Music Education

A key focus for Music Australia is school music education. The benefits of music education have been proven time and again by decades of research, and they’re experienced every day by Australian teachers and students who actively engage and participate in music making.

Learning music can help students’ self-confidence, self-discipline and team work. Music helps students progress in other important learning areas such as Maths and English. Indeed, countries with a strong focus on music education tend to have higher scores in literacy and numeracy. Engaging music programs have been shown to help with attendance and can be particularly beneficial for students who are not achieving well in school.

All of this evidence for music’s extrinsic benefits make a strong case for music education, but should not overshadow the sheer joy people experience making music, nor the value of the artform itself.

I would teach children music, physics and philosophy; but more importantly music; for in the patterns of music and all the arts, are the keys to learning. – Plato

Unfortunately, most Australian kids are missing out on the many benefits of music education in school. As few as 23% of State schools are able to provide their students an effective education. In the private system, it’s closer to 88%.

Music: Count Us In students sing in PerthAt Music Australia, we are committed to advocating for and enabling fair access to music education for all Australians, young and old. Our advocacy work has been particularly strong for school music, but we also support lifelong learning in music through our Music in Communities Network.

The Seares Report: “Augmenting the Diminished” (DEST, 2005) outlined the state of music education in Australia. Released in November 2005, the report followed a federally-funded national review into school music education during which submissions were sought from the public. There were almost 6000 received, at least 4300 of which were from Music. Play for Life supporters – a Music Australia initiative. This was an unprecedented public response to a national enquiry and demonstrates passionate support for all Australian school children having the opportunity to learn music.

Since 2007, Music Australia has managed Australia’s largest music education program, Music: Count Us In, among other programs and campaigns. Committed to promoting music education, we offer:

In Australia, music education delivery varies in different states and regions. While the introduction of an Australian curriculum is aimed at working towards a more consistent approach, each state currently offers a different program.

Ten Facts About School Music

1. Music makes a contribution to kids’ development that no other subject can match: “Music education uniquely contributes to the emotional, physical, social and cognitive growth of all students.” National Review of School Music Education, Australia, 2005

2. Music students are more likely to be good citizens: A 10-year US study called ‘Champions of Change’ found that high school students who participate in arts programs, including in school bands, are less likely to be involved with drugs, crime or have behavioural problems.

3. Learning music helps under-performing students improve: US researchers found that young children aged 5-7 who had been lagging behind at school had caught up with their peers in reading and were ahead in maths after seven months of music lessons. The children’s classroom attitudes and behavior improved too.

4. Musical training can enhance brain function: Brain imaging techniques (MRI) reveal that musical tasks such as sight-reading musical scores and playing music activate regions in all four lobes of the brain and parts of the cerebellum. Music is one of the few activities which engage the entire brain.

5. Incorporating music learning into other curriculum areas helps kids learn: A US study of fifth-grade students found that their attitudes to reading (and to music!) improved when music was incorporated into reading instruction. Other studies show that music students are better equipped to grasp maths and science concepts.

6. Playing music improves concentration, memory and ability to express feelings: A 2001 study in Switzerland involving more than 1200 children found that, when 3 other curriculum classes were replaced with music classes, young children made more rapid developments in speech and learned to read easier. They also learned to like each other more, were less stressed and enjoyed school more.

7. Australian parents want their kids to learn music at school: Household surveys by the Australian Music Association show that nearly 90% of respondents believe music education should be mandatory in Australian schools. More people made submissions to the National Review of School Music Education than to any other Commonwealth Government enquiry.

8. Most kids miss out on effective music education while at school: Research shows that as few as 2 out of 10 State schools are able to offer their students an effective music education. What does ‘effective’ mean? The National Review of School Music Education says it is where the learning is ‘continuous, sequential and developmental.’ That is, it starts early in a child’s life, keeps going as the child progresses through school and is in step with the child’s capabilities. Almost 9 out of 10 independent schools offer this kind of program. It should be available to ALL students in EVERY school!

9. Learning music is good for Australia’s social and economic growth: The Australian business community wants kids to learn music at school.  The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) last year delivered its ‘Skills for a Nation: A Blueprint for Improving Training and Education Policy 2007 – 2017’. Among its fifteen recommendations for improving children’s education in the primary years was:  ‘There should be an opportunity for all students to learn a musical instrument in primary school.’

10. Australia lags behind other countries in the provision of music in school: The world’s top academic countries such as Hungary, Netherlands and Japan have strong commitments to music in their schools from the early primary years. In Britain, where the problems in school music provision mirror those of Australia, the government has recently decided to fix the situation. Recognising the huge benefits to kids, it has announced its commitment – backed up by more than £300 million – ‘to make every British primary school a musical school’.


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