As Australia faces new reforms in education it is time to raise our voices so that the Minister for Education can hear where the priorities of the Australian people lie. This conversation needs to be about many things; class size, standardised testing procedures and curriculum. Currently in Australia the situation for music education is dire. In both Primary schools that I have worked at, the music program was paid for through the fund-raising efforts of the school – this included my wages as well as the budget for classroom materials and instruments. Both of these schools had great support from the parent community for the music program, and both schools funded a free choir on top of the music program. This however, is not the norm. 63% of Australian schools offer no classroom music (1). Of the schools that do, many pay only lip service to a sound musical education by cutting the program so that students only have music for one half of the year, or providing music education to only the younger grades. Some schools acknowledge how important a good music education is but simply can’t afford to hire a specialist music teacher. Many of these schools outsource their music component to individuals or companies who charge students to join groups such as a choir or an ensemble. Sadly, this trend for music to be a privilege only for the wealthy is systemic; of the 63% of Australian schools that do provide music education, I would say most are wealthy private schools and government schools in higher socio-economic areas with the ability to raise the wage of a music teacher through fund-raising.
The Full Deal is a petition for quality music education to be available to all children throughout their schooling years. It has been signed by 4,400 people, including musicians such as Sarah Blasko and Richard Tognetti. Its main points are that:
- Research shows that the benefits of a quality music education can be amazing. It can help your children do better in many parts of their lives. But the benefits are there only if music is taught with skill and imagination.
- Mostly, it is the children of affluent families who now get a music education. It should be available to ALL children.
- If we really want kids to get a good music education, school principals and Education Departments have to hire specialist music teachers. It is the only practical way that governments can keep their promise.
- Governments must ensure that music teachers are trained and then employ them.