Qualified primary music teachers in short supply - Education Matters Magazine
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Qualified primary music teachers in short supply

music teachers education primary school

In the past 14 years, Australian universities have cut music education training for generalist primary teachers in half, leaving thousands unable to fulfil their responsibilities under the curriculum, new research shows. According to the Fading Notes Report, the time and value dedicated to music learning within primary teaching degrees is at an all-time low.

The Alberts | The Tony Foundation’s Music Education: Right from the Start initiative commissioned the report to examine the state of music education among emerging primary school teachers across Australia. The research was led by Dr Anita Collins and conducted and authored by Dr Rachel Hocking and focuses on representation of music, delivery methods and learning pathways, student proficiency and attitudes within Initial Teacher Education (ITE) degrees.

The research is based on an online survey of course decision-makers responsible for music education within ITE degrees from 36 University lecturers representing over 4,600 primary teachers in training. In addition, qualitative interviews with 23 lecturers and an analysis of websites and course handbooks from 49 universities were undertaken.

Based on the views of the 36 music lecturers, representing 73 percent of those delivering primary teaching degrees, and analysis of published information from the 49 universities, the report reveals that average music education training hours have fallen from 17 in 2009 to 8 by the end of 2022.

Music education also attracts just 1 percent of the overall credit point value, and only one in five students observe a music class before having to give one themselves. This lack of depth adversely influences perceptions, with 71 percent of respondents saying their students don’t expect to teach music in the classroom despite curriculum requirements.

The time dedicated to music learning varies widely across the country and, in some cases, reflects state curriculums. Tasmania and Western Australian universities allocate 12 hours of tuition, nearly double that of universities in Victoria (6.06) and the ACT (6.5).

Further, just 3.82 percent of the 4,670 new teachers from surveyed universities entering primary schools each year have any specialisation in music learning. This highlights the lack of tertiary development pathways for emerging teachers seeking to specialise in music. Two-thirds of identified universities don’t offer a music specialisation, and half of surveyed lecturers agree their students need further development to teach music effectively.

Learning music provides primary students with many wellbeing and social benefits, according to Dr Anita Collins, Lead Researcher on the Fading Notes Report.

Executive Director of Alberts | The Tony Foundation’s Music Education: Right from the Start initiative, Ms Emily Albert, said the latest research paints a stark picture of the state of music learning in primary school classrooms.

“Without providing new teachers with adequate music education skills, access to quality music learning among primary school students is at risk of disappearing. Currently, teacher confidence and competence are worryingly low, which likely extends to other areas of the arts as well,” she said.

“We’re calling on universities and decision makers across state and federal government to help arrest the decline of music education and enable primary teachers to meet and exceed what the curriculum expects. Long-term systems change and reform is essential, but short-term measures can help bridge the skills gap and better support teachers.”

Dr Anita Collins said, “A deeper understanding of the benefits of music learning in the classroom should compel universities, researchers, government, the industry and students, to maximise access to music skills and experiences.”

“This is an issue of particular importance given the known benefits of music learning to students, including its impact on educational attainment, personal well-being and social development unearthed in our previous research,” she concluded.

About Music Education: Right from the Start Initiative

Music Education: Right from the Start is a collaborative national initiative, led by Alberts I The Tony Foundation, and driven by our collective belief in the power of music to change lives. It focuses on the place and purpose of music within a quality education, and how to ensure access for all Australian primary school children. It has been developed in consultation with, and is supported by, individuals and organisations spanning the music industry, education, research and philanthropy.

To learn more, visit: www.alberts.co/the-tony-foundation

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