Introduction (Music Forum)

The MCA has completed an important research project, A National Audit of Music Discipline and Music Education Mandatory Content within Pre-service Generalist Primary Teacher Education Courses. The research was conducted by Dr Rachel Hocking and the report was commissioned by the Music Education Advisory Group and the [then] Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Youth Services.

This is a very important report because it precisely quantifies the music education given to aspiring primary generalist classroom teachers to prepare them to deliver a music curriculum to children. What follows is the Executive Summary from the report. The whole report is available on the MCA website, in the Research section.


Furthering recommendations made in the National Review of School Music Education, the Music Council of Australia was contracted by the Music Education Advisory Group to prepare an audit of compulsory music education provided in pre-service programs for primary school teachers. The aims of the audit were:

  1. to establish a baseline from which an increase or decline of such provision could be measured
  2. to authenticate anecdotal evidence on the situation of music in these programs and
  3. to determine current accreditation requirements for primary teachers.

The report is structured so that firstly, accreditation requirements are examined, with special reference to where decisions about accreditation originate. Secondly, the results of the audit of teacher training programs are outlined, showing hours spent on compulsory music education and content covered.

Accreditation Requirements

Accreditation requirements are managed by state and territory accreditation authorities. They are based in curriculum requirements and teacher quality goals that are established federally through groups such as MCEECDYA (The Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs).

At the Federal level, there is little mention of music. For example in the National Education and the Arts Statement (2005 — the only recent such document) there is no definition of individual arts disciplines, and therefore no mention of music specifically.

This filters also into curricula where music is taught as a part of the “creative arts”. However, the way curricula are implemented at school level varies: in some states and territories, curriculum authorities acknowledge that schools will deliver the curriculum variously depending upon their resources and skills.

In all states and territories, generalist primary teachers are expected to teach music as part of a creative arts subject. The way this is implemented varies. In Queensland for instance, while generalist teachers are expected to teach all Key Learning Areas, specialist music teachers are employed to teach music. However, in New South Wales, specialist music teachers are rarely employed in primary schools.

There is no musical competency specified by teacher accreditation authorities for generalist primary teachers. Rather, as with all disciplines and subjects, there is a general expectation that ‘teachers need to know their content’. This is not tested: it is presumed that teachers who study approved teacher training programs will fulfil this minimum requirement. New South Wales is the only state to clearly set a minimum requirement for creative arts training: 36 hours for a graduate degree and 72 hours for an undergraduate degree. It was found that specialist primary music teachers are being trained either through specially designed programs, or through pathways of their own design which satisfy the accreditation requirements (where these are stated).

Audit of Mandatory Arts/Music Education Subjects

The study then surveyed twenty-eight universities to determine the amount of compulsory music education offered to students training to become primary school teachers.1 It was found that overwhelmingly in teacher training programs, music is taught as part of compulsory creative arts subjects, sometimes as a discrete component within the subject, and sometimes integrated into the subject. On average, 41.75 hours are devoted to creative arts subjects, but only 16.99 hours are given to the study of music in the surveyed teacher training programs. There is a wide variation among institutions with time given to music ranging between zero and 52 hours.

Another way of measuring the quantum of compulsory music training is as a percentage of the total credit points dedicated to music within a degree program. On average, music is 1.51% of a teacher-training program. This figure is below expectations: NSW Primary Curriculum Foundation Statements Information for Teachers suggests 2.19% of teaching time in schools should be spent on music. In addition, the Report of the National Music Workshop suggested the introduction of two music co-curricular modules for teacher training programs, total 52 hours. Of the surveyed universities, only one has reached this goal.

The music activities contained in compulsory creative arts teacher training include singing, creating and playing instruments. However, recorder playing now is generally not taught to teachers. These music activities incorporate other musical skills such as music literacy, moving and listening. Extra activities were reported including music advocacy, reflection, and music appreciation. Activities such as these are introduced with the hope of inspiring teaching students to further their music skills when they are teachers.

Pedagogies taught in compulsory music training include eclectic approaches that combine the methods of Kodaly, Orff and Dalcroze, as well as creative methods and instrumental teaching. However, the depth to which these methods are developed in creative arts subjects is limited, with some lecturers presenting rhythmic-based exercises rather than introducing sol­ la. Through the combination of eclectic and creative methods, pre-service primary teaching students generally are experiencing more than one type of pedagogical approach within the allotted time for compulsory music studies.

Most compulsory music subjects provide opportunity for students to engage with a variety of music genres. However, four genres occur regularly: Non-Western music, in particular African songs; folk and children’s songs (particularly where Kodaly methodology is employed); contemporary popular music (including jazz and rap); and Western art music. Some respondents also mentioned that when engaged in practice teaching, students often bring songs with which they are comfortable; generally these are contemporary popular songs.

In the preparation of material for compulsory arts/music subjects, textbooks are heavily relied upon, particularly Australian-written texts that are specifically about teaching creative arts. Websites are also provided to students as resources for use post-training.

There are other factors that interact with the provision of music education to pre-service primary teaching students, and many of these factors were referred to by those surveyed. They include the decrease in available teaching time, the lack of musical experience of students, the conversion from face-to-face classes to online teaching, and resource and employment issues. These factors continue to impact upon the quantity of music taught to pre-service primary teaching students and endanger the position of the music education lecturer in universities.


In conclusion, it was found that the incorporation of music into creative arts has resulted in less time and scope tor music studies. This applies in teacher training programs, in the curricula, in national and local goals for education, and in accreditation requirements.


Rachel Hocking, Music Forum Vol. 16, No. 1, November 2009. Entered on knowledge base 1 October 2013.


  1. Full survey details are shown in Appendix 1 of Dr Hocking’s report.↩︎

Dr Rachel Hocking continues teaching in music education at the Australian Catholic University, piano/music teaching and teacher training in my home studio and at Homebush West Public School, working as a piano examiner with the Australian Music Examinations Board, and serving on the council of the Music Teachers' Association, the professional body for music teachers.

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