Music builds cohesion and essential learning skills

Music is about connection so, unsurprisingly, it helps build inclusion for non-English-speaking and refugee students in the Australian school system.
Jul 15, 2020
Music build cohesion and learning skills

Music is about connection so, unsurprisingly, it helps build inclusion for non-English-speaking and refugee students in the Australian school system

Skills learned in music study are also readily transferrable to other subjects such as English and mathematics.

“Creativity and critical thinking, innovation, communication, collaborative learning, intercultural competence and socially inclusive behaviours are non-negotiable 21st century skills and attributes that are embedded within the disciplines of music and arts,” Dr Renee Crawford, Senior Lecturer in Monash University’s Faculty of Education said.

Her recent study explored the perceptions, experiences and practices of teachers directly or indirectly involved with the music education program in three Australian schools that have a high percentage of young people with a refugee background.

Key findings indicate that intercultural competence and socially inclusive behaviours are embedded in the music learning activities that are student-centred, active, practical, experiential and authentic.

The three Australian schools involved in this 30-week case study have more than 1500 students combined from a number of countries, including Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Thailand and Burma.

All schools delivered the standard Australian curriculum, as well as intensive English language courses and cultural-immersion opportunities for refugee students.

The music teachers interviewed indicated the experiences and opportunities provided by the practices involved in music making contributed to their overall academic achievement and the development of positive personal and social outcomes for all students.

One music teacher said: “Beyond the dots on the page, there is an expressive quality to music that transcends cultural boundaries and academic limitations…engagement with lyrics builds vocabulary, comprehension and pronunciation.”

Another remarked that some students who found literacy or numeracy difficult, and somewhat confronting, have a chance to excel in music. They said music gave students the chance to develop important personal and social skills, such as self-esteem and teamwork

“It was encouraging to observe that in each of these schools, the music programs are designed on the premise that musical participation affords opportunities to enrich human experience in holistic and integrated ways, valuing a balance of intrinsic and extrinsic benefits,” Crawford said.

“Australia is regarded as one of the most multicultural countries in the world, but as globalisation becomes the norm, we begin to welcome people from countries with vastly different backgrounds, experiences, ideologies, values and belief systems.

“A reconsideration of what we teach and how is required in order to account for the social, cultural and economic differences and similarities embodied within the changing society and contemporary student cohort. Music and the arts can play a huge role in the future of inclusive, practical and life-changing education.”

Recent changes to public university fee structures announced by the Federal Government which will see a 113 per cent increase in the cost of humanities degrees from 2021 will make a musically orientated education harder though/

To download a copy of the study titled: ‘Beyond the dots on the page: Harnessing transculturation and music education to address intercultural competence and social inclusion’, visit