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A DELICATE BALANCE: MUSIC EDUCATION IN CANADIAN SCHOOLS
The Coalition’s groundbreaking survey finds schools in desperate need of funding to meet demand for quality programs
The 2010 survey of the state of music education in Canadian schools, A Delicate Balance: Music Education in Canadian Schools, was released on the 4th November 2010 by the Coalition for Music . The report indicates that schools across Canada desperately need funding to keep up with the demand for quality music programs.
The survey, completed by 1,204 schools across Canada, was conducted by Hill Strategies Research. The resulting report provides detailed information about a range of issues in music education. Valuable feedback was provided in the additional comments made by teachers and principals, which offered a unique opportunity to integrate quantitative and qualitative information. As one principal said, “I believe music is one of the most important things we can offer our school community.”
“While there has been extensive international research on the benefits of music education for young people, there has been only limited research on the state of music education in Canada,” said Ingrid Whyte, former Executive Director of the Coalition. “The results show that funds simply aren’t keeping up with the demand for music programs. It truly is a fragile balance of supports that are required and unfortunately, many of those supports are extremely challenged.”
Survey respondents indicated that there have been challenges in terms of music funding, instructional space and the number of specialist teachers. On the other hand, there are glimmers of hope, as some schools have reported improvements in computer / recording technology, the number or quality of instruments, artist visits and student involvement in music.
Overall, six major themes emerged from the survey results:
- There are many perceived benefits of music education, including benefits that the Coalition has been stressing for many years in its advocacy efforts.
- Funding of music education is a key challenge in schools and has clearly not kept pace with demand. For most of the past decade, funding for music education has decreased in many schools while student participation has been rising.
- Qualified music educators are crucial in creating and implementing strong, sustainable music programs. Almost all schools with very strong music education programs have a specialist teacher.
- Strong music programs rely on a delicate balance of support. The strongest music education programs have a supportive principal and parents, a strong specialist teacher, student interest (and time), appropriate instruments and space, solid instructional materials, as well as appropriate funding. It is also vital to have support from school boards and provincial education departments, as well as a broader community that values music.
- Schools across the country identify a need to invest in music facilities, instruments and equipment.
- “Passive” music education is very common in schools.
Among key provincial findings, the report notes that British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Manitoba stand out as leaders in delivering quality music programs in their schools. Whyte says their success is the result of three things: “that music is part of the school timetable, it’s taught by qualified teachers, and it’s funded by the government.” But even in reportedly strong regions like British Columbia and Alberta, many schools have concerns for the future.
Music in Ontario schools is in a challenging state. Particularly troubling is the fact that 58 per cent of teachers delivering music programs in Ontario elementary schools have no music background. Often, these teachers are provided with only minimal supports in delivering the music curriculum to young students. Over the past few years, many schools in Ontario saw decreases in important aspects of their music programs, such as funding, the availability of specialist music teachers and participation in music festivals. Given this troubling situation, it is not surprising that many Ontario schools indicated that their music programs need improvement.
“Our most populous province is facing great challenges in delivering quality music programs,” says Whyte. “There seems to be a very large gap in what the Ontario government says it is committing to and what is actually happening on the ground and within our schools.”
Based on the findings of this study the Coalition for Music Education in Canada has developed a set of recommended actions to improve the state of music education in Canadian schools, including:
- More funding for more schools
- More qualified music teachers in more schools
- Continuing music advocacy
- More support for generalist classroom teachers
- Better training for generalist teachers through universities
- Further research in schools with weaker music programs
The Coalition for Music Education in Canada is proud to launch A Delicate Balance: Music Education in Canadian Schools, conducted by Hill Strategies Research with financial support from Business for the Arts, Musicounts, the McLean Foundation and the net proceeds of the Coalition’s Evening with Sir Ken Robinson and Friends in April 2009.
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