The Private Instrumental Music Education Market in Ireland. Class positioning, cultural opportunity, insurance against risk?

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Title: The Private Instrumental Music Education Market in Ireland. Class positioning, cultural opportunity, insurance against risk?
Authors: Conaghan, Dorothy
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Date: 2021
Online since: 2021-09-10T11:54:46Z
Abstract: The rise of private market-led education is both widespread and normalised for many years in Ireland. Yet there has been limited research examining the interface between school-choice ideology, private or shadow education and education-based, extra-curricular activities (ECAs) in terms of class positioning, power relations and risk. This study examines instrumental music education (IME), in the form of Western art or classical music as an example of active, classed parenting outside of schooling. In Ireland, as a result of a lacuna in policy and provision, IME as an ECA is parent-led and is only accessible through the market. Access and success in IME presupposes the availability of considerable cultural, social and economic capital within a student’s family. Yet the Irish context provides a twist in that performance on a musical instrument can be assessed for public examinations where points can be accrued for entrance to, and course credits in, certain universities and for entry into publicly-funded performance-based courses in higher education music study. Drawing on existing studies of class taste, risk, class distinction, class reproduction, and middle-class parenting styles, the aim of this study is to explore the classed dimensions of parental engagement with IME. It investigates the connection between middle-class child-rearing strategies and mother’s role in managing the social class project in relation to children’s education both in and out of school. The study also examines the relationship between IME engagement, parental cultural tastes, acquired cultural capital and parental motivations in insuring against class risk. Integrating data from three sources, qualitative interviews with parents, together with a body of experiential and observational knowledge, and newly analysed quantitative data from Ireland and Europe, a major contribution of this study will lie in the use of primary research to explore why parents of children involved in IME act on their behalf in terms of cultural education and how this education is linked to social class positioning and risk. Working within this framework, the study has identified how middle-class parents who had field-specific cultural knowledge, time and finance, were favourably positioned to use their multiple capitals to advantage their children’s life choices through the medium of IME. By strategically equipping their children with extra IME skills and knowledge, parents and especially mothers, were acutely aware of both the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits that learning a musical instrument offered in terms of mitigating class risk in an increasingly competitive education market and in a precarious labour market. And although intrinsic, aesthetic and cultural benefits were acknowledged as motivators, the data suggests that parents also recognised and largely prioritised the potential of IME for its transfer value, a vehicle to control and deliver social class and occupational payoffs. Music professionals were also found to play a role in perpetuating this process of classed inequalities. By collectively not opposing the parental-support requirements for IME, professional interest groups of musicians and music educators played a significant role as gatekeepers in maintaining the structural conditions that create barriers to equal access and participation, especially in class terms. The study supports the work of Annette Lareau while providing a new perspective on her work through the lens of IME as an ECA. The research proposes to advance Lareau’s argument that the tools needed for the concerted cultivation of IME in Ireland are dependent on a correct blend of field-specific, middle class musical capitals. The study also found that subtle intra-class differences such as the availability of parental time can significantly impact on a child’s access to, and success in, IME in Ireland.
Type of material: Doctoral Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Education
Qualification Name: Ph.D.
Copyright (published version): 2021 the Author
Keywords: Music educationClassRiskPrivate education market
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License:
Appears in Collections:Education Theses

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