22 November 2011
MCA open letter: the state of music education
The Music Council of Australia has published an open letter to the Australian community, expressing its concerns about the state of music education in public and Catholic schools, especially at the primary school level.
'Research has shown that only 23% of public schools are able to offer a music education that would meet the recommendations of the National Review of School Music Education. Many offer none at all. Most of those 23% of schools are secondary schools. The opportunities in the developmentally crucial primary school years are even lower. This inadequacy is even more startling when it is considered against the fact that 88% of independent schools offer a music education that fulfils the National Review recommendations', the letter points out.
The MCA is concerned about primary school teachers' lack of education in music and music pedagogy, and their ability to cope with the demands of the soon-to-be-implemented National Curriculum.
'Research shows that the average mandatory music education in the undergraduate degrees for classroom primary school teachers is 17 hours - say 3 days in a four-year course. With this, they are supposed to be able to go forth and teach music at seven grade levels - years K to 6. This is unfair on them and absurd. If their qualifying degree is a two-year postgraduate degree, as is increasingly the case, their mandatory music education will take only an average 10 hours. Could you teach music if you had had just 10 keyboard or guitar lessons?'
The letter calls for specialist music teachers for primary schools, following the example of Queensland and Tasmania. It criticises the trend of substituting music classes for literacy or numeracy classes to achieve good NAPLAN results, and points out that countries that score well in the international PISA (Programme for International Student Assesment) rankings also have a well-developed primary school music program.
'Our call is on Federal, State and Territory governments to use the opportunity presented by the National Curriculum to entrench meaningful music education in ALL Australian schools, not just the wealthy ones, and to equip our primary school teachers to deliver the curriculum subject which research shows makes a unique contribution to students' development. Music', the letter concludes.
The Music Council
of Australia (www.mca.org.au)
MCA: Open letter to the Australian community (pdf, 10 November 2011)
MCA: letter to the Minister of education, including proposals for national initiatives in music education (pdf 1 November 2011)
© Australian Music Centre (2011) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
The Australian Music Centre connects people around the world to Australian composers and sound artists. By facilitating the performance, awareness and appreciation of music by these creative artists, it aims to increase their profile and the sustainability of their art form. Established in 1974, the AMC is now the leading provider of information, resources, materials and products relating to Australian new music.
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