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Gabriella Dohány: Investigating the Connection between Music-Related Background Variables and Music Literacy among Secondary School Children

In Hungarian public education, the theoretical foundation for music education is to be found in Zoltán Kodály’s system of music pedagogy, according to the National Core Curriculum. Feedback from public schools on experience of music education articulates problems with effectiveness. The present research reviews the factors that influence the effectiveness of music education, i.e. the development of music literacy, in Hungary. The study aims to assess secondary school children’s music literacy at the end of their compulsory music education. The various educational objectives can be considered jointly as the basis for what we term literacy. We define music literacy based on Kodály’s educational aims. The term literacy is used in accordance with other literacies found in national and international surveys, such as mathematical and reading literacy. We define literacy as a system of factual knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes in a particular area. The instrument for the research is a paper-and-pencil test. There were two paper-and-pencil tests administered to learners from Szeged (N=178): one looked like a normal socio-cultural background questionnaire containing 20 questions with 120 items; the other, a test of music literacy, contained 14 questions with 103 items. The summarized results answer all the research questions: (1) the test of music literacy is reliable for the purposes of the assessment; (2) the level that upper secondary school children achieve at the end of their compulsory music education is relatively low; (3) the empirical structure of the test separates music development into two areas: musical abilities and knowledge; (4) the background variables correlate significantly with music literacy; and (5) learners mainly derive their knowledge from out-of-school sources (television, music clubs and the mass media). Cronbach’s alpha is .93, which is more than sufficient as a reliability coefficient. The research finds that learners’ average achievement level (37.66%) is far from the curricular minimal level. The difference between musical abilities and musical knowledge is significant (p<.001); the scores for musical ability exercises are approximately half of the scores for musical knowledge. Background variables include musical taste, attitude, learning instruments, music consumption and socio-cultural status correlated with music literacy. Correlating the means of the item scores on the music literacy test with preferred styles – pop, hip-hop and R&B – shows a significant negative correlation with the scores, while only rock music, which correlates positively, tends to be the one style of popular music which could convey music literacy to young people. A significant negative correlation also appears when learners consider the importance of different sources in their music literacy. They viewed the mass media (-.29; p<.01) as a very important source of music literacy and their studies at a school of music (.44; p<.01) as the least significant source. In conclusion, the most pressing challenge for music educators is how to merge providing a theoretical background and developing skills with maintaining learners’ interest in music.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 114. Number 2. 91-114. (2014)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Dohány Gabriella, Szegedi Tömörkény István Gimnázium és Művészeti Szakközépiskola, H–6720 Szeged, Tömörkény utca 1.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia