Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Once More around the Parade Ground: Re-Envisioning Standards-Based Music Education in England, the USA and Australia

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Once More around the Parade Ground: Re-Envisioning Standards-Based Music Education in England, the USA and Australia

Article excerpt

Introduction

The ongoing downturn in job opportunities for many disadvantaged workers combined with the weak results in the PISA tests have lead England (Department for Education, 2013) and the USA (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2014b) to initiate reforms to the teaching of music education this decade. Currently, these changes are diminishing classroom music education in many schools in England (Savage, 2014a) and the USA (Stafford, 2014). Australia is also finalizing policies for a robust National Curriculum that will highlight the teaching of English and mathematics (Department of Education, 2014c). Although Finland has a National Curriculum, Arts education is an integral part of Finnish education (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2013).

In 2009, the USA began development on another standards-based curriculum that stresses the need for all students to be highly proficient in the use of the English language (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2014a). Purdum (2014a) noted this curriculum will limit the amount of time that music teachers can give to teaching skills and performance. Karen Stafford (2014) commented that music education is now an insignificant subject in the Common Core Curriculum.

In September 2014, England introduced a revised National Curriculum that contained radical reforms to school music education (Department for Education, 2013). Students will once more learn theory and the history of Western music, rather than participate in composing activities. Until the introduction of creative music education during the 1960s, few lower secondary students continued music in the middle and higher secondary school (Payner, 1970). As part of the above reforms, Music Education Hubs have replaced local music education authorities. Professionally qualified music teachers employed by a HUB will assist schools with instrumental and classroom music lessons. Adequate funding for the Hubs however is an ongoing concern (Savage, 2014b).

Australia is planning to 're-image' its National Curriculum in 2015. The Review of the Australian Curriculum Final Report argued strongly for the teaching of music theory and the History of Western Music (Department of Education, 2014c). Australia has always been influenced by overseas curriculum developments, first from England and then from the USA in the 1960s (Burke, 2010). In Victoria, the introduction of a voluntary USA progressive integrated general studies curriculum in the late 1960s, gave music teachers the opportunity to establish the English creative music movement (Burke, 2010). Similar to the USA, in 1995, Victoria established standards-based Arts education that combined the Arts into a single subject for students' P-10 (Board of Studies, 1995). Since that time, there has been a considerable reduction in classroom music, especially in disadvantaged state primary and lower secondary schools throughout the state (Department of Education Science and Training, 2005).

Continual changes to music education in the USA, England and Australia since the 1960s have made many classroom music teachers disillusioned about the future prospects for school music (Burke, 2010; Department of Education Science and Training, 2005; Kratus, 2007; Purdum, 2014a; Savage, 2014a). Kliebard (1988b) emphasized the impact that these changes have on teachers' morale and the difficulty they face in continually having to plan for new curriculum models. Ravitch (1985) noted that in times of social unrest, politicians and bureaucrats ask schools to address the problem. Unfortunately, schools reflect current attitudes held in the society.

Finland however has a different approach to standards-based education. One of the highest performing countries in the PISA tests, it does not concentrate on just language and mathematics education (Sahlberg, 2014a). Graeme Smith (2010 circa, p. 6) pointed out, "A feature of Finland's success in the PISA results is the strength of performance of the lowest performing group of pupils compared to other countries. …

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