Music in Schools

In Norway, where 96,5 % of Norwegian children between age 6 and 16 attend public schooling, music is given by 1 weekly lesson throughout the 10-year compulsory school. In Norway, children of all abilities attend undivided classes during the 10 years of schooling.

In lower secondary school, though, pupils have to choose between a range of subjects, among which “Production for stage and audience” is popular and adds to the weekly one hour of music for many pupils. In upper secondary, only the pupils choosing music have any musical education. Pupils who choose music though get an extensive music education with 8-10 weekly lessons over 3 years, comprising of e.g. main instrument, band/orchestra playing and choir as well as theoretical issues.

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From 2020 there will be a brand-new curriculum in compulsory school. The main elements in music are:

  • Play/sing music
  • Create music
  • Experience music
  • Cultural understanding of music


The subject of music in Norwegian schools is founded on a premise that all aesthetic education has to take cultural dimensions into consideration, because aesthetic approaches vary according to cultural and historical context. Since music and pupils’ identity are important issues in music, classroom music should make room for diversity and polyphony in dialogues. Music in class also aim at supporting pupils to become creative, engaged and explorative in music, and the aim is that pupils should get rich possibilities of realizing their ideas in sounding music.To achieve quality and to build musical identity, critical approaches and reflexive judgment regarding ideas and musics are emphasized in teaching and learning music in Norwegian schools.

Compulsory school has no fixed curriculum, only assemblies of goals that pupils should master after 2, 4, 7, and 10 years of schooling. E.g. after 2. grade, pupils (among else) should be able to use a repertoire of songs, dances and clapping games, while after 10. grade, one expects pupils to e.g. be able to «interprete musical utterances and discuss the meaning of freedom of speech and its ethical consequences».

Political framework

Music and other aesthetic subjects and approaches have gone through difficult times lately, because of the authorities’ focus on testing of knowledge in the so called “core subjects”. Music, as such, is one of the smallest subjects in Norwegian schools, and can be marginalized if not attended to. However, two white papers and the new curriculum point at issues that can be addressed by musical creativity and aesthetic ambiguity. These main themes are: Democracy and citizenship; Health and life mastering; Sustainable development.

Due to the Norwegian geography, many pupils do not have the opportunity to meet the arts, and there may also be cultural and economic issues hindering pupils getting artistic experiences. The Norwegian Department of Culture therefore runs a huge program of visiting artists in schools, The Cultural Rucksack, where schools are visited by professional musicians several times a year. This program also comprises a large number of professional concerts.

Music education and activities outside school

All municipalities in Norway are obliged to run a “Culture school” where pupils can have lessons in various artistic subjects. Many of these schools run bands, orchestras and choirs. Even if the system is sponsored, there is a tuition fee, and parents must consent to letting their children participate. Approximately 16% of Norwegian pupils attend Culture school, and a large amount of them learn to play an instrument.

Locally, Norway has a large amount of wind bands, choirs, folk music groups and other musical activities which are democratically run by the participants, and many of these activities are for children, separately or as activities for all generations.