The Music Trust has launched a national campaign with this objective:
Every Australian child should have the opportunity for a quality music education throughout the school years.
A key element of the campaign is a national petition to go to Ministers for Education and to be seen also by school principals, especially primary school principals.
It is crucial to the campaign that we collect thousands of signatures. Ministers must see that there is very broad support. Please do your bit. Get your friends to go to The Full Deal website (in red above) and then sign the petition.
Most children in government and Catholic schools are not getting a quality music education or indeed, any music education at all. This is a lottery of opportunity. Whether the opportunity is there depends upon which state you live in, which school you attend, whether the teachers have the skills to teach music, whether your parents pay.
This situation has existed for decades. Reviews and studies propose improvements but are routinely ignored.
Striking examples of successful programs show what is possible. In Queensland and Tasmania, nearly all schools are served by specialist music teachers, and this is true to a lesser extent in some other states. In every state, there are some schools with remarkable programs – but often these must be paid for by parents. And parents in less affluent communities cannot afford the cost so their children, who often could benefit most, miss out.
We want the full deal for every Aussie kid. It is no longer OK to settle for the lottery that gives a skilled music education to only a few.
The situation of music in schools
- In a phone survey of 1,000 Australians, 87% agreed with this statement: “Music education should be mandated by the states so that every child has the opportunity to study music in school”.
- A survey showed that in Australia overall, 63% of schools offer no classroom music. In some states it is much better and therefore in some states, much worse.
- In around 88% of independent schools but only 23% of government schools, music is taught by specialist teachers
- On average, primary school teachers receive only 17 hours of mandatory music education in their undergraduate degrees. Those who qualify as teachers through postgraduate awards average only 10 hours.
- In Finland, most primary school children are taught music by classroom teachers who have had around 350 hours of music education. Some have had double that. 200 hours used to be the norm in Australia.
- Because of their tokenistic music education, many primary school teachers lack the knowledge to teach music and lack the confidence even to try.
- It is too late to give adequate music education to tens of thousands of primary teachers. Specialist teachers are by far the best solution.
- Australia imports three to five times as much music as it exports. Probably this is partly because of the narrow opportunity for music education in Australian schools.
- MCA research shows that successful professional musicians in both contemporary and classical music receive music lessons at an early age, but almost always paid for by parents.
Extraordinary benefits of music education
The most obvious benefit is that children learn about something they already love. They learn to listen and even more importantly, they learn to create and to perform music.
And there is abundant research over recent decades showing that music education has possibly unique benefits for brain development: it “primes the brain for learning”. It can help children’s self-confidence and self-esteem and their concentration and self-management. It can contribute to their cognitive development, their creativity, their ability for self-expression – and much more. It can be a key to understanding our culture and the cultures of the world.
We have to have skilled teachers
Children can only reap the benefits of a music education if it is skilfully taught.
The problem is most acute in the crucial primary school years. In most states, the responsibility for teaching music is given totally or in part to the primary school classroom teachers. The standard undergraduate music education for generalist classroom teachers is strikingly inadequate – nationally an average of 17 hours – and unless they have personally sought additional music education, teachers will be unable to teach the national music curriculum to which governments have made a commitment.
The only real solution is for every child to be taught by a specialist music teacher. This is feasible – because excepting in remote schools it already happens throughout Queensland and Tasmania.
Governments and principals make the big decisions
Governments have made formal commitments to teach the new Australian Curriculum, including the Australian Curriculum: The Arts. The arts curriculum is actually a collection of five curriculums for the five art forms Dance, Drama, Media Arts, Music and Visual Arts.
School music education as provided by governments is primarily the responsibility of state governments.
State governments can decide:
- What competencies teachers must have in order to be employed to teach in government schools
- What competencies teachers must have in order to be employed to teach music in government schools
- Whether or not to fund skilled music teaching for every child
- How to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of qualified music teachers.
In most states, school principals can make the decision to employ a specialist music teacher. In Tasmania, almost all do so. In WA, over 50% do so, and a goodly percentage also in SA. Parents and community members can play a role in letting the principal in your government primary school know how strongly you would support such a decision.
For information about successful in-school campaigns
Check out www.moremusictoolkit.org.au , a website of the Music Council of Australia. You may be able to get direct advice via that website.