What Do We Mean by Inclusion in Music Education? with Victoria Armstrong

UNESCO defines inclusive education as a process of strengthening the education system to reach out to all learners. With regards to music education this means removing barriers that may prevent full participation, paying attention to the right of the individual to engage in meaningful musical activities, and providing opportunities for all irrespective of their background, race, ethnicity, gender, geographical location, income levels, sexuality, or disability.

But it’s not that simple. Drawing on her empirical research – ranging from the music technology classroom to the experiences of professional female musicians – Victoria Armstrong's presentation will highlight some of the contradictions, challenges and contestations across different music education practices and contexts. For example, can a social music programme call itself inclusive while simultaneously selecting the most ‘talented’ for specialist lessons? Why do talented young women studying music at University still feel that ‘composition is for men’? Why is girls’ technological know-how is not accorded the same status as their male counterparts?  Why are boys accorded more compositional freedom in the classroom than girls? How inclusive is a curriculum that emphasises Western classical music but ignores students’ own musical cultures and out-of-school activities?

This presentation will encourage us to be alert to claims for inclusive practices and processes which may be anything but, and to critically consider the potential contradictions, challenges and contestations in our practice and that of others.