Like many professions and businesses, music education in Germany is suffering from a severe lack of adequately trained staff, in particular at elementary schools. The umbrella organisation of German music life, Deutscher Musikrat, recently made a statement regarding the qualifications of music teachers and the demands and requirements set in their training. According to general secretary Christian Höppner, the standards of music teacher education should stay unaltered as they used to be in the past decades, emphasising the traditional subjects and ideals of our cultural heritage in order to prevent an allegedly impending deprofessionalisation.
In my opinion, this is a misjudgement and dangerously shortsighted strategy. The desolate current situation results from long-term adherence to outdated structures and values in the education of music teachers. Given that universities and cultural administrations have already changed their orientation and educational policies, the Musikrat’s claim appears highly anachronistic. Sticking to the elitist ideals of the educated middle class and lamenting the decline of formerly high standards is of no use and will lead even further into the crisis. Instead, we should foster the motivation of pupils and prospective applicants of music universities, and create stimuli to opt for a teaching profession in music by reshaping and diversifying curricula, integrating various musical styles and instruments to choose from, and reconsider the demands of entrance exams. Last but not least, the profession needs to grow more financially rewarding to strengthen its image and help to win higher numbers of applicants.
These strategies would account for the total opposite of deprofessionalisation, or even »betrayal of the educational chances of the youth«, as Höppner puts it. In fact, the situation would significantly improve if schools were able to hire well-qualified Bachelor graduates with sufficient practical experience instead of reacting to the declining numbers of Master graduates with a plethora of career changers and lateral entrants. We do not need long and difficult music education programmes, but larger amounts of university places and new applicants to satisfy present and future demands, and to comply with our responsibility to offer equal chances to the generations of students to come.