The State of the Art of Music Education in Ontario Elementary Schools. Dr. Rodger J. Beatty






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Dr. Rodger J. Beatty

Ed. Note: This is the first of two articles providing a descriptive snapshot at the status of music education in Ontario Schools. The secondary results are published in The Recorder Vol. XLIV No. 1 (Autumn 2001).

As the educational reform movement has swept across Canada in recent years, the amalgamation of school boards/districts and the redesign of funding for education has challenged school administrators and trustees with the allocation of appropriate resources to support a balanced education for all pupils. The declining role of music education as part of core education for Ontario pupils has concerned parents and the educational community at large (Coalition for Music Education in Canada, 2000).

Past research suggests a wide variety in the modes of music instruction and the types of music programs offered for students (Shand, 1982a, 1982b; Cooper, 1989; Montgomery, 1990). In an early study on the status of music education in Canada, Shand (1982a, 1982b) reported that while music was compulsory at the elementary school level, there was a wide variation in the quality of teaching, depending on the interest, ability, and experience of the teacher involved. At the secondary level, music was optional and the music program was often taught by a music specialist (Shand, 1982a, 1982b). A variety of music programs were often offered for students: band, orchestra, choral, jazz (Shand, 1982a, 1982b). Cooper (1989) studied the status of public school music teaching in Canada. Cooper elicited personal statistical information about the teacher, training of the teacher, aspects of teacher workload and selected curricular matters. In this national survey, results from two provinces, Quebec and Newfoundland, were found to be too small to provide statistically viable data. Montgomery (1990) investigated the effect of selected factors on the use of instructional time by elementary music specialists in Atlantic Canada. The results suggest that further studies need to undertaken in order to gain a clearer understanding of the ways in which Canadian elementary music teachers allocate their instructional time in the classroom.

It was expected that the proposed study would advance the body of research in the status of music education in Canadian schools.

The Purpose

The purpose of the study was to collect statistical information about music education in Ontario and the teaching of music in Ontario schools. Specifically, the study was designed to collect data on: the teacher of music, the training of


the teacher and teacher qualifications, the description of the school music program, the capability of teacher in utilizing provincial curricula, the availability of resources, the support of the music program, the funding of music program, and the awareness of advocacy groups in support of music education.


Initial letters were mailed to principals of all elementary and secondary public, catholic and private schools in Ontario. Music teachers and classroom teachers of music were invited to respond to the web-based survey. An alternative hard copy route was offered for those without internet access. To further reach teachers of music across the province, the letter of invitation was also printed in The Recorder, the journal of the Ontario Music Educators’ Association.

Two surveys were developed one for elementary teachers and one for secondary teachers. The total of 401 responses (286 elementary and 115 secondary)

constituted a 6.8% return rate. 97% of all responses were web-based; only 13 teachers returned manually produced hard copies. Missing data in various categories accounts for discrepancies in frequencies reported and will be discussed later.

Hard copy responses were entered manually by a research assistant. Individual web-based responses were stored in a flat field using Excel. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS version 10 and manual content analysis using analytic induction to determine the thematic foci of the respondents’ comments (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984, p. 179-182. Interjudge reliability was not conducted.

Elementary Results

The majority of respondents perceived themselves as music teachers (51%), 24% were classroom teachers, 16% had a music/other subject teaching responsibility and 7.3% were principals. Geographical representation of respondents was somewhat consistent with general population density in the province: 17% were from eastern Ontario, 30% from central Ontario, 15% from Toronto and area, 25% from southwestern Ontario and 7% from northern Ontario. Most respondents taught in a school with enrolments of 250 – 499 (50%). Other teachers taught in larger schools of 500-749 pupils (27.5%) or in somewhat smaller schools 100-249 (16%). Only 4.1% taught in schools larger than 750 students and a small 1% taught in school with less than 100 pupils. Of the subjects involved in this study, 80.5 % taught in public schools, 13.6 % in catholic schools, 2.8% in private schools and only 0.3% taught in schools

specializing in music/arts education. Teachers taught a variety of grade levels: 87.8 % were primary teachers, 90.6 % taught at the junior level and 66.2% taught at grades 7-8.


Respondents possessed a variety of music qualifications. Most held basic teacher qualifications at the elementary school level: primary (61.7%), junior (81.9%), intermediate (74.6%) while 34.1% held senior qualifications. Of the respondents, 44.9% held a bachelor of music degree with 7.3% holding a master of music degree. Many had taken additional qualifications courses in music; in music-vocal (primary-junior) part 1, 2, specialist (17.4%, 10.1% and 12.2% respectively), music-vocal (intermediate-senior) courses part 1, 2, specialist (3.8%, 2.4%, 4.2%), music-instrumental part 1, 2, specialist (12.5%, 5.9%, 10.5%). There were 13.2% of respondents with an honour specialist in music. Some teachers had taken courses in the Orff Approach – Level I, II and III (8%, 3.8%, and 1.7%) or in the Kodaly Approach – Level I, II and III (9.4%, 4.5%, 2.4%). Respondents noted a variety of other music learnings: advanced academic degrees, other degrees with a music major or minor, conservatory performance/theory certificates, Kindermusik, education through music, early childhood music education, Yamaha Music in Education, music professional experiences and personal experiences.

Instruction of music in schools was carried out by certified teachers in 76.2 % of respondents. The results suggest that 18.8% of the teachers teaching music were not certified teachers.

The most common pupil/teacher ratio (PTR) in school boards was 25:1 which occurred in 39.8% of respondents. In 19.4% of the ratio rose to 28:1 while in 7.5% the PTR was reported at 30:1. However, when teachers responded

concerning PTR in their music classes they were reported at higher levels 25:1 – 36.7%; 28:1 – 25.3%, 30:1 – 14.6% and 10.3% of teachers reported PTR at higher than 32:1. This suggests that music teachers are assigned larger classes to teach than is the norm in their school board.

In music ensembles, the PTR was found to be much larger than the PTR

reported for school boards; the most common pupil/teacher ratio (PTR) for music ensembles was reported at 30:1 (16.3%). 8.3% noted a 35:1 PTR, 9.5% reported 40:1, 8.0% had a 50:1 PTR, 6.8% had a 60:1 PTR, 6.1% noted a 70:1 PTR and finally 10.2% had a PTR greater than 80:1.

Regarding the hours of instruction per week, it was found that 52.6% of teachers in this study reported teaching music from one to two hours per week. 40.4% of respondents noted that music instructional time amounted to less than one hour per week.

The types of music ensembles found in schools produced interesting results. Choir (77.2%), recorder ensemble (47%) and concert band (40.4%) are the most common ensembles in the reporting schools. The other types of music

ensembles and their respective percentages reported were: Orff ensemble 13.9%, jazz band 12.9%, chamber group 6.3%, percussion ensemble


guitar ensemble 1.4%, steel band .7%,marching band, .7%, jazz choir .7%, and full orchestra .3%. Of the music ensembles, 55.4% of respondents participate in music festivals.

It was found that about one third (32.1%) of all respondents had less than 10% of student body involved in extra/co-curricular music activities, 19.4% of

respondents had between 10% and 19% of pupils involved in extra/co-curricular music ensembles while 12.3% reported between 30-39% of their student school population active in this area. These ensembles rehearsed weekly usually for between 30 minutes and one hour (57.7%) while some rehearsed one to two hours (21.7%) and others rehearsed less than 30 minutes (16.6%). For involving themselves in extra-curricular activities only 5.1% of respondents received time in lieu or some other benefit from school administrators for taking on this extra assignment.

Private music instruction provides a form of extra-curricular support for learning in the school music classroom. 39.9% of the teachers reported less than 10% of their students being involved in private music instruction while 16.3% noted between 10% and 19% of pupils taking private music lessons and another 13.8% reported that between 20%-29% or their pupils took private music instruction. Regarding the availability of private music teachers in their school community, 37.7% of respondents believed that there were sufficient private music teachers. 43.9% were unsure.

The responses concerning teacher’s perception of the role of the importance that music education takes in their school board or school produced interesting

results. About 50% perceived that music education took an unimportant role in their school board (relatively unimportant- 39.7%, unimportant – 11%) while about 49% perceived that music was important in their school board (important – 12.1%, relatively important 37.2%). One classroom teacher in southwestern Ontario [186] recounted: “I am dismayed by the relative unimportance with which the Board and Provincial Government regard music. On the one hand, there has been a tremendous increase in the curriculum expectations, yet nowhere near the corresponding increase in funding or teacher training that there should be”. Respondents perceived that their school music programs mainly ranged from good (21.4%) to very good (26.0%) to excellent (14%). Although almost 40% of respondents described their school music program negatively from fair (23.5%) to poor (9.8%) to very poor (5.3%).

Most teachers perceived their school enrollments either staying the same (41%) or increasing (35%) and likewise for the enrollment in their music program staying the same (61.7%) and increasing (25.8%).

The majority of respondents (85%) felt somewhat (38.1%) or very (48.8%) comfortable with the current implementation the music strand of The Ontario


Curriculum Grades 1-8: The Arts (1998). However, many commented that the generalist classroom teacher is struggling with this implementation. One classroom teacher from eastern Ontario [15] noted: “ The level of personal musicianship required to implement the curriculum effectively (and further, to evaluate it properly) is beyond the reasonable scope of the average teacher’s experience”.

Others noted the need for human resource/consultant assistance, curriculum implementation in-service and the development of second generation documents to support the expectations listed in the curriculum policy document. A

principal/vice principal from northern Ontario [108] noted: “We are basically left on our own as teachers and principals to implement the Ontario Curriculum within our schools. The board has not provided us with any formal program and no professional development. We are in desperate need of some leadership from above to develop an affordable and effective music program that all schools need to implement”.

About 57% of teachers described their program of music assessment as somewhat effective and 7.8% thought they were very effective at assessing music learning. Almost one-third of the teachers perceived their assessment of music learning as not very effective or not at all effective. 5% did not assess music learning at all! Only 18.7% of respondents noted that their school board was currently developing music assessment tolls to assist teachers. One classroom teacher from central Ontario [174] stated: “More resources and evaluation materials are needed for teachers of all levels to help deliver the best possible program every year”.

The adequacy of music facilities and resources produced troubling results. Over half (53.3%) of teachers reported that facilities for teaching music were

inadequate. One music teacher from central Ontario [66] noted, “My room is tiny, does not have a sink for cleaning band instruments and mouthpieces and has no practice rooms. I am not allowed to use drums because there is no

soundproofing in my room and the sound of the band classes booms through the main floor of the school, disturbing other classes”.

As well, 64.3% of respondents reported of the inadequacy of music equipment and resources. Some reported the challenge of finding appropriate learning materials; a classroom teacher from central Ontario [243] commented: “Getting resources that are current and interesting to the older students (grade 7-8) is very difficult”. Others pointed to the lack of funding; a music teacher in eastern Ontario [68] described: “The biggest problem I find in implementing my music program is lack of materials”.

For teachers that reported that their schools offered instrumental music

instruction, the results suggest that instruments are purchased/rented through a variety of sources. In 28.9% of respondents, 100% of the school’s instruments


were purchased by the school board. Conversely, 21.1% of all teachers

responded that less than 10% were owned by the school board. It is notable that 90% to 100% of the instruments owned/rented by parents occurred in 19.2% of all cases. Of the instruments owned/rented by parents almost half of the

respondents reported less than 10%.

The results suggest that teachers believe that there needs to be more offerings of live music performances for students in elementary schools. 51.8% of

respondents noted that there were not adequate offerings of live performances by symphonies, choirs, bands, etc. in their school.

The respondent’s perception of the support for the school music program from various sectors in the educational community varied. Most teachers (40.4%) were unsure if their supervisory officer supported school music. 38.9% felt that their supervisory officer supported school music.

The support for school music from the school board produced troubling

responses. Only one third (34.8%) felt that their school board supported music education. Another third (30.4%) felt their school board did not support school music while yet another third (35%) were unsure.

Obviously, one key to a strong music program comes from the support of the principal. Of all respondents on this item, 83.8% reported that their principal supported their music program. One passionate principal from central Ontario [216] elaborated: “I love music! I am dismayed with the (number) of teachers who do not teach music in their regular classroom because they do not fell

comfortable. I have worked with Board officials to offer workshops after school, however, these are poorly attended. This year I ran Music Part I for teachers. . . I do choirs, solo and small ensemble work during every lunch hour and recess. For an administrator, this is a huge undertaking, but I feel very strongly that children need to have music and perform it! The provincial government and our school board should be focusing more on the Arts and the value (they) have for children in the long run. Music and visual arts are two things that can remain with a person for the rest of their lives. Our education system is not providing a well rounded program for our children at the present time.”

Other supports for music programs were noted as well. Music teachers reported that in 74.1% of cases, classroom teachers supported the music program. The results suggested that 66.2% of respondents felt that there was parental support for the music program while 45.5% felt that there was support for music

education from the community at large.

The results from the funding questions suggest that the Ontario ministry of education, school boards and school principals need to look at more equitable funding of music education in Ontario schools. Almost 60% of all respondents reported the inadequacy of funds for their elementary music program. Only


19.2% reported annual funding from school boards with another 48.8% noting funding from the school. About one fifth (20.9%) of the respondents are

dependent upon fundraising to purchase music instruments/materials. Some schools receive funding from other sources: school council (14.3%), student user fees (9.4%), and parents (12.2%). An astounding 27.5% of respondents receive no funding for their music program in their classroom or school. 40.1% of

respondents do not know the amount of funding known in writing at the start of the school year. While 37.3% have an annual and ongoing music budget, 36.9% have a budget that is unknown and at the discretion of the administrator. The most common elementary budget (38%) was less than $500. 28.3% reported a budget of $500 - $999 and 17.9% noted a budget from $1,000 - $1,999. Most respondents (44.6%) noted that their budgets had stayed the same while 38.4% reported a decrease in budget over the last few years. One music/French teacher from southwestern Ontario [169] suggested: “We need a funding envelope for the arts and especially music”.

The results suggest that about half of respondents were aware of various advocacy groups and their respective supports. 50.5% knew of the work and materials of the Coalition for Music Education in Canada, 17.4% were aware of the National Coalition for Music Education, 8% of the American Music

Conference and 3.1% of VH1: Save the Music. Conclusion

This descriptive study provides an interesting look at the characteristics of the current status of music education in Ontario schools. A discussion on the results of both the elementary and secondary surveys will follow in Vol. XLIV No. 1 of The Recorder.


Coalition for Music Education in Canada (2000, November 15). Coalition for Music Education in Canada [Online]. Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved November 15, 2000 from the World Wide Web:

Cooper, T. G. (1989). School music teaching in Canada. Canadian Journal of Research in Music Education, 31(1), 47-80.

Goetz, J. P. & LeCompte. M. D. (1984). Ethnography and qualitative design in educational research. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

Montgomery, A. (1990). The effect of selected factors on the use of instructional time by elementary music specialists in Atlantic Canada. Canadian Journal of Research in Music Education, 32(3), 48-61.


Shand, P. M. (1982a). Music education in Canada Part I: The status of music education in Canada. Canadian Music Educator, 23(3), 18-30.

Shand, P. M. (1982b). Music education in Canada Part II: The need for change. Canadian Music Educator, 24(1), 29-34.

The author thanks Joan Abernethy, B.A. M.Ed., research assistant, who assisted with data collection, content and statistical analysis and Rahul Kumar for web design and data management. This research was funded by 1) the Music Education Joint Project Fund of the Canadian Music Industry Education

Committee and the Ontario Music Educators’ Association and 2) the Research and Development Fund, Faculty of Education, Brock University.

Dr. Rodger J. Beatty is Associate Professor, Music Education in the Preservice Department, Faculty of Education, Brock University. Rodger is Co-Editor of The Recorder and a member of the Board of Directors of the Ontario Music

Educators’ Association (OMEA) . He is the OMEA representative on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Music Industry Education Committee and is President of Choirs Ontario.





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