SWOT Analysis of Music Education in Schools - 2017

Australian Society For Music Education

STRENGTHS

  1. The Australian Curriculum provides a detailed developmental music learning framework for Foundation to Year 10 levels and is currently being implemented or adapted for use in the majority of States and Territories.
  2. Primary schools with specialist music teachers offer quality music education experiences for the children at those schools.
  3. Music in secondary schools is generally well established, taught by qualified, registered, specialist music teachers, In general, music programs commence in Year 7 or Year 8 as a compulsory term or semester based subject. Music generally becomes an elective subject by Year 9 and most schools offer a comprehensive approach incorporating practical, theoretical, creative, listening and historical elements within general music classes an elective classroom music program.
  4. Many secondary schools have active extra-curricular (or co-curricular) performing groups which provide rich and rewarding experiences for the students participating in those groups.
  5. Many primary and secondary schools provide access to user-pays itinerant instrumental and vocal tuition enhancing the music literacy and competency of students external to the school music curriculum.
  6. Music is available in various forms at senior secondary level and may contribute to the higher school Certificate of Education and the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).
  7. Professional development for music educators is provided by various organisations offering expertise in various facets of music education. These are usually provided on a state-by-state basis, with annual or bi-annual national conferences.

WEAKNESSES

  1. Narrow and elitist views of music education persist within some school communities and media, based on myths such as only a small proportion of children are musically capable.
  2. Music being regarded as just one of the ‘five’ Arts subjects identified within the Australian Curriculum The Arts document and the push towards inclusive ‘multi-arts’ experiences.
  3. There is inequity with regard to access, participation, and engagement in school music for all students. The provision of music in government primary schools is particularly sporadic in many states with access to high quality music education being limited to select schools who employ specialist music teachers.
  4. Limited support in government primary and secondary schools for itinerant instrumental lessons.
  5. Some students benefit from external formal instrumental tuition and musical coaching beyond the school environment, reinforcing the perceptions of music being a ‘talent’ rather than an understanding and skill that is acquired through regular developmental experiences, effort and persistence.
  6. The music curriculum for the senior secondary years vary considerably from State to State with no comparable assessment measures.
  7. In primary schools, Music and more broadly the Arts are often undervalued by school leaders and decision makers, as policy, funding, staff and school resources all seem to be allocated based upon standardised testing and whole school achievement in numeracy and literacy. The value of music is not fully recognised.
  8. Many facilities for school music teaching are inadequate with regard to space and equipment.
  9. Professional associations that support music education are generally run by dedicated volunteers, rather than having paid staff to undertake much of the work.
  10. Professional development is mostly carried out in teachers' own time rather than during work time.

OPPORTUNITIES

  1. Bringing to the attention of policy makers and school leadership the research based evidence that indicates the significant and unique impact a sequential and developmental music program started in the early years of schooling can make upon the quality of student achievement in all areas of learning.
  2. Broadening and deepening Australian culture through the respectful study, performance and creation of music influenced by the narratives and music of Indigenous, non-Indigenous and multicultural Australia.
  3. Changing narrow perceptions of literacy and numeracy and demonstrating through student achievement, performance and engagement that all students are musically capable and benefit from an education that includes a high standard of music education.
  4. Continued research highlighting the unique personal learning and social benefits that a music education provides to individuals and communities.
  5. The potential of information and communications technology (ICT) to enable a wider range of access to music education. Many music software programs have the capacity to provide students with creative, engaging and educational opportunities in music. Such software uses the medium of sound, and often makes important connections between sounds and symbols.
  6. The availability of a wide range of internet music resources as well as continued improvements to mobile devices for accessing information, recording and performing music.
  7. The growing availability of music support services, such as Musica Viva in Schools, campaign based activities like Music Count Us In as well as commercial private providers.

THREATS

  1. Media and political emphasis upon promoting PISA rankings as the measure of educational value and the predictor of future global financial competitiveness.
  2. NAPLAN testing for Years 3-5-7-9 aimed at measuring student skills with mathematics and literacy
  3. Advocacy of STEM based learning subjects as a panacea for a perceived decline in educational standards.
  4. Music being regarded as a commodity and it’s worth being measured in dollar values towards the economy.
  5. Student career choices for employment in the music industry continue to be less defined and reliant upon post-secondary studies that lead to a range of casual employment activities that result in uncertain self-managed portfolio careers.
  6. The time allocated for pre-service training for generalist primary teachers has been eroded and is now woefully insufficient to teach the content required by the Australian Curriculum Arts and Music Curriculum. This has resulted in low levels of teacher confidence and reluctance to teach music in a sequential and developmental manner resulting in reduced student learning achievement impacting all areas of student learning.
  7. Music teachers often work with many competing pressures of teaching, public performance requirements and administration that can lead to teacher ‘burnout'.
  8. The teaching force in general is aging, and this is too is a challenge for school music education. This is particularly the case with primary schools where capable and experienced music educators retire and are replaced by generalist or creative arts based educators with limited music experience or vision for educating through developmental musical experiences.

Author

Dr Antony Hubmayer

July 2017

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