Value of music education

Videos from the US to help parents and grandparents advocate for music education

This is a 5 minute promotional video from 2013 from the National Association of Music Parents – based in Indiana, USA. The aim of the Association is to mobilise parents and grandparents in the USA to unite with teachers and the music industry, to “turn up the volume” and be heard.

This 4 minute video – also posted by the National Association of Music Parents – contains useful facts, quotes and statistics that people can use when advocating music education. Please note that there’s no commentary with this video.

Music education compared in countries around the world

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.

The Age:

Paradigm shift means stakeholders value music education more

In an article on the Inside Philanthropy website in March 2015, Mike Scutari asked: Have we reached a tipping point in terms of the public and philanthropic appreciation of music education for kids?

He argues that for generations, everyone seemed intuitively to know that music education was a good thing. Scientific studies weren’t needed to back it up. But as public education gravitated towards a more quantitative model of learning, and standardised testing became increasingly prevalent, music education seemed expendable.

In recent years, he says, the tide has turned thanks in part to the very same scientific methods that pushed music education aside a decade ago. Researchers are increasingly publishing findings attesting to the power of music education in shaping the young mind – and this paradigm shift is having profound implications for educators, administrators, and music nonprofits.

By taking a more quantitative, research-driven approach toward articulating the value of music education, not-for-profits and educational organisations can more effectively woo cash-conscious funders who appreciate quantitative, research-driven approaches towards education.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the article is the discussion in the comments below, beginning with the comment: “Not all music education is the same and achieving the results detailed in the Atlantic (and in hundreds of other publications, including peer-reviewed journals) requires an intensity and persistence few organisations deliver”.


Inside Philanthropy: