National Coordinator: Ene Kangron

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Music in Schools

About online Music Education in Estonian (by Jaanus Kann, Chairman of the Estonian Society for Music Education)

Although Estonia is known for both, its technological advances and its comprehensive general musical education, it cannot be said that everything went smoothly when a year ago all school life, including music education, was sent home for months essentially overnight. As probably in all over the world, Estonian teachers were confused by uncertainty and constant changes in plans, and had to familiarise themselves with many technical solutions that did not need to be used before. However, learning to use new programs and devices did not prove to be an impassable barrier, as for at least two decades Estonian governmental institutions have been working strategically on online solutions that would make life more convenient and efficient, and most of our schools have been equipped with modern technology.

The first major web technological change in the Estonian education system was the electronic school management platform eKool (the pilot project was launched in 2002 and it has been in common use since 2005). The platform provides all parties (students, parents, teachers and school management) with the necessary overview of the content of the study, homework, grades and missing students, and the parties can also send each other notifications.

For years, the web platform named E-koolikott has also been carried by the state. This platform contains large quantities of teaching materials and assignments made and shared by teachers and reviewed by editors. The last year has also significantly raised the usage of the Opiq electronic textbook platform. Opiq does not only duplicate printed textbooks, it also includes music samples, automatically controlled tasks, and other features that make learning more expressive and effective.

Estonian teachers have also used foreign online teaching materials, including various YouTube clips, of course. Unfortunately these are often not suitable because of the language, or also because we use syllables in the relative note system other than elsewhere in the world (JO-LE-MI instead of DO-RE-MI). However, the Estonian Society for Music Education is currently developing a web programme that will help Estonian students to exercise relative melody models, giving automated feedback to them.

According to our survey of music teachers (in May 2020), it can be assumed that our teachers are ready to continue with so-called hybrid teaching (online teaching combined with traditional teaching) in the post-pandemic world, if necessary. Approximately 10–30% of our curriculum can be taught online and this has its advantages, for example: rehearsing the skills learned, differentiating learning and, in general, using time more efficiently. On the other hand, one of the most important components of music education – joint music making – is not possible via the internet, especially if we want students to inspire each other during the activity.

We are proud to be able to use modern technological tools in Estonia, but we must not forget that no computer teaches us to be human.

Jaanus Kann

The Chairman of the Estonian Society for Music Education

Music Teacher, Nomme Gymnasium, Tallinn

Political framework, school system

In Estonia we have  been regarding singing (including choral singing) as one of  main goals of music teaching to preserve and maintain our cultural heritage and traditions.

Music is a compulsory subject from the first up to twelve grade.

Pre-school, basic and secondary education in  ESTONIA

The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 sees learning as a lifestyle. It is necessary to notice development opportunities and search for intelligent solutions. The learning process itself is based on values like:

Responsibility – people are aware that learning and self-development are their own conscious personal choices as well as responsibility.

Necessity – the learning process is guided by the individual’s personal interests and abilities and supports their development, whilst keeping in mind the requirements of the labour market.

Opportunities – a system of lifelong learning offers high quality, contemporary and flexible learning opportunities that are tailored for individual needs.

Lifelong learning begins with general education. There is a common system applied for general education in Estonia. In practical terms, this means that a common curriculum is taught in all levels of education, regardless of the language of study. The length of the study period consists of at least 175 teaching days (35 weeks) and four intervals of school breaks.

All municipal schools have designated service areas, meaning that the schools must ensure vacancies for all school-aged children living in their designated  area. Parents can influence the school’s development through school board.

General education is divided to pre-school, basic and upper-secondary education.

Pre-school education is delivered to children between the ages of 18 months to seven years in especially dedicated educational institutions. The main aim of the early stages education is to support the child’s family through fostering the child’s growth and development by taking into account their individuality. Facilities for the pre-school education are provided by the local authorities at the request of parents. Pre-school children’s institutions follow state curricula that is specifically formulated for the purpose. Children who have passed the pre-school curriculum will be issued a certificate that records the child’s development. The parents will submit this certificate to the school where the child will be enrolled.

Basic education serves as the mandatory minimum of general education requirement, which can be acquired either partially in primary schools (grades 1 to 6), basic schools (grades 1 to 9) or upper secondary schools that also teach basic school curricula.

The basic school is divided into three stages:

stage I – grades 1.-3.

stage II – grades 4.-6.

stage III – grades 7.-9.

Basic education is made available through two national curricula:

national curriculum of basic school;

simplified curriculum for basic school.

Graduating the basic school requires that the student learns the curriculum at least a satisfactory level together with passing three basic school graduation exams consisting of the Estonian language or Estonian as a second language, mathematics and an exam on a subject of the student’s choice as well as completing a creative assignment.

Following graduation from basic school, there are a number of possibilities for continuation of the educational path. There is a possibility to acquire general secondary education at upper secondary school, vocational secondary education at some vocational education institution or simply an occupation.

General secondary education is acquired at the upper secondary school level. Upper secondary schools are designed to help students become creative, multi-talented, socially mature and reliable citizens who have discovered a field of endeavour that is best suited to their individual interests and capacities for continuing their future educational path. The study programme at upper secondary school is arranged into mandatory and voluntary courses. Graduation from upper secondary school requires the student to complete a curriculum consisting of at least 96 individual courses passed at a satisfactory level as a minimum, passing the state exams consisting of the Estonian language or Estonian as a second language, mathematics and a foreign language exam, passing the upper secondary school exam as well as completing a student research paper or practical work during the entire study period.

Attaining general secondary education entitles students to continue their studies at a higher educational institution or to obtain vocational education.


The National Curriculum in Estonia emphasises integration between different disciplines.

Music teachers are interested and able to integrate music and other disciplines – languages, history, sciences, visual arts, movement.  They are useing technology in music lessons.

Here one can see another danger – they offer less and less  time in music lessons for singing and  for playing instruments.

In Estonia we have  been regarding singing (including choral singing) as one of  main goals of music teaching to preserve and maintain our cultural heritage and traditions.

Music is a compulsory subject from the first up to twelve grade.

Amount of music lessons:

Kindergarten                                              – 2 lessons  (per week)

Primary school grades 1-3                       – 2 lessons

Basic school      grade 4                             – 2 lessons

grades 5-9            – 1 lesson

Secondary school  grades 10-12              – 1 lesson

Besides  compulsory music lessons it is  common in Estonia that every school has also choirs.

In Estonia music is mostly taught by  qualified music teachers  (there are  few exeptions   in primary and basic level where music is taught by classroom teachers).

From seventh grade up to the twelve grade all subjects are taught only by teachers-specialists (regulated by the law).

Basic activities of general music education:

  • Performing – singing, playing instruments (classical, Orff, folk, electronic  “body percussion”)
  • Composing – creating musical improvisations, rhythmic and movement accompaniments, creative musical expressions using visual arts and media
  • Music listening and music history – experiencing and analyzing vocal and instrumental music of different styles and genres from different eras.
  • Study trips (concerts, theatres, museums etc)

General music teaching in Estonian basic and secondary schools is based on methods by Riho Päts, Heino Kaljuste, Carl Orff and Zoltán Kodály.



Music teaching aims to introduce students to the world of music, to enrich the emotional side of their nature, to develop their musical taste and to develop their understanding of musical culture.

Music teaching has the following components: singing, the acquisition of knowledge and skills related to voice and music, improvising, listening to music, rhythmical motion, playing on simpler children’s instruments. Teaching is based on the experience gained through practical musical activities.

From Grade 1 to Grade 3 – teaching is focused on singing a cappella. Alongside with one-voiced songs, the student is introduced to elementary two-voiced pieces (canons). Once a song has been mastered by the student, it may be sung with instrumental accompaniment.

From Grade 4 to Grade 6 – attention is increasingly paid to songs in two voices. The main aspects the student needs to consider while listening to music are the mood, content and form of the piece, as well as its dynamics, tempo and musical patterns.

From Grade 7 to Grade 9 – the student usually takes a great interest in popular music. In addition to teaching songs, including popular songs, and musical theory, attention is paid on rhythm. Well-known classical compositions are recommended for listening at this stage.

Objectives of teaching

The aim of teaching music in basic school is to ensure that the student:

– engages actively in musical activities;

– is able to sing in a relaxed and natural way;

– develops ‘musical literacy’;

– acquires listening experience;

– enriches the emotional side of his/her nature through musical impressions;

– develops musical taste.


At the gymnasium level, music is studied in its various styles, sound structures and forms as an art undergoing constant change and development. The history of music is part of the history of culture, and should be approached within a common framework with other important events, art and literature of a particular period. Singing contributes to the emotional side of the history of music.

Supporting Activities in music education

  • Song festivals for youth choirs, orchestras and dance groups are organized  (with interval   three years since 1962)  by the  Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation,
  • Contests, festivals and competitions are organized every year for different kinds of school choirs, orchestras and for vocal soloists by the Estonian Society for Music Education,
  • Every two years the Estonian Music Olympiad (EMO) is organized for students of general comprehensive secondary schools by the Estonian Society for Music Education. There are three parts of the EMO – singing, composing and musical knowledge and it has two tours – regional and the final tour.

Music Teacher Training

A professionally trained music teacher teaches in all educational levels – from kindergarten to upper-secondary school. Due to that circumstance a music teacher training has to focus on providing wide-range knowledge and skills music education field, where professionalism is a prerequisite for a prospective music teacher’s position.

Our Song Celebration tradition, which is listed as UNESCO oral and intangible heritage, relies a lot on music teachers. A regular music teacher is the one who prepares all the school choirs for the participation in Song Celebration and therefore plays the crucial part in maintaining the cultural heritage.

Higher education in training a prospective music teacher is divided into the bachelor and master levels. The bachelor level degree can be any bachelor curriculum in the music field while in the master level the teacher training curriculum is required (not master in music).

Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre is the only institution running bachelor studies in music education.

Music education curriculum (bachelor 180 ECTS) is focussed on musical issues. The goals of the program are:

– forming a basis for personal development and growth as a prospective music teacher with musical competence, awareness of educational science, pedagogic determination and strong motivation to work in the field of music education;

– supporting an open learning environment that helps and further contributes to the specific skills and knowledge obtained from the curriculum;

– establishing conditions for personal and artistic growth;

– developing communicative competence, responsibility and co-operation abilities.

 Learning outcomes of the program

Upon completing the curriculum, the student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate educational and musical knowledge and apply skills and methods appropriate for music teaching at elementary and secondary (gymnasium) level.
  2. Play an instrument and sing on a level that affords and contributes to music teaching at various elementary and secondary schools.
  3. Reflect the student´s growth both as musicians and as persons, displaying

awareness of educational science and psychology.

  1. Apply a variety of thinking strategies and techniques that help solving a wide range of problems that can emerge in the process of learning and/or practicing music.
  2. Display awareness of Western music history and music theory, and its cultural background in different periods..
  3. Integrate the learnt topics, issues and musical material into one´s own musical projects in various ways.
  4. Communicate and participate, both written and colloquial, in his/her own language of instruction, and at least one more language, in musical discussions and on various musical topics.
  5. Successfully participate in team work and various initiatives that contribute to society and community in a wider and responsible way.
  6. Assess critically one´s own level of knowledge and skills, and continue with music or pedagogical studies on the next academical level, or in other relevant and meaningful ways.

The music education curriculum in the bachelor level consists of the following components and modules:

  • Music didactics and educational science and psychology (30 ECTS): C.Orff pedagogy, the method of relative solfeggio by Z.Kodály, musical activity of infants and small children, music teaching in general education schools, pedagogical practice, rhythmics in music education, educational sciences and general didactics, communication psychology, introduction to research etc.
  • Practical courses of music (100 ECTS): choir, choral training, choral conducting, jazz-rhythmics, ensemble, main instrument in rhythmic music, jazz theory and solfedge, additional instrument, piano accompaniment and arrangements, solfeggio, etc
  • Courses related to music theory, music history, and humanities (40 ECTS)
  • Bachelor´s exam (10 ECTS).

Master level program – Music teacher (Master of Arts in Education) is offered as a joint program by Tallinn University and Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.

The  conditions of admission to the master level is the bachelor´s degree in music.

The objectives of the  study programme

The joint degree program is designed to provide a comprehensive academic education in music in the field of educational sciences and teacher training, the competence to work as a music teacher (at the primary school, basic school and upper secondary school level) and a readiness for continuing studies, including doctoral studies. To create opportunities to form a knowledge and research-based approach to teaching and a willingness for continuous professional development. To enable the development of a music teacher with an understanding of multicultural society who values national traditions and modern teaching methods.

The  learning outcomes of the study program.

The student:

  • knows and understands the aims, principles and tendencies of music education, and values music in a broader socio-cultural context;
  • has broad and systematic knowledge of educational sciences and subject didactics and practical skills for working as a music teacher in preschool, basic school or upper secondary school;
  • is able to carry out musical activities and music lessons using the didactic possibilities included in various methodological approaches;
  • is able to reflect on their activities as a music teacher, plan the student’s development and one’s further development in general educational and interdisciplinary competences;
  • orients in music history, music theory and different music genres, applying this knowledge in practical activities, and is able to play music at a level adequate for a music teacher;
  • has acquired the knowledge and skills for conducting scientific research in their profession;
  • is able to work with different target groups and to treat specific expertise in the broader context of society and culture, and to express themselves professionally in at least one foreign language.

The music teacher curricula  in the master level consists of the following modules and subjects:

  • Research in Educational Sciences (6 ECTS)
  • Subject-specific courses (27 ECTS). Compulsory: classroom strategies for interactive music learning; foundations, philosophy and history of music education; piano free accompaniment, recorder in classroom; voice training. Elective: basic training cource in rhythm section instruments, ensemble etc
  • Subjects in General Educational Science and Psychology (30 ECTS). Compulsory: emotional and social aspects of learning; supporting learning and development; differentiation of instruction; teacher and student as learners in school and society. Elective: educational technology in school, qualitative and quantitative methods in educational studies etc.
  • Subject-specific didactics and placement (37 ECTS): teacher training practice, music education didactics, music teacher`s main school practice, music didactics for early childhood and preschool, practice for early childhood and preschool
  • Electives (2 ECTS)
  • Master’s Thesis (18 ECTS)

Find more:

Song Celebration

Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre