In France, music education in school for pupils aged from 3-18, is part of a vast artistic and cultural education program (Education artistique et culturelle, or EAC) which is asserted to be essential to guarantee cultural democratization and equal opportunities for each and every one.
Political Framework: Artistic and Cultural Education
EAC includes all artistic disciplines and is to be provided by schools as well as by out-of-school institutions. The aim is to provide every child the opportunity of getting in touch with music; firstly by listening to live music and by meeting artists directly; secondly by practicing music, singing or playing an instrument, and also by inventing and composing; and thirdly by building up a specific knowledge to understand music. School holds a key position in this ambitious artistic and cultural education program. But also music schools and academies, orchestras, choirs, bands…cultural and social institutions, public as well as private organizations, can involve in joint artistic and cultural projects in the frame of local or territorial partnerships.
This artistic and cultural education program has been set up by two ministries: the Ministry of Education in charge of the general education and the Ministry of Culture in charge of the specialized education. In a joint declaration in 2018, they have set priority on arts and culture in school activities and emphasized the place and role of music. One of the first practical measures is to establish a choir open to all pupils in in every school.
School system: Music in French schools
In France, the general education is meant for all children until age 16, currently there are about 3 millions of pupils attending school.
At the Nursery school and the Primary school, that is from age 3 to 10, the musical education is provided by the generalist teacher, who, without being a specialist, should be able to propose listening and singing activities. Two hours per week have to be dedicated to arts (music and fine arts). In some places, professionally trained musiciens called musiciens intervenants support the generalist teachers in the scope of educational and artistic projects in class. These external contributors to music education are mostly employed by local authorities.
In Secondary school (in French collège), that is from age 11 to 14, musical education is compulsory on the basis of one hour per week. This is the main music education in France because all pupils are concerned. Collège music teachers are all specialists.
In High school, (in French lycée), that is from age 15 to 18, there are three possibilities to study music, from 3 to 5 hours of music per week, but all of them are optional. Lycée music teachers are selected specialists.
Curricula: Aims and contents of music education
The official curriculum for music education, provided by the national Ministry of Education, stipulates the following purposes and activities during the four main education periods (cycles) in school.
Cycle 1 (age 3-6): Playing with one’s voice and learning songs, nursery and counting rhymes; exploring instruments and body sounds; listening and sharpening one’s attentiveness
Cycle 2 (age 6-9): Singing; Listening and comparing; Exploring and inventing; Sharing and exchanging views
Cycle 3 (age 9-11): Singing and performing; Listening, comparing and commentating; Exploring, inventing and creating; Sharing, exchanging views and setting out arguments
Cycle 4 (age 11-14): Carrying out, creating or performing music projects; Listening, comparing and building up a shared knowledge of music; Exploring, inventing, creating and producing; Sharing, exchanging views, setting out arguments and discussing
High school (age 15-18): In the frame of the EAC program, each pupil should have the opportunity to take part in a creative workshop (in the field of music, danse, theater…) set up in partnership with local cultural institutions.
For several decades now, in France music education in school has been gradually changing. Interdisciplinary and creative artistic projects, linking internal and external partners have been gaining ground. Here and there digital and multimodal tools are being used in classes in a very astute way. Even if teachers and external contributors are often lacking as well as public funds, we do our best to improve music education. Above all we want to give every pupil a chance to appreciate and practice music at school. Still much depends on an efficient professional training. If you want to learn more about it and to help us enhance good practices or take a step forward to build up a relevant research on our music education, welcome to France !