Saturday, April 20, 2013

Update April 2013

Update: Parliamentary Inquiry into the Extent, Benefits and Potential of Music Education in Victorian Schools 

Thank you so much to those who have contributed to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Extent, Benefits and Potential of Music Education in Victorian Schools. Two hundred and forty submissions were received and can be viewed on the Victorian Parliament, Committees, Education and Training Music education Website under the TAB 'Hearings and Transcripts'.  A Hansard report will also be placed on this site in due course.

This Review is, without doubt, a response from the Education Minister following sMAGs ongoing lobbying to the department over a period of time. Our lobbying actually commenced when sMAG was formed as a result of the Victorian Music Workshop in 2007. It has taken a long time for action and we are indeed very grateful to be afforded the opportunity by the inquiry to address the Terms of Reference. The Terms of Reference not only measures the benefits of music education to the child, school and community, but also addresses the issues of provision, pre-service training, administrative structure, musical pathways, and inequities in provision.  We believe that without this inquiry, there can be little action in addressing the recommendations from the National Review of Music Education, and the Victorian Workshop Report, and consequently the diminishing state of music education in Victorian schools.

240 submissions have been received from a large range of organizations which include sMAG,  Music Council of Australia, AMUSE, from schools, parents, teachers, universities, external providers, and the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association. Collectively they present a detailed picture of school music education in Victoria at this point in time and alert us to the fact that, apart from a small number of excellent programs which are mostly in independent schools, music education provision and quality continues to decline. Research studies and statistics put the figure of 23 percent of Government schools compared to 88 per cent of independent schools that offer an effective music education. The provision of music in Primary schools is of significant concern, as it the pre-service music training for Primary Teachers.

Impressive were the responses to the Terms of References from the 240 submission relating to the benefits of a music education to individual students, society, and to academic performance.  These are excellent advocacy statements and will be of value to parents and teachers wishing to improve the provision and quality of music programs in schools, or to encourage parents to invest in a music education for their children. After reading these statements, it is hard to believe that music education is indeed being side-lined by schools, and governments.  They include  extraordinary stories of how the school music program has changed the lives of students, school attendance, school culture, and student’s personal confidence, self-esteem, mental health, and academic achievement.

sMAG was invited to appear before the Parliamentary Council at the first hearing on March 27 and presented evidence along with the DEECD, VCAA, AMUSE, The Song Room, Educational Transformations, the Music Council of Australia, Australian College of Educators and the Victorian Music Teachers association.

The crux of the sMAG submission was the need to bridge the gap between the inequalities in the provision and quality of music programs in government schools compared to independent schools, with the need to place a music specialist teacher in every school. Discussions focused firstly on what was happening at primary level, including country Victoria, and on the need to reform university pre-service training for primary teachers.  At secondary level an issue was raised in relation to what appears to be a drift away from music as a core subject to an elective subject in years 7 & 8, the distribution of instrumental music teachers to government schools, and the contentious issue of VIT registration for instrumental music teachers.   The need to increase investment in music education, and the need for transformational reform in the above areas was discussed.

What is revealed in the submission is that we currently have a major problem with the status of music education in schools with up to three quarters of Australian school children missing out. Not to mention an ongoing diminishing of school music education provision.  ACARA appears to be leaving the issue of the provision of music and the arts provision to the States and schools so this inquiry has come at a critical time in Victoria. We have one opportunity to convince our state government that music education is fundamental to the development of the child and is a human right. We must keep working to turn the tide on music education. Pease keep up your support. We still have a way to go.

Thank you again to those who made a response and a special thank you to the writing and inquiry team: Associate Professor Robin Stevens, Professor Gary McPherson, Carl Stevens, Catherine Lyons, Carl Williams, Kevin Kelley, and Jennifer Heinrick.

Dr Anne Lierse
Chair of sMAG