Quality teaching of music in all Australian schools must become a high priority in the education revolution Kevin Rudd promises. If it does not, he will disappoint a great many citizens and condemn the nation’s children to a second-rate education.
Why is this so? And what is necessary to deliver universal, effective music education?
As the Prime Minister stands there at the helm and Julia Gillard formulates her education policy, the answers are right there under their noses. And the two previous Ministers for Education, now Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, would do well to remind them of this.
National review of music education in schools
In 2004-05 the then Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, initiated the National Review of Music Education in Schools. It attracted about 6,000 submissions - an unprecedented response to a government enquiry. There was obviously a lot of passion among the public about giving all school students access to quality music teaching.
The Government funded a report by Professor Margaret Seares based on the findings of the Review. In her introduction she wrote: “Raising the quality and status of music education will have a positive impact on the breadth and depth of aesthetic, cognitive, social and experiential learning for all Australian students and, ultimately, for our society at large.”
The broad thrust of the report was summarised thus:
- music education is valuable and essential for all Australian school students;
- students miss out on effective music education;
- high priority action is needed in a number of particular areas;
- quality teaching is the key;
- effective teacher education is essential;
- the partners in effective music education need to take leadership and action roles; and
- raising the status of music in schools will improve the quality of music in schools.
For substantial reform along these lines to occur, Seares pointed out, required “collaborative action and a leadership role for the Australian government”. The report made 99 recommendations in all.
The Seares’ Report led to a national summit convention of music educators and organisations. The result was a blueprint for government action.
Coalition support fades
Not long after the music summit in 2006 a cabinet reshuffle replaced Nelson with Julie Bishop. She made a couple of very helpful but minor funding announcements and apparently did little more in response to the Seares’ Report and the summit’s recommendations.
Bishop did, however, proclaim (PDF 605KB):
The educational success of our children depends on our creating a society that is literate, creative, and imaginative. Music education is an integral part of developing these key skills.
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