Although the growth of music education has been inconsistent since its inception, due to cuts in the early 1990s more than 50 per cent of secondary schools and an even greater number of primary schools were forced to diminish or completely dispose of their music programs (Lierse, 1999 as cited in School Music Action Group [SMAG], 2007). Now, where there is desire to create new music programs or reconstruct the old, numerous schools around Australia are hindered by lack of resources including equipment and facilities (SMAG, 2007). These resources are necessary if students are to have access to ongoing, sequential and developmental music programs.
The National Review of School Music Education [NRSME] (2005) discuss three key issues in the area of facilities and equipment which include:
• The facilities in which music programs are to be led and their appropriateness for use.
• Equipment, including instruments, needed by teachers and students and;
• Funding for maintenance and repairs to guarantee that all equipment, facilities and ultimately programs run by a school remain worthwhile (NRSME, 2005).
Buchan and Rankin (2015) state that school leaders such as principles and teachers may often be unaware of the benefits and values of music programs in student learning. However, although the decision to create a music program that is deemed accessible to students is ultimately that of the principle, difficulties in accessing equipment and facilities is a major barrier preventing schools from delivering such a program (SMAG, 2007). For example, in a study of sample schools outlined in the NRSME (2005), 51% of music classes were taught in non-specialised classrooms, 46% were taught in the school hall and a mere 28% were taught in purpose built rooms.
Lack of resources is an important issue as music education has been suggested to have several links with the development of both literacy and numeracy-based skills and competencies in students (Catterall & Waldrof, 1999). Furthermore, students that have access to and participate in high-quality school music programs, score higher on standardised tests than those who have limited or no involvement in a school-based music program (Johnson & Memmott, 2007). This data suggests that not only should Australian schools begin implementing music programs where there are none, but work on improving existing music programs, especially in regards to the quality of resources available to the students, to develop a higher level of musical education. For example, De Vries (2010) states that students’ engagement with music is becoming more connected to new technologies and that these technologies are playing a vital role in music education. These technological resources are vast and include a variety of different forms such as computer programs, electric instruments and music industry necessities such as studio recording equipment. According to the NRSME (2005) lack of adequate technological equipment is a growing concern in many schools as they attempt to meet the growing needs of music programs. However, due to various financial issues that many schools face, shortages in funding are often apparent and consequently lead to deterioration in the quality of equipment and facilities available for music education (Bartel, 2004).
Reforms and suggestions for change mostly reflect the desire for various state Governments to take action in providing schools with the necessary equipment and facilities needed to host their own music programs. For example, SMAG (2007) suggested that funding be provided for equipment and facilities to all schools that actively include music education as part of their schools program. This is in order for the school to deliver programs that are in line with the Guidelines for Effective Music Education set out in the NRSME. Furthermore it is suggested that a re-examination of current instrumental grants be undertaken to ensure that funding is only going to those schools that have legitimate instrumental programs. Alternatively, it is also suggested in the NRSME (2005) that communities and parents should support music education programs through fundraising and recommending funding for facilities and equipment. This suggestion can be reinforced by research from the Australian Music Association (Australian Attitudes to Music, 2007 as cited in SMAG, 2007), which shows that 89% of parents encourage music education to be part of the school curriculum whilst 84% of parents that a child’s intellectual growth is a direct result of their access to music education. From these recommendations, it is vital that we remedy the lack of resources and facilities available in schools to promote a high-quality level of music education.
Bartel, L. (2004). What is the Music Education Paradigm? Questioning the Music Education Paradigm. Volume II of the Series “Research to Practice: A Biennial Series.” Toronto: Canadian Music Educators Association.
Buchan, S., & Rankin, B. (2015). It was the right beat: children’s need for immediately accessible music. 1-26.
Catterall, J.S., & Waldorf, L. (1999). Chicago arts partnerships in education. Executive summary evaluation. In E Fiske (Ed), Champions of change: the impact of the arts on learning, Washington DC: The Arts Partnership and the President’s Committee of the Arts and Humanities (pp. (viii – x).
Church, T., Leong, S., MacCallum, J., Mackinlay, E., Marsh, K., Pascoe, R., Smith, B., & Winterton, A. (2005). National review of school music education: Augmenting the diminished. Australian Government Department of Education, Science & Training, The Centre for Learning, Change & Development, Murdoch University.
De Vries, P. (2010). What we want: the music preferences of upper primary school students and the ways they engage with music. Australian Journal of Music Education, 1, 3-16.
Johnson, C. M., & Memmott, J. E. (2007). Examination of relationships between participation in school music programs of differing quality and standardized test results. Journal of Research in Music Education, 54(4), 293-307.
School Music Action Group. (2007). Victorian music workshop report. Retrieved from http://www.amuse.vic.edu.au/images/files/EXTRA/Vic%20Music%20Workshop%20report%20May.pdf
I agree with you, Samantha, that key to effective music programs are the resources and infrastructure that are part of it. I was particularly drawn to your discussion about technological resources and how the lack of these in some schools’ music programs is of concern to the quality of the programs offered to students. This is particularly important in light of Cain’s (2004) argument that there is a need for music education curricula and classroom practices to “keep pace with the world outside” (p. 219). Music technology is important for various reasons, and a lack of resources in this area can mean significant disadvantages for students. Firstly, music technology is known to increase students’ access to music education (Cain, 2004, p. 217; Byrne & Macdonald, 2002, p. 268). In addition, the presence and use of ICT in music learning has been found to add to the quality of lessons provided by teachers, increases in students’ confidence, creativity and quality of work and greater levels of enjoyment for students (Southcott & Crawford, 2011, p. 122; Munteanu et al., 2014, p. 249; Byrne & Macdonald, 2002, p. 266). In a more general sense, the use of music technology fosters the development of problem solving and critical thinking abilities, while enabling students to become individual explorers and learners as it facilitates their learning (Southcott & Crawford, 2011, p. 124-125 & 128). Therefore, schools that lack resources such as music technology within their music curriculum are prevented from being able to develop programs that better meet the needs of their students as learners in the twenty-first century.
Byrne, C. & Macdonald, R. A. R. (2002). The Use of Information & Communication Technology (I&CT) in the Scottish Music Curriculum: A focus group investigation of themes and issues. Music Education Research, 4(2), 263-273,
Cain, T. (2004). Theory, technology and the music curriculum. British Journal of Music Education, 21(2), 215-221, DOI: 10.1017/S0265051704005650.
Munteanu, L. H., Gorghiu, G., & Gorghiu, L. M. (2014). The Role of New Technologies for Enhancing Teaching and Learning in Arts Education. Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences 122, 245 – 249, DOI:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.1336.
Southcott, J., & Crawford, R. (2011). The intersections of curriculum development: Music, ICT and Australian music education. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(1), 122-136.
I thought the point you made that participating in high quality music programs correlates with students performing better in standardised tests was interesting and can be supported by my reading which states that music develops students’ ability to think critically and creatively which is important to all other learning areas including those focused on by NAPLAN (Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in Music Education). Funding shortages would not be helped by the funding system that requires schools to perform at high levels with minimal funding (Horsley, 2009). This has resulted in many schools focusing on the basics, those learning areas subject to standardised testing, and also seen as key for attaining employment (Horsley, 2009). Educators also have the added disadvantage when arguing for funding with not having agreed upon goals for their learning area and having been forced to band together with the other arts learning areas in order to keep themselves as a key component of the curriculum when these various arts have completely different needs in funding and equipment (Horsley, 2009). Music educators need to have an agreed measure of high quality education for their field in order to present a stronger argument for funding, giving more time to their learning area and gaining better equipment and facilities.
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
With modern technology proliferation music equipment is becoming electronic. For example, we used iPads for a recent music class to make sounds and music on different music and recording apps. Equipment like this makes music more fun for students and gives some of them a new experience. One way to make sure that schools have the opportunity to acquire new equipment is to give them extra funding or launch a fundraising campaign for school families. I agree with Cassandra that there are problems with learning goals and the overall curriculum, but I think that giving music teachers extra funding to get new equipment may push them to redo the music curriculum and iron out the kinks. In addition, the funding will give the students valuable tools to learn with (Rudolph, 2004)
• Rudolph, T, (2004), Teaching Music with Technology, Chicago: GIA Publications.
I really found the data that Samantha gave us on lack of facilities to be quite interesting. I am astonished that music classes are not taught at minimum 75% in specialised classrooms and that school halls. Non specialised rooms and school halls are being used to conduct music lessons in is dreadful and I cannot imagine how students learn music in those areas.
The information you found surrounding lack of technology resources for a number of schools and especially remote schools was similar to my own research in this area. Many students in schools with lack of funding will not receive adequate access to new technology and therefore the benefits in which technology can increase students musical performance and understanding (Crawford, 2013; Southcott & Crawford, 2011). A remedy this problem of lack of resources or accessibility of resources that you and I both researched was suggestion of creating an online music program for students to access and learn from (Crawford, 2013). This program or project has seen students in remote areas given an opportunity to battle back against their lack of access to high quality teaching, mentoring or musical resources. The students could access videos, books and lessons on music education so that they in a way could teach themselves along with possible assistance from a teacher or mentor (Crawford, 2013). This could be an excellent remedy to remote area schools were the teachers may not have great knowledge of music education and cannot/will not teach students quality music education. Even schools in metropolitan areas can use this system to help and encourage their students to partake in music education outside of the class or use it inside the classroom to help the teacher to educate students. The government could look at making a program like this free for all students to access during their education, in school and at home.
Although this is not an immediate fix, I believe an easily accessible music program like this could help to rectify issues with schools who do not have enough technological equipment or teaching tools available at present to educate their students in music education.
Crawford, R. (2013). Evolving technologies require educational policy change: Music education for the 21st century. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(5), 717-734.
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