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Students from The Pines School perform at the Music Education: Right from the Start research launch.
Students from The Pines School perform at the Music Education: Right from the Start research launch. - Naomi Jellicoe/Music Education: Right from the Start

Empowering music education: insights from South Australia

Research 5 minute read

A survey of South Australian primary school teachers has shown music education's significance and recognised its benefits, including cognitive enhancement, social skill development, and personal wellbeing.

The national initiative, Music Education: Right from the Start, spearheaded by Alberts | The Tony Foundation, is a collaborative effort to ensure that every Australian primary school child has access to a quality and continuous music education.

In conjunction with the South Australian Department for Education and the Day Family Foundation, Alberts funded the development and implementation of a survey in South Australia. This survey was aimed at examining the current state of music education delivery, seeking insights directly from primary school teachers.

It was designed to capture various facets of music education, ranging from teacher demographics to training, professional learning, and the nature of music education. A total of 180 responses were collected, representing 115 schools and early learning centres in South Australia.

Most respondents were primary school teachers, with the rest combined and specialist schoolteachers, early learning centre educators, or government staff.

Results showed a skew towards music specialists, suggesting those with an interest in music education were more likely to respond to the survey.

Echoing the findings of the 2019 Music Education: A Sound Investment report, the survey responses reflected 8 fundamental components of quality music education. These components underscored the importance of beginning music education early, acknowledging the innate musical potential in all children, committing to its quality, fostering mastery of complex musical instruments, ensuring prolonged engagement, nurturing high levels of teacher expertise, and employing active, formal, and structured teaching methods.

The survey revealed:

  • four-fifths of respondents said music was taught to all year levels within their school
  • just under two-thirds of respondents said they taught music regularly
  • nearly three-quarters said music was ‘very important’ to students’ educational experience, with a further quarter agreeing it was ‘important’
  • one third said there was a specialist music teacher in their school
  • almost two-thirds agreed or strongly agreed that the school had most instruments in good working order
  • more than two-thirds said the assessment of music was part of the formal assessment program of their school.

Moreover, the survey unearthed areas for improvement, such as the need for augmented resources, expanded professional learning opportunities, and greater presence of specialist music teachers in schools. Despite disparities in school facilities and resources, most respondents expressed proactive efforts to integrate music into other curriculum areas and embrace diverse teaching methods.

The survey findings provide valuable insights into the landscape of music education in South Australian primary schools and lay the foundation for future research activities and initiatives aimed at enhancing music education nationally.

The overarching vision of Music Education: Right from the Start, which champions quality and sequential music education for all Australian primary school children, remains unwavering. With ongoing efforts to broaden the survey's reach nationally, the initiative proponents continue their mission of democratising access to music education.

The initiative's stakeholders will use the survey data to inform evidence-based policies and practices, fostering the holistic development of students through music education. By nurturing partnerships and fostering dialogue among educators, policymakers, and community stakeholders, Music Education: Right from the Start is striving to create a vibrant and inclusive environment where every child can explore, create, and flourish through music.

Survey design, research and report by Rachel Felgate and Toby Carslake with Dr Tanya Vaughn. Click here to view the full report. You can watch the launch video here

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