The Victorian Music Workshop Report (2008) revealed that music education in Australian schools is in a state of crisis. Over the years, music education in Victoria has had its’ “ups and downs,” however, it has never recovered from the early 1990s when 50 per cent of secondary schools and an even larger number of primary schools were forced to reduce or close their music programs.The Victorian Music Workshop Report (2008) alarmingly reveals that Victorian students could complete 13 years of schooling without engaging in any form of music education. Sadly, this is a reflection of the poor status music education holds despite the overwhelming research which verifies the social, emotional and physical benefits on student development.
The National Review of School Music Education has suggested that ongoing professional development for teachers can help improve and flourish music within schools. However, there are significant issues regarding professional development for teachers including a decline in support services, skill and curriculum deficits, difficulties in locating and securing teaching resources and limited music knowledge and skills (Victorian Music Workshop Report, 2008). Alter, Hays and O’Hara (2009) argue that generalist teachers have been perceived both by themselves, and others, as lacking the experience, training and subject knowledge to teach arts education effectively and this in turn has caused teachers to lack confidence in teaching music. Wiggins and Wiggins (2008) suggest that when prospective teachers enter pre-service education they have had approximately twelve years of extensive knowledge in mathematics, English and science. Mathematics and science are compulsory subjects taught every semester from foundation to year 10, English is compulsory from foundation to year 12 and “the arts” including music, visual arts, dance and drama are only compulsory from foundation to year 8. We would not allow someone who stopped studying mathematics in year 5 to teach mathematics therefore we should not allow someone who stopped studying music in year 5 to teach music without adequate and ongoing training.
Music needs to be given priority in education because it has the potential to develop different ways of thinking. Music enables students to think aesthetically, creatively, critically, logically and intuitively (School Music Action Group, 2012). Thus, music is likely to enhance the interdisciplinary learning area “Thinking Processes” in the Australian Curriculum. Furthermore, Catterall and Waldrof (1999) (as cited in the Victorian Music Workshop Report, 2012) argue that there are demonstrated links with music and the development of literacy and numeracy skills. It is best to promote literacy and numeracy through a broad and balanced curriculum which includes the arts.
It is vital for teachers to receive continued assistance via professional development because teachers cannot be given all the skills and confidence through pre-service training. Ongoing professional learning is required and needs to be supported by our education system. In order for the music curriculum to be delivered effectively, each school should have access to a trained music specialist. In Australia, only Queensland and Tasmania have access to a music specialist who is able to utilise the expertise of the parents and surrounding community for the benefit of the children (School Music Action Group, 2012). Whilst this is a long term goal, primary school teachers could receive group instrumental lessons in the meantime. An accredited course, endorsed and subsidised by the Government could be set up with outside providers to encourage the use of music in education. Bartel (2004) suggests that teachers who are brave enough to use music in the classroom find it life-giving, self motivating and less stressful.
In order for music to be successfully implemented into the National curriculum, music needs to be given priority and more funding in both university and schools. The Victorian Department of Education needs to work collaboratively with Universities, the music sector and school leaders to develop a continuous professional learning program for all teachers within music education. This needs to be supported by the Government to ensure adequate funding is provided (Russell-Bowie, 2010). It is vital to ensure that primary teachers are given more opportunities to be effectively trained prior to becoming full time teachers (Russell-Bowie, 2010). Robinson (2010) argues that sciences, humanities, physical education, the arts, languages and maths all play an equally important role in student development so it is time to stop overlooking “the arts” as an option and start viewing them with great importance.
Alter, F., Hays, T., & O’Hara, R. (2009). Creative arts teaching and practice: Critical reflections of primary school teachers in Australia. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 10(9).
Bartel, L.R. (2004). Questioning the Music Education Paradigm. Canada: Canadian Music Educators’ Association.
Russell-Bowie, D. (2010). A ten year follow-up investigation of preservice generalist primary teachers’ background and confidence in teaching music. Australian Journal of Music Education 2. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy1.acu.edu.au/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CA310516884&v=2.1&u=acuni&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&authCount=1
School Music Action Group (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 from the School Music Action Group.
Victorian Music Workshop Report (2008). School Music Action Group.
Wiggins, R., & Wiggins, J. (2008). Primary music education in the absence of specialists. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 9,1-26.
In addition to assistance for registered teachers, more government funding and ongoing professional learning, perhaps these are all examples of revamp needed in the education system for primary school teachers. Perhaps Alanah is also suggesting it’s time for a new movement. One of which primary school teachers choose their discipline, whether Maths and Science or Arts and Humanities based but an area relevant to their undergrad in which teachers have a passion, solid knowledge and access to ongoing assistance. As a Pre-Service Teacher I see the validity in all subjects from LOTE to Physical Education to Visual Art being taught. But I cannot say that six weeks worth of musical educational provides a solid foundation for me to teach music. Let alone teach Sport and Health and Visual Art, which are all subjects that schools choose one over another. In fact, these four subjects mentioned are all very different and there should be a change in which equal dispersion takes place amongst primary school timetables, just as English, maths are. These other subjects are of equal importance and highlight other abilities in an indirect, safe environment where students exhibit these basic skills interchangeably and in a more complex sophisticated manner, producing interesting and balanced future adults (Sinclair, 2012).
Sinclair, C., Jeanneret, N., O’Toole, J. (2012) Education in the arts. Second Edition South Melbourne, Victoria : Oxford University Press (pages 4 -20)
All the points Alanah have made a very important and I agree with them all. Hunter (2011) found pre-service teachers do not feel that they have strong enough interpersonal skills to advocate effectively, and others feel that they lack understanding of the issues because of their inexperience in music education. Pre-service teachers go into schools with a little knowledge of music education, though all areas of subjects are important for students to learn. Teachers and pre-services teachers in more ongoing professional learning to ensure music is being taught effectively and they have the skills need to teach the students. I believe this is very important because as a pre-service teacher I do not believe the six weeks of music education I have undertaken is enough for me to effectively teach music education for a extended period of time and more professional learning would be greatly beneficial. I believe music is just as important as mathematics and literacy, as it can help students learn in a whole new way, and expose them to many new and exciting things. With it being such an important area in education, the government and schools should provide funding to music education and ensure there is constant professional development for teachers year to year. As music is always growing teacher’s knowledge should be growing as well.
Hunter, L, R. (2011). School-University Partnerships: A Means for the Inclusion of Policy Studies in Music Teacher Education. Arts Education Policy Review, 112(3), 137. doi:10.1080/10632913.2011.566086
I agree with with Alanah that professional development for pre-service teachers and in-service teachers is of paramount importance for the future of music education in schools. I conducted my own query into the psyche of teachers in New Zealand who are teaching or learning to teach music and the arts in the new curriculum that has been introduced in New Zealand. I was not surprised to find that like ourselves and many other pre-service teachers, our New Zealand counterparts received a similar lack of training in music education at university (Bell, 2010). This made me interested to find out about their professional development opportunities of in-service teachers in New Zealand compared with in-service teachers in Australia, hoping that I could suggest that the Australian teachers could receive the same development as our neighbors. However, I was shocked to find that “Inservice training opportunities and advisory support services offer little to compensate for the lack of preservice training for primary teachers in many parts of the country” (Bell, 2010, p.41). With this in mind, I agree with Alanah that a course could be set up that teachers could undertake to further their own musical aptitude and their ability to educate children in music education. This, in conjunction with better university training, will increase the confidence and competence of all primary teachers who may have to undertake music lessons at school. Could a shared scheme between Australia and New Zealand be a logical idea? I don’t see why a combined scheme in which primary teachers from both countries could learn together and learn more about the inner workings of each others arts curriculum being a bad idea. I am in full support of both pre and in-service teachers receiving adequate professional development to teach music.
Bell, D. (2010). Visual arts education in New Zealand: curriculum, promise and challenge. Curriculum Matters, 6. 28-47.
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