to “Develop aural skills by exploring and imitating sounds, pitch and rhythm patterns using voice, movement and body percussion” which is part of “Exploring ideas and improvising with ways to represent ideas”. Also in the non-musical curriculum domains, such as literacy, without the support from music specialist teachers, current literacy teachers may never see how music could enhance their curriculum for example Foundation class activities eg. (ACARA Website) Examining literature / ACELT1578 “Identify some features of texts including events and characters and retell events from a text”. Music could be used to retell text in many ways and create scaffolding for the children to help them retell the story. One such method could be to use music to replace or enhance verbal emotional description. The teacher can discuss with the class what the characters felt at different stages of the story and get the children to express that through the use of musical instruments during the retell. This method uses multi-modal means, which is reinforced in Buchan, Rankin, (2013) where the use of a multi-modal research method offers children the opportunity to express their responses through a variety of artistic means of self-expression including drawing, painting, journal writing and poetry.
In conclusion the current 75,000+ Australian teachers struggling with introducing music into the school curriculum may not be fully aware of its importance or benefits. This is where teachers can find support from music education support services through the re-introduction of advisory teachers, curriculum specialists and music education officers. This will help students in becoming happier well rounded human beings and may possibly inspire the next great musician. So please get behind this issue and help show the Department of Education that Music Education needs the same commitment as Literacy, Numeracy and ICT. We all need to express the importance of the role that music education support services play in teaching “the whole child” as conceptualised by Suzuki (Dalcroze, Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, MLT).
Bartel, Lee R. (2004) QUESTIONING the MUSIC EDUCATION PARADIGM, Volume 2 Of The Biennial Series, Research To Practice ,Lee R. Bartel, Series Editor, Canadian Music Educators Association
Buchan, Sue. and Rankin, Beth. (2013) It Was The Right Beat!
Dalcroze, Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, MLT Approaches to Music Education
School Music Action Group (2007) Victorian Music Workshop Report
Stevens report. (2003) Music Council of Australia. Trends in School Music Education provision in Australia
ACARA website Arts curriculum http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/australian%20curriculum.pdf?Type=0&s=mu&e=ScopeAndSequence
As a pre-service teacher and a Maters of Education student I believe that the lack of musical competence in the existing teacher workforce (reported by the School Musical Action Group, 2007) is real. However, I believe that this is due to under training pre-service teachers on the subject of music, rather than the absence of perceived importance of music in the curriculum.
The truth is that there is a lack of specialist music teacher. More training should be implemented during tertiary studies so that emerging graduate teachers are able to provide their students with an adequate, continues and sequential music education, during their primary years (Lierse, Heinrich, & Kelly, 2012). An audit conducted in 2009 by the Australian Government’s Music Education Advisory Group, found that an average of 41.75 hours was allocated for the study of the Arts Curriculum. Of that only 16.99 hours are given to music (Lierse et al., 2012). This is a similar outcome for me in the masters course where a small 18 hours is allocated for music. Like the majority of classroom teachers, I do not feel that I have learnt to be competent enough in music, to then confidently translate it into my future primary school classroom.
Lierse, A., Heinrich, J., & Kelly, K (2012). Submission to the Inquiry into the Extent, Benefits and
Potential of Music Education in Victorian Schools being conducted by the Education and
Training Committee of the Parliament of Victoria. Melbourne, Australia: sMAG.
I am inclined to agree with Nikita, the lack of teacher competence in this field is almost certainly due to the domain being under-represented in their pre-service training (School Music Action Group, 2007). Perhaps some of us can relate to this, through our experience as primary school students. I, for one, was never encouraged to take my music education seriously, as it was, unfortunately, treated as a second priority to the other domains.
However, it seems that it is not uncommon for music educators to be left to their own devices and juggle other responsibilities such as dance and drama. This has resulted in a great many music teachers ‘burning out’ and loosing faith and passion in their domain (Ballantyne, Packer. 2004). Of course, this is not true to all music teachers but it does appear to be common enough to be a matter of particular concern. As mentioned in the Victorian Music Workshop Report as many as 75000 teachers are unable to deliver an adequate music curriculum (School Music Action Group. 2007). This is, to say the least, an alarming statistic and is proof enough in itself that considerable work is to be done if all students are to have a meaningful and enjoyable music education.
Ballantyne, J. (2005). Effectiveness of pre service music teacher education programs: Perceptions of early-career music teacher. Centre for Innovation in Education.
The existence of inadequate provision of primary music education certainly involves the limited training allocated for pre-service teachers, as this conversation has raised, however the complexity of connections between the Government Department of Education, tertiary education in teaching, and provision of music education in primary schools, needs to be considered when identifying key issues in pre-service teacher training. The Australian Curriculum and its strong emphasis on achievement standards in literacy and numeracy is a powerful influence (AGDE, 2014). This emphasis directs how schools allocate their funding with bias towards particular areas, and affects the range of employment a school offers. This emphasis is then reflected in pre-service teacher training. I disagree with the suggestion that there are limited specialists mostly because of inadequate pre-service training. I do think that pre-service teaching training needs expanding for generalist teachers, and that offering an option to specialize in music would be a possible way to address issues in schools. However, there are no doubt many employable specialist music teachers who hold tertiary qualifications in music, such as degrees from Departments of Music or from conservatoriums, and who have had various levels teacher training, but are unable to find work because schools do not have the funding and when budgets are organized music is deprioritized, and hence jobs as specialist music teachers are few.
Australian Government Department of Education (AGDE). (2014). Review of the Australian Curriculum: Final Report. Retrieved from:
It is alarming the point that Michael has raised and that appears in the first few paragraphs of the Victorian Music Workshop Report (SMAG 2007) where it states that music education in Australia is in crisis through music’s poor status, variable quality and limited provision with 10% of Australian children missing out all together. (SMAG 2007). I am also saddened that students can go through 13 years of education without any formal music education, (Stevens, 2003 as cited in SMAG 2007) it certainly paints a depressing picture of music education in the Victorian curriculum.
I agree with your synopsis that music education support would make a significant difference in the ability to improve the delivery of quality music education, but this needs to go hand in hand with pre service teacher training for both specialist and generalist teachers and that this be complimented by professional development for teachers. (SMAG, 2007) It is a very valid point you make Michael in your conclusion where you state that 75,000+ Australian teachers may not be fully aware of the importance or benefits of quality music education, as ‘you don’t know what
you don’t know’. Research indicates that pre service teachers undertaking Bachelor of
Education (Primary) only received a total of 42 hours for music education, in comparison to countries like Finland (270 hours) and Korea (160 hours) where music education is between 4 to 7 times that of Melbourne generalist teachers (Joseph, 2014). Its no wonder that the Parliament of Victoria (Education and Training Committee, 2013) stated that pre service teachers need better music training before they attempt to deliver music education in the primary school classroom. (Joseph, 2014; Education and Training Committee, 2013). This research highlights the need to minimise this gap through the use of music education officers, curriculum specialists and advisory teachers as part of music education support services in Victorian schools.
School Music Action Group (2007) Victorian Music Workshop Report
Education and Training Committee (2013) Inquiry into the extent, benefits and potential of music education in Victorian schools
Joseph, D,. 2014, Opportunities and challenges: preparing generalist teacher education students in music education in Australia, International Journal of humanities education, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 13‐26.
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