This article presents a statistical analysis of secondary school music in Australia based on Irina Petrova's doctoral dissertation published in 2012. It continues from the initial description of her work in Major Research into School Music Education and Primary School Music Teaching. The first article was based on Petrova's two articles in Music Forum, dated November 2012 and February 2013 and dealing with primary and secondary schools, respectively. This is the third and last article in this statistically oriented knowledge base series.
The content is primarily statistical because the knowledge base faces a major challenge to assemble a comprehensive numerical picture of the music sector, and school music education is statistically a major neglected topic. The article deals in turn with the following topics:
The article takes a critical look at statistical quality, focusing on the distribution across states and territories but also on the bias towards larger schools which is especially prevalent in the secondary school sample (see next section).
By an extraordinary coincidence, the final work to prepare this series of articles based on Irina Petrova's thesis for the MCA knowledge base coincided within hours with the launch of the Australian government's national cultural policy, which includes making the arts an official part of the Australian school curriculum as an important plank in the policy platform. The last section of this article, Final Comments, expresses the hope that her thesis will help to demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, the need to act quickly and decisively to remedy what could otherwise be a major hurdle against the implementation of the new national policy.
The table numbering starts from 19 and the chart numbering from 7, continuing the sequence from Primary School Music Teaching.
Table 1 at the end of Major Research into School Music Education showed that Petrova reached 91% of all secondary schools in Australia (2,466). Of these, 833 had no classroom music teaching (33.7%). Disconcertingly, of the 1,633 schools that did offer classroom music, 1,026 of the principals contacted (63%) did not permit her to approach teachers. This means that 41.6% of the total number of schools reached couldn't be included in the survey, leaving only 607 secondary schools available for this part of her research (24.6% of total schools reached). Though the response rate among teachers contacted in these schools was better than for the primary schools (23.2% as against 18.4%), only 141 surveys were completed compared with 258 in primary schools.
The left-hand box compares the actual distributions across states and territories of secondary schools and the combined primary and secondary schools which were included in both samples, with the distribution of the 137 schools in Petrova's sample for which the location was known. The ratio of combined to total secondary schools varies from 36% in NSW and 38% in Victoria to 49% in Queensland, 56% in Tasmania, 60% in South Australia and 63% in Western Australia, which may cause bias in the sampling procedure. The ratio seems to be influenced to some extent by population size and possibly also the relative influence of the rural and remote hinterland. It was a relatively modest 46% in the ACT and highest of all in the Northern Territory (77%).
It may be technically possible to fix some flaws assuming Petrova's database remains intact, for example by enabling combined schools to be identified separately (see box, right, showing that Petrova's sample seriously underestimated the number of small secondary schools whether or not combined). This issue is less of a problem with primary schools where many small schools would be of similar size as the combined schools, and the latter make up a smaller proportion of the total number of schools. Of the 7,675 primary schools in 2009, 1,261 or 19.6% were primary sections of combined schools, while the secondary school sections of the same schools made up 46.7% of the total 2,700 schools classified as either secondary or combined primary and secondary.
To conclude, the secondary sections of the combined schools are probably smaller on average than schools offering only Years 7 to 12. Furthermore, many combined schools would be in rural and remote areas throughout Australia, especially in states and territories with a large rural sector. Because a much larger proportion is made up of combined schools in the secondary school sample, and these are likely to differ from the average school catering for secondary level only, the nature of the sample of teachers who were approached, and who responded, becomes an issue.
Secondary school music teachers are much more highly qualified than their primary school counterparts — undoubtedly a genuine finding. Almost 89% were defined as having achieved high musical attainment compared with 48% of primary music teachers. Nine percent were moderately qualified and the absolute number of secondary music teachers with low qualifications was as low as three in the survey (2%), compared with 29% of primary teachers.
Nineteen of the 141 teachers in the secondary school sample were under 30 years old (13.5%). At the other end of the range 36 were 50 years and older (25.5%). The two mid-range age groups (30-39 and 40-49) both accounted for 30.5% of the total. This distribution differed from the primary school sample except that both had a low count of under-30s. Primary school music teachers were noticeably older with 31% 40-49 year-olds and 37% being 50 and over (Table 5 in Primary School Music Teaching).The secondary school sample also had a much higher proportion of males (40% compared with only 18% in the primary school survey). The female majority were less highly qualified than the males (84.5% as against 94.7%, but both genders were much better qualified at secondary level than in primary schools). The major difference in qualifications, as noted above,
The survey results are comparable with official teaching workforce statistics (none of which refer to music teachers as such, since specific published statistics of these don't exist). Official statistics of full-time-equivalent (FTE) teaching staff are shown in the right-hand box. The percentages are reasonably comparable with the findings for primary and secondary music teachers, respectively.
Almost 91% of all secondary music teachers who were rated as highly qualified had chosen music when they attended secondary school themselves (Table 20). There was probably no statistically significant difference between secondary school teachers with different levels of musical attainment, given the small samples of teachers with less than high qualifications to teach. People with high qualifications, however, were more likely to have chosen music at every year of secondary school (52% of all these teachers). Relatively more persons with moderate qualifications had attended music classes in Year 12 only. The two last categories identified in Table 20 comprised a total 31% of both the high and moderate groups, but highly qualified teachers were more likely to have done music for two or more years including Year 12, and those with moderate (and the small number of low) qualifications were more likely to have done one year or more excluding Year 12.
Overall, relatively more secondary teachers had taken any music subjects (90%) than among primary teachers (79%), and relatively more highly qualified secondary teachers had completed every year when they attended secondary school as students (28% of primary, 52% of secondary teachers).
Comparable findings were: string instruments 62.4% of secondary, 54.3% of primary teachers; brass/woodwind 63.1% and 52.1%, percussion 18.4% and 13.6%. The only group where participation was higher among primary teachers was singing: 60.3% among secondary teachers, 70.9% among primary teachers.
Some details on the five major musical activity groups follow:
Chart 7 shows related information in terms of the estimated decade in which initial secondary teacher training took place. In the perspective of 2009, when the surveys were conducted, 23% of teachers trained in the past nine years since 2000, about 30% in each of the two previous decades (eighties and nineties), and about 17% of the total number of secondary teachers before 1980. It is derived from Petrova's thesis relating to the period when secondary teachers undertook their initial training, from which Chart 7 was constructed. The complication was that some observations about initial training had to be allocated at midpoints within a decade, because the initial period of training might straddle adjacent decades. The upper quartile (1999) was estimated backwards from the 2000-08 period to remove bias resulting from this.
Medians and quartiles may be used to indicate when 25%, 50%, and 75% of the current teacher numbers started training. Petrova's survey analysis suggests that 25% had begun their initial tertiary education since 1999 ("10 years ago"), and half had started since about 1991 ("18 years ago"). At the other end of the distribution, 25% of the current teacher population started training in 1982 or before ("27 years ago" or more).
The survey asked separately for each year of secondary school how confident teachers felt about their teaching. The question was also asked about teaching for tertiary entrance examinations at the end of Year 12, and music extension and similar courses. The general impression from Chart 8 is that teachers are highly confident to teach years 7 to 10, and while slightly less confident about years 11 and 12 confidence remains high. Highly confident teachers are also quite confident about teaching for tertiary entry and extensions. The responses, however, vary more at these high teaching levels than for teaching years 7 to 10.
Petrova notes (p 332): Qualification is crucial in making teachers confident in teaching music to every year of secondary school. We might add that it is also very important if Australia is going to keep improving the quality of future music teachers (and musicians generally) through maximising students' chances to pass their entrance exams to higher education.
Confidence varies with age as well as with the level of qualifications (Chart 9). The youngest age group of secondary teachers is less confident on average but still reasonably confident in teaching senior secondary school students. They are significantly less confident in preparing Year 12 students for entrance exams and other extensions. The 30-39 year-olds were the most confident of the four age groups.The confidence patterns of male and female secondary music teachers are not very different as shown by the left-hand box.
Irina Petrova provides considerable detail on the challenges facing teachers at each level of secondary school (pp 336-361). A summary of average scores for each year is appropriate, and a visit is recommended to this valuable part of her thesis for further detail by level of qualification, sex and age. The survey form provided different questions for each pair of years (7-8, 9-10, and 11-12).
Years 7 and 8: Petrova inquired about the challenges of teaching the following contents (seven indicators): teaching (1) concepts of music, (2) composing, (3) performing and (4) listening; (5) planning lessons; and making suggestions about (6) performing and (7) listening repertoire. — Teachers felt these were not a major challenge (scores on scale of 7 between 2.29 and 3.02). (Petrova Table 10.81)
Years 9 and 10: The inquiry at this level included 16 criteria to be rated as challenges: (1) range of repertoire, (2) student compositions, (3) repertoire characteristic of additional topics studies, (4) improvising, (5) discussing capabilities of instruments and voices, (6) interpreting different musical notation styles, (7) using different types of performance technologies, (8) improvising, arranging and composing using various sound sources and movement activities, (9) using computer and other technologies to create and notate compositions, (10) notating compositions appropriate for selected music, (11) develop portfolio of compositional work, (12) analysing and discussing a range of repertoire and (13) how composers have used concepts of music in their work, and (14) reading and interpreting musical scores, (15) developing aural discrimination skills, and (16) sight-singing. — Despite the greater complexity of these items, teachers again didn't feel greatly challenged: the average scores ranged from 2.29 to 3.37. (Table 10.84)
Years 11 and 12: There were five criteria of teaching performing (average scores 2.33 to 3.18), five of teaching composition (2.70 to 3.32), five of teaching musicology (2.34 to 2.95), and four of teaching aural activities (average scores 2.47 to 2.80). (Tables 10.87, 10.90, 10.90 and 10.93)
The ability of secondary school music teachers to remain fairly unchallenged by these tasks irrespective of the level taught supports the general impression from Petrova's research that these teachers are generally highly skilled. This is a great boon for school music education, especially in these challenging times.
The final three charts provide an opportunity to compare three states judged to have just (barely!) sufficient information through the small samples that resulted for the analysis of secondary schools. There were 48 observations for NSW but only 26 for Victoria and 17 for Queensland. The samples were considered too small for South Australia and Western Australia to yield meaningful comparative results.
The longer the bar on Chart 10, the more improvement is needed in the eyes of those completing the survey. There is reasonable agreement that program assessment and development is most lacking with average scores at around the "midpoint" of 4. Planning music programs and lessons, and implementing the music program, also hover around the midpoint, while levels are somewhat lower (less need for improvement) for the development of musicological knowledge and musical skills.
Queensland seemed to be in a particularly good position on the two latter criteria. Using our crude rating model (first position 3, second 2, and third 1 since there are only three states to compare), Queensland scores three firsts, a second and a third position (total score 12, with no added kudos for being particularly far ahead on musicological and musical skills development), NSW a first, three seconds and a third (total 10), and Victoria a first, a second and three thirds (total 8).
The scale on Chart 11 goes in the opposite direction: the favourable readings of sufficiency are the tallest bars. Again, we compare only the three largest states. Queensland again stands out.
Of the five variables on Chart 11, "meets curriculum demand" gets the highest average ratings, above the midpoint of 4. The average for Australia which includes all findings including those for the smaller states and territories (dark bar to the right in each set) is almost as high for "combination of specialist teachers" and is right on the midpoint for "time for music in timetable". The score is lower for "qualified support staff" and "facilities for teaching music".
Our crude ranking score gives Queensland three firsts and two seconds (one of which was .01 below the NSW score). NSW gets two firsts, one second and two thirds, Victoria two seconds and three thirds. Total scores: Queensland 13, NSW 10, Victoria 7 which is the same rank order as for Chart 10.
Chart 12 compares teaching resources in terms of sufficiency. The average for Australia (dark bars) is highest for traditional instruments and books and written resources (each around 4.70). The average is also above 4 for audio recordings and electronic instruments, marginally above 4 for computer software, and 3.86 for video recordings. These scores are generally higher than for the variables included in Chart 11.
The rankings of the three states were more consistently in favour of Queensland and against NSW than on the other charts. Queensland scores five firsts and a second to achieve 17 points (the maximum here is 18). Victoria gets one first, four seconds and one third to score 12, and NSW has one second and five thirds to score 7, one above the minimum possible.
Adequacy of training is the final topic to cover, and can be dealt with briefly. The findings for the small group of three teachers with low qualifications have been ignored as statistically unreliable. Petrova's thesis has more indicators but these will provide the idea.
Pre-service teacher training was considered almost adequate. It was rated an average of 3.97 by the highly qualified teachers who dominate the secondary school sample, and 3.38 (somewhat inadequate) by the smaller sample of moderately qualified teachers. The overall average for adequacy was 3.89. (Petrova p 364)
In-service training was rated more harshly by both sections, The average for highly qualified secondary school teachers was 3.06, and for the moderately qualified teachers as low as 2.17. Overall average 3.01, inadequate (p 370).
Chart 23, finally, is based on Petrova's Table 10.114 (p 372) and concerns the benefits of professional development workshops for secondary school teachers. These workshops were reasonably highly favoured for their benefits with an average score of between 4.37 and 4.79 for the highly qualified teachers depending on the criterion in question, and a score of between 4.00 and 4.64 for the smaller sample of moderately qualified ones.
By sheer chance, finalising the three reviews of Irina Petrova's thesis on school music education for the knowledge base happened to coincide, literally within hours, with the Australian Minister for the Arts Simon Crean's launch, on 13 March 2013, of Creative Australia, the national cultural policy taking over from "Creative Nation", introduced by then Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1994.
The new policy for the first time introduces the arts into the National Curriculum. In view of the parlous state of classroom music, especially at primary level, the following quotes from the policy document are relevant (italics added):
"Including the arts in the Australian curriculum is an important step in building this creative capacity. For the first time, all Australian school children will be guaranteed an arts education. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, and its impact should be measured over the life of this policy as a new generation makes career choices by the end of the decade." (p 41)
"The Australian Curriculum: The Arts in schools policy across Australia follows agreement between the Commonwealth and state governments to develop a national curriculum and will see students develop creative skills through access to music, media arts, dance, drama, and visual arts. The arts curriculum complements the funding of more than $14 billion provided as part of the Building the Education Revolution — Primary Schools for the 21st Century Program. This funding was provided across Australia for the construction of primary school infrastructure, including libraries and multi-purpose halls and performance spaces." (p 47)
"The growth and stability of the cultural economy depends on a strong continuum, beginning with arts education for all in schools through the Australia Curriculum: the Arts, and continuing with appropriate tertiary and vocational education and elite training, supported by opportunities to make the jump from education to professional practice." (p 71)
"The Curriculum will ensure that every student, from Foundation to the end of primary school, will study the arts in a rigorous and sequential process. Also, from the first year of high school, students will have an opportunity to experience some arts subjects in greater depth and to specialise in one or more arts subjects. The Curriculum will enable students to study the arts across five subjects — dance, drama, media arts, music and visual arts — and allow them to explore the relationship and interaction between artforms." (p 78)
After the policy speech at the National Press Club in Canberra, one questioner commented that there might be a long way to go before the arts in schools program could be realised, and Mr Crean recognised that this might be the case. However, he stressed that the policy had been agreed between the Australian government and the state governments prior to the launch of the national cultural policy, and advocated a bipartisan approach in the interest of the nation's long-term development.
Given the timing of the national policy launch, Irina Petrova's thesis is also very well-timed, including her demonstration of the unsatisfactory state of primary school music education and the impact this has on the quality of the education in secondary schools despite the better quality of the teaching staff there. Her research makes it clear how big the challenge is, but it also provides a tool for helping to persuade the authorities in the educational and cultural sectors that this important part of the arts spectrum presents a major stumbling block for the development of the new cultural policy within a reasonable period of time — unless such a major weakness is given top priority and tackled decisively.
Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Entered 13 March 2013.