The argument as made to Ministers and Education Departments

The argument as made to Ministers and Education Departments

This is a summary of the proposition as it is being presented to Ministers and Education Departments, with variations as required from state to state. It is consistent with agreements entered into by the states, including the Melbourne Manifesto:
That every Australian child will have the opportunity for a quality music education throughout his or her school years.
We address in particular music’s situation in primary schools.

  • All states have agreed to teach the Australian Curriculum in music, once approved, with local adaptations.
  • But in probably more than 80% of primary schools in some states, the music curriculum is not taught – and nor, in present circumstances, will the Australian Curriculum be taught, because the teachers are not sufficiently educated in music.
  • Research by the Music Council of Australia shows that nationally on average, Initial Teacher Education (ITE) undergraduate courses include 17 hours of mandatory music education. This purports to equip teachers to deliver the music curriculum for the seven years K to 6. There could be no basis in analysis or research that would show that this preparation is sufficient to achieve the objective.

There are two possible strategies for delivering the agreed music curriculum in primary schools:

  1. Music is taught by primary school specialist music teachers
  2. Music is taught by generalist primary classroom teachers, but with the necessary music education competencies

Option 1:

Music is taught by primary school specialist music teachers, as in Queensland, Tasmania, the majority of primary schools in Western Australia, many in South Australia and an unknown number in the other states and territories. This is the solution strongly supported by the profession and in 2012 by now Federal Minister for Education Christopher Pyne.

  1. Primary school music specialists can be employed by school principals in most states under delegated authority and funding. (In NSW, this begins in 2014.) There is no additional cost to the state budget.
  2. Specialist music teachers can be accessible to small and remote schools by high quality videoconference if sufficient bandwidth is available. Scenarios can be suggested.
  3. The main obstacles to successful adoption of this scenario are
    1. a lack of accredited primary school music specialists,
    2. the absence of training programs that will produce sufficient graduates in a timely manner and
    3. a means by which principals can discover accredited personnel.
  4. It is proposed that where this problems needs to be addressed, states consider special temporary measures to establish a program of training for primary school music specialists; this can be phased out as normal tertiary courses can be introduced and produce graduates. The special training programs might be in the form of 10-week intensives, as were used in Queensland when the government introduced specialist music teachers.
  5. In some states, principals are hiring teacher who self-identify as specialists but who may not have solid specialist skills.
  6. It is proposed that teachers are accredited as primary school music specialists if they have appropriate qualifications in music and in music pedagogy, but do not have qualifications as primary generalist classroom teachers. The condition on this qualification is that they teach only music.
  7. It is suggested that the state establishes a register of accredited specialist music teachers to which principals can refer.
  8. Potential sources of specialist teachers include:
    1. Primary classroom teachers with musical interests
    2. Secondary school music specialists who would like to teach in primary school
    3. Music graduates, music professionals.
  9. Consideration should be given to how these teachers are managed once employed. MCA has suggestions. Possible scenarios: employment by individual schools, by school clusters, regional conservatorial, or “Music Services” on the English model.
  10. In deciding which subjects should be served by specialist teachers, principals should seek knowledge of the broad benefits of music education as revealed by research over recent decades.
  11. Appointment of music specialists to relieve classroom teachers of face to face teaching forgoes the benefit to the classroom teacher in learning musical techniques that can be applied to enhance learning in other subjects. Preferably, music specialists are employed as full staff members, in which case classroom teachers can be present and collaborate in music classes.

Option 2:

Music is taught by generalist classroom teachers. In this case, solutions must address:

  1. The current inadequacy of ITE. In two of the five countries surpassing Australia in the PISA rankings, music is taught by generalists. But they receive 270 hours (Finland) or 160 hours (Korea) of undergraduate music education, compared with the Australian average undergraduate requirement of 17 hours – or average of 10 hours in postgraduate courses. Under the CAE’s, NSW trainees received 200 hours of music. MCA suggests that undergraduates need a one hour class per week throughout the course – about 112 hours. How could this be achieved? The universities say, informally, that it is not possible.
  2. Music mentoring and evaluation in teaching practicum and the first year of teaching leading to accreditation as a Proficient Teacher. It is difficult to envisage that this could solve music’s problems:
    1. Most of the school teachers and principals, as products of the system, will not themselves have the skills to mentor or assess outcomes in music
    2. Experience says that graduate teachers are so lacking in musical competencies that in school conditions, effective music mentoring usually will not be feasible
    3. Preparation for Proficient Teacher status concerns seven competencies, only one of which is subject area content; music is but one subject among many.
  3. Professional learning in music for the existing primary school teacher workforce. Tens of thousands of the 250,000 primary school teachers in Australia have the responsibility for delivering the music curriculum but do not have the competencies to do so.
    1. To provide sufficient professional development (say 100 hours) to such a large number seems a logistical impossibility
    2. The use of digital learning packages can assist but the evidence suggests that they are successful with most teachers only in combination with face to face or interactive instruction
    3. Under any currently feasible scenario, while a small percentage of primary classroom teachers are musically skilled, we do not have confidence that classroom teachers overall will be able to provide competent delivery of a music curriculum to primary years 3 and beyond.
    4. The utilisation of specialist teachers is more feasible and will produce a superior outcome.

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