2.3.4. Content of arts and cultural education in lower secondary education

General aspects of the curriculum for secondary education

The curriculum for culture and the arts is principally the same in content for all types of school offering lower secondary education.
(Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, 2000a, b,c,d,e,f,g and 2008a, b)

Cultural education in lower secondary education emphasises an intercultural approach to learning: 'The meeting of cultures in everyday life is worth devoting special attention to'.

Art and music education as a benefit to teaching in general

Music education is valid as an aspect that can support teaching in general (Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, 2008, P. 4). Besides, many subjects can benefit from other disciplines within  arts and cultural education:

  • Religious education should make us aware both of the influence of culture on religions as well as of the forms of expression that exist in art. (Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, 2008, fifth part).
  • The German language class should make use of 'cultural opportunities in the region and in the media'. Language should be experienced as a medium of creative design.
  • History and Social Studies look at 'art and culture as forms of expression' in a historical context and at the 'attitude to life' as expressed in various historical periods.
  • Mathematics provides an insight into the significane of mathematics throughout the history of Western culture
  • Geometry points to the "end product of drawings as based on aesthetic viewpoints" and can be thus be part of art education.
  • Physics looks at the 'influence of physics on aesthetics, function and design', for example as regards the cultural-historical implications of knowledge of the characteristics of light.
  • Food Technology integrates the 'aesthetic functions of the eating and drinking culture.
  • Physical education includes traditional and contemporary forms of dance and physical theatre. The basic principles include the 'aesthetic experience of expression and movement' and the 'translation of music and rhythm into movement and dance'.
  • Career Guidance integrates advice pointing to the 'importance of art and creativity forleisure time and working life'.
    (Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, 2008, sixth part)

Compulsory subjects

The compulsory subjects in the area of arts and cultural education in lower secondary education are

  • Art education
  • Music education
  • Technical crafts
  • Textile crafts.

'Art forms such as theatre, dance, architecture, design or new media do not have a systematic place in the timetable' (Putz-Plecko and Wimmer (2008, P. II)

Dance is an integral component of Physical education on the one hand and of Music education on the other. Drama is an integral component of the extra-curricular activities of Drama and Musical expression.

Art education [Bildnerische Erziehung]

Art education supports general education processes. It provides pupils with aesthetic experiences, supports their creativity, helps them to appreciate aesthetic diversity and helps them to develop a cultural consciousness and cultural tolerance. These aspects receive equal attention in art education for lower secondary education.

Art education provides individual access to visual arts, visual media, environmental design and makes pupils aware of aesthetic expression in everyday life. Art education provides "Insights into the structure and function of visual design" and helps pupils to acquire "Knowledge about shape-effect-contexts" make use of this knowledge.

Art education encompasses painting, graphics, writing, plastic arts, architecture, photography, film, video, computer art, contemporary artistic media and other forms of expression. Pupils are made aware of their own body both as a means to express themselves artistically and as a medium to encounter and examine original works of art in places of learning out of school, such as galleries, museums, workshops, and through examples of architecture.

Music education [Musikerziehung]

Music education presents music as part of the living environment, 'as a factor contributing to one's individual choice of lifestyle as much as a factor that opens the possibility to choose one's own career". Through music education pupils experience that there are different genres of music and become aware of the diverse cultural meaning of music, both within various cultures and religions, and within national consciousness. They also become aware of social aspects of music.

Music education encompass making vocal and instrumental music, movement, design(composition), listening and the acquisition of musical knowledge. Teachers that are musically active in class can serve as an inspiration for and a challenge to pupils' artistic education. Inviting artists and experts in the classroom as well as visiting music activities in the region and showing pupils examples of inter-regional cultural life are considered essential. Besides musical-cultural projects and events help pupils develop their own artistic activities.

Technical crafts [Technisches Werken]

Technical crafts help pupils to develop creativity and design abilities. As part of the examination pupils design objects, choose materials, reflect on shape and colour of their designs, which helps pupils to develop their own individual way of expression and to discover their abilities.

Textile handicrafts [Textiles Werken]

Textile handicrafts qualifies pupils to take part in the active, critical and creative design of their environment. Through textile handicrafts pupils learn to experiment with textile materials and make textile designs, while giving them free room to develop creative abilities, for example in costume design and role play. Textile handicrafts touch on the themes of colour, shape, structure, pattern, rhythm, harmony, contrast and proportion. The purpose of textile handicrafts is teach openness to historical and current aspects of culture as regards textile design, developing an open mind towards fashion, cults and advertising. Textile classes help pupils to reflect on and analyse textile art and encourage them to develop self consciousness in taking aesthetic decisions.

Extra-curricular activities

Pupils can choose from the following optional extra-curricular activities related to arts and cultural education

  • Choral Singing
  • Instrumental music
  • Drama
  • Technical crafts
  • Textile handicrafts

These extra-curricular activities can be chosen as a replacement one of the compulsory art subjects. In addition, arts and cultural education can be offered as a "special interest subject to support for talented children".

Exceptions for specialism music education

Music education in music high schools encompasses both instrumental tuition and vocal and instrumental music (singing in a choir, playing in ensemble or in the classroom). The curriculum for music education is expanded to accommodate this. The teaching goals for general music education are intensified.

For the special forms of grammar schools and special grammar schools (Realgymnasium) with a music specialsm the curriculum is noticeably extended. The specialist Realgymnasium has a separate curriculum for instrumental tuition, while the specialist grammar school has a separate curriculum that includes playing in an orchestra and singing in a choir. The teaching goals for music education are considerably higher than in mainstream schools. The teaching goals for performance of various  repertoire imply advanced teaching.

Grammar schools and special grammar schools with a music specialism sometimes specialise in art education as well. The advanced curriculum plans for art education at these schools mainly focus on a closer examination of graphic design processes and artistic techniques underlying them.

Grammar schools with a music specialism for music students provide music teaching that replaces the so-called (musical-theoretical) compulsory minor subjects in music high schools that offer advanced vocal and instrumental teaching. All musical competences are brought together by initiating professional musical performance with the most varied influences.

Number of hours

The difference in the number of hours per week over the year and the total number of hours between types of school without a music specialism is negligible, but considerably different between the specialist schools.
(Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture 2000a and 2008a)

Annual teaching time for compulsory arts and cultural education

  • 190 in years 5 and 6 of lower secondary schools, grammar schools, special grammar schools (Realgymnasien), year 7 of lower secondary schools
  • 127 upper secondary education with 96 hours in year 8.
  • 127 in lower secondary edcuation
    (Executive Agency Education, 2009a, P. 30; Definition Teaching time cf. Executive Agency Education, 2009b, P. 199)

Art education and music education remain compulsory subjects from years 5 to 8 (with a few exceptions) for 2 hours per week. School with a music or art specialism allocate more hours to these areas which means fewer hours for other subject but a higher total amount of hours.
(cf. Executive Agency Education, Audiovisual and Culture (EACEA), 2009a)

2 to 8 hours per week are available for extra-curricular cultural activities and optional subjects related to culture and the arts in years 5 to 8.

Cross-curricular areas of education

The curriculum specifies five cross-curricular areas of education as 'important segments of the learning process'. For arts and cultural education three areas are relevant: Language and communication, People and society and Creativity and design.

The purpose of Creativity and design is amongst other things 'the development of a critical understanding of culture and the recognition of diversity as a cultural quality'
(Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, P. 6; cf. Executive agency education, 2009, P. 32).

Schools specialising in music and in subjects that fall under arts and cultural education, develop educational activities within the Health and movement area.
(Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, 2008, P. 1-17)

The continuous orientation towards cross-curricular areas of education underscores the general relevance of  taking aspects of culture and the arts as compulsory subjects. The interrelationship between linguistic, pictorial, gesticular and musical forms of expression stresses the importance of this cross-curricular attitude towards artistic education.