Accountability in music education can be interpreted in many ways. Who is to be held accountable and to whom? In many nations accountability in education is structured as top down, which means that the local education providers or teachers are held accountable to the government (Horsley, 2009). This structure is expressed in education through standardised testing such as NAPLAN and government determined curriculum (Horsley, 2009). Shouldn’t both the education providers and the government be held accountable to the public, the people that are consuming education? In order to achieve this music educators need to be empowered to influence, express both positive and negative opinions in order to develop education policy alongside government (Horsley, 2009). In order to help music education remain an important part of the curriculum they have had to band together with other arts educators whose only commonality is the fight for survival (Horsley, 2009). It can be argued that globalisation has influenced our current education system. Horsley has noted that schools in many western countries have been forced to adopt a more business style of management in which they must achieve the best results with the smallest amount of resources. This minimal resource approach has resulted in school reforms that ‘frame education as a vehicle for creating human capital capable of competing in a global workforce’ (Horsley, 2009, p.6). This means focusing on the basics has become the most important element in determining education policy in order to groom students to achieve employment in the highly competitive globalised world (Horsley, 2009).
How do arts educators determine a consensus of standards for their programs to also justify their program? There is currently ‘no accountability mechanisms for the arts learning area, let alone music specifically’ (Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in Music Education, p.30) which reinforces the low standing of music in the curriculum. To find the standards to hold students to Blakeske argues to use three factors; if we expect students to achieve these standards, the breadth of student achievement and the portion of the students involved in the program. Blakeske also argues that US arts education programing is currently set at a level which the majority of students will have challenges meeting the standard, yet not high enough for any students who wish to achieve arts careers. Arts educators need to constantly critique their programs for the validity to the curriculum, particularly to the government, one program that comes under scrutiny for its relevance to the curriculum is artist in residence (Blakeske, 2004). We need to push programs with historical and theoretical knowledge and that encourages performance skills such as improvisation and composition.
Arts educators need to have clarity in policy and programs for themselves and also to strengthen the fight to keep the arts as a key subject in education (Blakeske, 2004). The success of music programs could be measured by the number of hours dedicated to it per week. This is especially useful in a system that is so full of different areas all competing for limited resources and time in an environment that has standardised testing on certain subjects. It could be argued that music needs to have the same style of evidence based assessment as other subjects and an audit system to maintain standards in the program (Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in Music Education). It is often overlooked that music develops students’ ability to think critically and creatively which is important to all other areas of education (Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in Music Education).
In conclusion music education needs to have agreed upon goals, policy and standards. This can be used to continue to push music as an important area in education that benefits students by creating opportunities to think critically and creatively. Music along with the rest of the arts have had to band together with the only element in common being that they are always having time taken away to focus on learning areas subjected to standardised testing and seen as necessary in order to gain employment in this competitive and globalised world.
Blakeske, M (2004), Assembling the Arts Education Jigsaw, Arts Education Policy Review, 105(4) 31-36. DOI:10.3200/AEPR.105.4.31-36.
Horsley, S (2009), The Policy of Public Accountability: Implications for Centralized Music Education Policy Development and Implementation, Arts Education Policy Review, 110(4), 6-13. DOI:10.3200/AEPR.110.4.6-13.
Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in Music Education, p.30, retrieved from LEO.
I agree that music education should have clear goals, policies and standards that can be measured. If music educators were to play a large role in determining these outcomes, I believe we would provide a better education for children in the future. The Government and Principles should play a role in determining these outcomes also, but certainly in collaboration with music educators. Music has important benefits on childhood learning, such as developing cognitive processes like verbal memory (Rickard, 2010, p. 41). These benefits can often be overlooked or ignored. Principles and members of Government may be ignorant of the importance of music, which is where music educators could promote the importance of music and suggest realistic accountability and reporting methods from their experience in the music field.
Having proper accountability and reporting methods would promote the importance of musical education. Children will be able to work towards goals and have more reason to practice, improve and enjoy their education.
Rickard, N., Vasquez, J., Murphy, F., Gill, A., & Toukhsati, S. (2010). “Benefits of a classroom based instrumental music program on verbal memory of primary school children: a longitudinal study.” Australian Journal of Music Education, 1, 36-47. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy2.acu.edu.au/docview/873379245/abstract/B5834FDE073B41A5PQ/1?accountid=8194
It’s evidence based studies that show music learning has benefits for the developmental child. Rickard is amongst many educators who have formalised studies in developing ‘processes’ for transparent debate. In order to have a seat at the curriculum table, the message must be put in similar terms as Maths, Language and Science.The worry is that Music and Arts then have to bat in the competitive arena of stakeholders and private business funding, of which by definition Arts is against in method approach.
I like your idea of consuming Education as a government pinnacle and that it is a consumer commodity. It puts music in a light of, one of human expendables, and thus subject to monetary and trade-able outcomes. It is then as you say managed and quantifiable on a scale ruler, like NAPLAN testing, so why isn’t it given the same listing on the curriculum stakes?
The double-edged sword is, who is accountable to whom? yes.
Surely the direction of human existence is changing towards sustainability in both the Arts and Sciences.
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