Agenda 2030 Graduate School blog

Lund University Agenda 2030 Graduate School is a global, cutting-edge research school and collaboration platform for issues related to societal challenges, sustainability and the 2030 Agenda. The 17 PhD students from all faculties at Lund University enrolled with the Agenda 2030 Graduate School relate their specific research topics to the Sustainable Development Goals. In this blog the PhD students of the Graduate School discuss topical research and societal issues related to the 2030 Agenda.

Assessment as Accountability in Music Education?

Silhuette of boy playing the piano. Photo.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

Posted on 5 October 2020 by Lina Van Dooren (Malmö Academy of Music)

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Agenda 2030 Graduate School or Lund University. The present document is being issued without formal editing.

Over the past decades the emergence of standardized curricula and tests in western compulsory schooling have ensured that progress in ‘core’ subjects such as science, mathematics and literacy can be measured on a local, national and international level. One such example is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an instrument to assess grade 8 students’ performance in core subjects, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)[1]. These particular subjects are emphasized in a neoliberal educational theory as they lend themselves more easily to quantitative measurement and have a higher application rate in the labor market[2].

In Sweden, the ‘national tests’ [nationella prov] assess students’ knowledge and skills in mathematics, science, literacy and social studies in order to inform and support the teachers in their instruction. The standardized curricula and tests provide an account of how schools meet their responsibilities and are a means to improve education systems. However, different accountability approaches serve different educational contexts and needs[3]. Subjects like the arts may not benefit from and are often not standardized in compulsory education and require different means for accountability.

With the implementation of the 2030 Agenda into national curricula and policies, accountability has become even more multifaceted. According to target 4.7 in the Agenda, all learners should acquire the knowledge and skills for a global citizenship and sustainable development education[4]. Learning about pressing global issues, and the plurality of contexts and ethical considerations that define them, will require close supervision of the interactions between students and teachers in the classroom[5]. For example, the appreciation for cultural diversity as described in target 4.7 can be related to a discourse on multicultural music education[6].

Even though the discourse cannot be described in detail here, one may still start to grasp the complexity of measuring and assigning accountability in (music) education today. How do we measure the appreciation of cultural diversity in music students? What kind of outcomes or classroom practices would indicate successful achievement? The Global Education Monitoring Report Team mentions in one of its key findings that “to accomplish the larger shared aims of education, policy-makers must recognize actors’ interdependence and work towards systems that incorporate mutual accountability approaches”. Thus, accountability systems should not only raise questions like how and what, but also who is involved in the process[7]. The criteria for a successful music education set by students, teachers, parents, policy makers, researchers, and organizations may all be very different – but whose voice is the loudest?

[1] Kertz-Welzel, A. (2018). Globalizing Music Education: A Framework. Indiana University Press.

[2] Horsley, S. (2009). The politics of public accountability: Implications for centralized music education policy development and implementation. Arts Education Policy Review, 110(4), 6–13.

[3] Global Education Monitoring Report Team. (2017). Accountability in education: meeting our commitments; Global education monitoring report, 2017/8. In Educational Administration Quarterly (2nd ed.). United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

[4] United Nations. (2015). Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Agenda for Sustainable Development web.pdf

[5] Sund, L., & Pashby, K. (2018). “Is it that We Do Not Want them to have washing machines?”: Ethical global issues pedagogy in swedish classrooms. Sustainability, 10(10), Article 3552.

[6] Elliott, D. J. (1989). Key Concepts in Multicultural Music Education. International Journal of Music Education, 13, 11–18.;
Karlsen, S. (2017). Policy, Access, and Multicultural (Music) Education. In P. Schmidt & R. Colwell (Eds.), Policy and the Political Life of Music Education (pp. 211–230). Oxford University Press.;
Sæther, E. (2008). When minorities are the majority: voices from a teacher/researcher project in a multicultural school in Sweden. Research Studies in Music Education, 30(1), 25–42.×08089888;
Westerlund, H. M. (2019). The return of moral questions: expanding social epistemology in music education in a time of super-diversity. Music Education Research, 21(5), 503–516.

[7] For more information in the field music education, see inter alia Barrett, M. S. (2017). Policy and the Lives of School-Age Children Margaret. In P. Schmidt & R. Colwell (Eds.), Policy and the Political Life of Music Education (pp. 175–190). Oxford University Press.;
Schmidt, P. K. (2012). Critical Leadership and Music Educational Practice. Theory Into Practice, 51(3), 221–228.

This blog post is part of the series Accountability and the SDGs.
On 14 October at 17.00-18.30 we continue the discussion on this topic in a panel discussion, which is part of the Lund University Future Week.

Join the panel discussion on Accountability and the SDGs – via Facebook event.

October 5, 2020

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