An article on The Age website (May 2015) points to weaknesses in Australia’s music education system – 63 per cent of schools offered no music instruction and only 23 per cent had specialist music teachers – and looks at the status afforded to music education in countries around the world.
Many countries have strong, well-funded music programmes that are supported by a national belief in the value of music (and arts) education. For example, music education thrives in countries like Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, where it often extends beyond the classroom to include extra-curricular musical instruction that is publicly subsidised.
In Canada, England and the United States, music education is less consistent; varying from district to district and, indeed, from school to school. In Canada, 38 per cent of respondents to a recent survey reported that music is either taught by teachers with no musical background or not taught at all.
Similarly in the United States, music programmes, particularly in public schools, are often underfunded or abandoned altogether under budgetary pressure. While funding is still an issue for music education in England, a network of 123 music hubs was set up by the government across the country in 2012; enabling access to a musical instrument for more than 1 million children.
Australian music advocates claim there is significant disparity in schools when it comes to music education. A recent survey conducted by advocacy group The Music Trust found that 63 per cent of responding schools offered no music instruction and that only 23 per cent of government school music programs were taught by specialist music teachers; compared to 88 per cent of private schools.
The Trust also claims that in an average undergraduate primary teaching degree, students receive only 17 hours of music education; compared with 350 hours for trainee teachers in Finland, and 160 hours in South Korea. According to the Trust, countries that consistently perform well in international rankings such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) provide much more music education than government schools in Australia.
To tackle some of these issues, the National Music Teachers Mentorship Pilot Programme, was started this year. Funded by the federal government, this programme attempts to address music education inequalities between state and private schools by providing selected classroom teachers with tuition and mentorship from professional music educators.