A new report commissioned by The Tony Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Alberts, has found that a large proportion of Australian primary school children have little or no access to music education. The report, Music Education: A Sound Investment, was led by internationally recognised scholar, researcher and award-winning music educator, Dr Anita Collins, whose new book The Music Advantage came out in September.
Dr Anita Collins with primary school children engaging in quality music education. Photo © Sian Barnard
The report draws on neuroscientific and psychological research demonstrating the educational and developmental benefits of quality music education, and outlines recommended best practice in music education, identifying barriers, possibilities and points of change for lifting access to, and improving the quality of, music education across Australia.
“The report confirms that music has positive benefits for children of all ages,” Collins said. “It points to the dangers of ignoring music education during primary school years because we believe these are the most critical years in maximising the developmental and learning benefits.”
“A quality, sequential music education in the primary years offers the building blocks not just for more advanced music education but for learning more broadly,” Collins said.
The report also found that “music education in Australia may be facing a new crisis as the availability of competent and confident music educators steadily diminishes,” while noting the important training work done by programs such as those offered by Musica Viva Australia and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s TunedUp program.
The report also condemned what it describes as a “user-pays” system in which music education is “regarded as a privilege rather than a right.”
“Independent schools and large Catholic schools which have greater per-student funding and freedom continue to value music and this is believed to contribute to the sustainable delivery of exceptional music programs,” the report found. “Government schools, various Catholic schools, and regional and remote schools are falling behind.”
The results are sobering, with the report concluding that the current music education system in Australia is failing to deliver a high-quality music education for every Australian child.
The researchers, however, do point to individual principals and schools that are bucking the trend, and notes successes in Queensland and South Australia. “The project team is optimistic that a more comprehensive provision of music education is possible,” the report concludes, “one in which every Australian child has access to a high-quality music education.”
“Alberts has always believed in the power of music to change lives,” Alberts’ Executive Director Ingrid Albert said. “That passion is driving this new endeavour that aims to see every Australian primary school student having access to quality, sequential and ongoing music education they need and deserve. Our challenge is to ensure that changes in policies, investment and practices actually deliver a music education that benefits and improves the educational experience of all school children.”