Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

Music Education Supporting Estonian Basic School Students' Collective Identity: A Comparative Study

Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

Music Education Supporting Estonian Basic School Students' Collective Identity: A Comparative Study

Article excerpt

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1. Introduction

The multiculturalism concept of the Estonian state was born out of the social need to recognise and respect society's cultural diversity. Indeed, multiculturalism requires public socio -cultural space in which groups bearing different cultures can interact and communicate. Shaping positive national self-consciousness is one of the priorities of the education system of Estonia, requiring construction of the Estonian identity so that it would not conflict with the historically developed numerous (nearly a third of the population) Russian-speaking diaspora.

According to the sociologist Benedict Anderson (2006, 46), the boundaries of a nation-state are not the same as the boundaries of the area where the indigenous language is spoken; similarly, in the context of this study, the Estonian state does not automatically mean the use of the Estonian language. Successful communication between nationalities can result in the indigenous population and the diaspora being able to develop a common collective identity.

A part of Estonian education system is an established tradition of music education, which is the basis for the compulsory music instruction for children at national level, from preschool age through to the end of uppersecondary school, i.e. from 3 to 18 years of age (Muldma, Kiilu 2009).

The article is based on a study which aimed to find information that creates a potential basis for the development of students' collective identity in the music textbooks for grades 7 to 9 of Estonian and Russian medium schools. The research methods applied were content analysis and the image reading method.

2. Theoretical background

Anderson (2006) argues that nationalities are illusory and imagined communities created to mobilise society and achieve unity. Such approach challenges the existentiality of nationalities, which Anderson views as artificially constructed. The perception of national unity is an outcome of ideological activity and thus not only national identity but any collective identity is communicative in nature and therefore constructivist.

Collective identity develops as a result of communication, which is why in its development an extremely important role belongs to social structures and institutions whose mission is to create and communicate information. Education system, especially general education school, is the largest national institution whose activity directly influences the formation of national identity and its continuity and has a strong impact on the citizenship perception of the society as a whole (Anderson 2006; Gustavsson 2000).

Much attention has recently been paid to the identity development role of the Estonian education system. The post-modern world also affects the priorities of Estonian education and educational policy. Today ' students of Estonian and Russian medium schools are members of the future Estonian society, which is why it is important to introduce some changes in the traditional organisation of education and find new ways and opportunities for bringing together members of the two communities. One such method is students' collective identity, in the formation of which music instruction has its role. The aforesaid is supported by the view of Wilfrid Gruhn that music education as a part of the system of general education has a strong social dimension and is therefore a reliable reflection of the social, political and socio-cultural spheres of the society (Gruhn 2011, 55).

Claude Levi-Strauss suggests that music as a language of communication has an ability to appear as a possible equivalent of feelings, emotions and moods while being understood by the majority of people (Levi-Strauss, 2000: 68). To simplify communication, Estonian cultural semiotician Juri Lotman recommends using a metalanguage, i.e. a language used to learn and explain other languages to help to understand each other (Lotman, 2006: 110). …

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