News & Resources
In the Netherlands, Public and Private Sectors Partner toward Music for All
Emma Brouwer, Project Manager, Méér Muziek in de Klas
The biggest school band in The Netherlands.
In 2014, arts education in the Netherlands was in a dire state. In particular, music education had suffered from years of budget cuts in primary schools. There was an increased focus on the “case subjects,” such as language and math, as well as changes in the teacher training colleges, where only one or two modules of music education remained in the curriculum.
Thankfully, the Minister of Education, Culture, and Science at the time started a conversation with several prominent figures from decentralized government, the music industry, conservatoires, and primary education. This led to a guiding statement with 20 recommendations, one of which was to start a public-private organization.
This was the start of Méér Muziek in de Klas (More Music in the Classroom), a cause to which Queen Máxima of the Netherlands committed herself by becoming honorary chair of the board.
Since then, our foundation has reached over one million children in primary schools in the Netherlands. Through our integral, demand-driven approach, we have put music education in primary schools back on the map. Our overall goal is structural music education for all 1.4 million school children in the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean. Very importantly, having this clear goal helps us to focus our activities.
To reach the goal, we work with an integral approach, containing four paths of action. We love to share some of the most successful elements of our structural model with you. We hope that despite the many differences in all our specific (working) situations all over the world, parts of our approach can still inspire and potentially be adapted to some of your contexts. Here are the most successful elements of our structural model.
- Awareness & publicity. To raise public awareness about the necessity of music education, we set up an ambassador structure with representative public figures. They are important advocates for our mission. Publicity is an important part of raising awareness. A good example is our annual Christmas show, which is broadcast annually on national television and attracts more than one million viewers every year. In the show, children from schools all over the country participate in “The Biggest School Band of the Netherlands” and perform with well-known Dutch artists. Since 2021, we have focused on children from disadvantaged areas in these types of programs.
- Expertise development. We invest in developing music teaching expertise in current and future teachers, to ensure that they are confident and well-equipped to teach music.For the current generation of teachers, we managed a government subsidy that schools could use to improve their music lessons, for example by buying instruments and training their teachers. To enhance the skills of future teachers, all teacher training colleges and conservatories in the Netherlands signed a manifesto in 2020 promising to improve their curriculum for the next 12 years, to better prepare and equip their students to give music lessons. The teacher training colleges in the Caribbean part of the Netherlands also joined, allowing for an exchange of knowledge and musical heritage.
- Educational development. To encourage modern music lessons, we work with partners from the educational field to develop tools and materials that can help teachers to overcome their inhibitions and start teaching music. These materials include short musical energizers and with an online tool for comparing different music methods.
- Infrastructure and sustainability. One of our key programs is anchoring music education by setting up local collaborations in the provinces, regions, and towns. We co-create a model with all local parties (schools, local government, music schools, educational institutes, businesses, service clubs, etc.) that, in togetherness, can make the difference for the children in their region. This is a translation of our national public/private funding model, and of our Ambassadors Program, to a regional context. We currently have 65 regional collaborations that represent 50% of the municipalities and 70% of all primary school children in the Netherlands.
This model has helped us tremendously, but there is still a lot to do. There are children whom we don’t reach, such as children with special needs and children growing up in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Moving forward, we will therefore focus on equal opportunities for all children and on broadening children’s horizons through art. In creating this new and wider approach, we will take with us these lessons we’ve learned over the past eight years:
- Change takes time. You need patience and persistence, but it is also helpful to focus your energy on the right people and projects.
- Many small steps can make a big change.
- From the beginning, in your planning, involve the people who work in the system that you want to change; they know best what is needed.
- Be proactive and have an entrepreneurial attitude.
- Last but not least, always put the children’s needs at the heart of everything you do.
Do you want to discuss things further or share your knowledge on this topic? We will be at the EAS conference in Lyon, France, and will give a presentation in the advocacy session on Friday, 26 May 2023, 10:15 a.m.–11:45 a.m. CET. Come meet us there!