Music Teacher Training in Finland

I. Background / Organisation

II. Curriculum

III. Learning and Teaching Approaches

IV. Assessment / Examination

V. Current and Future Challenges

I. Background / Organisation

The Finnish system of higher education is divided into the following two sectors: the university sector and the polytechnic sector. The universities award Bachelor’s, Master’s, Licentiate’s and Doctor’s degrees. The only music university – the Sibelius Academy – is mainly located in Helsinki. Music teachers are also trained at the Universities of Oulu and Jyväskylä.

The polytechnics provide instruction in several subjects from various fields. They award mainly Musician and Music Pedagogue degrees with a professional emphasis. Ten polytechnics offer music programmes. The conservatories used to educate professional musicians and teachers before the polytechnics were established. Presently, the conservatories offer education mainly for children and adolescents. In addition, they offer upper secondary level education leading to a vocational qualification. The Qualification Decree (“Kelpoisuusasetus 986/98) prescribes the qualifications required of teachers working at institutions offering basic arts education, adult education or professional education as well as of teachers in comprehensive and upper secondary schools.

Teachers of music schools, folk academies and conservatories are qualified at the Sibelius Academy and the polytechnics. Music teachers in comprehensive and secondary schools are qualified only in the university sector (since a Masters degree is required). The Decrees 256/95 and 437/98 stipulated the qualifications required of teachers in polytechnics. The present Polytechnics Act and the Government Decree on Polytechnics were introduced in 2003 (“Ammattikorkeakoululaki 351/03, “asetus 352/03). In general, a Masters level degree is required. At least a Licentiate degree or artistic awards are required of the head teachers.

The number of students in one “generation” on the Music Education programme at the Sibelius Academy is 28. The teachers for primary and secondary schools are fully qualified after they have passed all elements in the Masters program (180+150 ECTS) and other requirements, laid down by the Ministry of Education. The title of the qualification is Master of Music.

II. Curriculum

Degree studies at Sibelius Academy are organised as a two-cycle system in compliance with the Bologna Process. Successful applicants have the right to study towards the Masters degree for 5.5 years. After three years of study, students complete a Bachelor’s degree and can continue in the Masters programme without an additional entrance exam. If a student has received a Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent degree in Finland or abroad, he/she can directly apply to the 2.5-year Master’s programme. The number of ECTS required for a Bachelor of Music degree is 180, and an additional 150 credits are required for a Master of Music degree. At the beginning of studies, an individual study plan is drawn up for the student.

The Bachelor of Music degree consists of instrumental and vocal studies, and studies in the subject to be taught, e.g. practical accompaniment, band music, studies in Finnish folk music and music cultures of the world, music and movement, and basics of information and music technology. In addition, students take courses in theory, history, solfège and languages. The degree includes also pedagogic studies. These courses are organised with the Department of Applied Sciences in Education of the University of Helsinki.

The Master’s degree consists of instrumental and/or vocal studies, pedagogic studies, and studies in the subject to be taught as a music teacher, such as arrangement, conducting and improvisation. During their thesis studies, students specialise in their chosen area.


·         Music Education Major (at least 90 ECTS): Instrumental and vocal studies (at least 40 ECTS of the subject to be taught as a music teacher). These studies have to include History of Music (at least 9 ECTS), demonstration of proficiency 6-10 ECTS (thesis) and a maturity essay.

·         Pedagogical studies (at least 30 ECTS): Including teaching practice in schools.

·         Secondary studies (at least 24 ECTS): Music theory and solfège.

·         Language studies (at least 8 ECTS): Second official language in Finland or a foreign language.

·         Optional studies (at least 10 ECTS)


·         Music Education Major (at least 60 ECTS): Instrumental and/or vocal studies, if the student has not completed the minimum studies in the main and secondary instruments in the course of his or her studies for the Bachelor’s Degree. Furthermore is included demonstration of proficiency 20-40 ECTS (thesis) and a maturity essay.

·         Pedagogic studies (at least 30 ECTS): The degree programme may also include studies in voice and instrument pedagogy.

·         Optional studies (at least 30 ECTS).

III. Learning and Teaching Approaches

The purpose of the Degree Programme in Music Education is to familiarise the students with music in general, give them the competence to teach subjects related to music education and to provide them with pedagogic skills. Upon completion of the degree programme, students will be able to work as teachers of music in comprehensive schools and upper secondary schools, as well as serve in several positions that require expertise in music education. In addition, students attain the skills for further academic studies.

The most extensive interaction between the Sibelius Academy and the surrounding society happens at the Department of Music Education. The department prepares its students for work in a range of community settings by focussing on:

·         musicianship and pedagogy;

·         dialogue, critical analysis, and self-reflection;

·         the individual in relation to the group.

As skilled professionals, music education graduates will find employment in schools and other educational institutions such as music play schools and music schools for children, teenagers, and adults. Several of our graduates will also go on to develop a career as a professional performer working in various genres.

The Sibelius Academy has a Centre for Music and technology, where the future music teachers are allowed to take courses in, for example:

·         Electro-acoustic music;

·         Music recording and production;

·         Film music;

·         Media and sonic arts;

·         Live sound engineering

·         Music technology oriented tool making;

·         Music oriented digital tools and communication skills.

The number of taught hours is estimated at 1800 hours for Bachelor and 1500 hours for the Masters programmes.

IV. Assessment / Examination

To apply for a programme leading to the lower university degree, the students are required to have completed the Finnish upper secondary school or other education of equivalent level. To apply for a 2.5-year programme leading to the higher university degree, the student must have a lower university degree or other qualification of equivalent level, unless the Academy decides otherwise.

The students are eligible for education leading only to a lower university degree or to both a lower and a higher university degree if they have passed the Finnish matriculation examination referred to in the National matriculation examination decree (1000/1994), have a Bachelor’s degree, a higher vocational qualification, a vocational upper secondary qualification, a vocational qualification awarded on the completion of education of at least three years in duration, a foreign degree or qualification that gives eligibility for higher education in the awarding country or if the Academy otherwise deems the candidate to have sufficient knowledge and skills for the studies. However, if the student is applying for the degree Programme in Music Education, he/she is required to have passed the Finnish matriculation examination or an equivalent foreign examination.

The entrance examination is in two parts:

1     Evaluating general facilities in music

2     a) Main and second instruments

b) Demonstration (teaching skills)

c) Interview

d) General music theory, solfège and aural perception assignment

The grading scale for the advanced courses conforms to the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) rating scale with the letters A (best) to E for pass and F for fail. For the basic courses just pass or fail is used as marks.

V. Current and Future Challenges

The purpose for Sibelius Academy is formulated at the home page in the following way:

“The mission of Sibelius Academy is to foster and renew all forms of musical culture. As a Finnish art university operating in an international setting, Sibelius Academy creates conditions for a high standard of artistic activity, research and associated learning.”

The vision for 2012 is stated as:

“The Sibelius Academy is a prestigious international music university. It provides a high standard of education with its strong areas among the very best. Artistic activities, research and education at the Academy are based on nurturing tradition and renewing musical culture. Academy activities cross borders and are implemented in close interaction with the surrounding society.”