2.2.4 Content: curriculum, principles of teaching, learning line

Characteristically, primary school teaching avoids a strict separation of the various disciplines. In the first two years of primary education teaching should start from the experiences, interests and needs of the children and is organised interdisciplinary. In grades 3 and 4 teaching is determined by the demands of the various fields of learning (Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 11).

Principles of teaching

The curriculum for primary school defines a set of teaching principles [Unterrichtsprinzipien] and teaching and educational tasks [Bildungs- und Erziehungsaufgaben]. Some of these principles are connected to arts and cultural education: multimedia teaching [Medienerziehung], artistic education and intercultural learning [Interkulturelles Lernen]. (Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 14 et seq.)]

Compulsory subjects

In primary education compulsory subjects related to arts and cultural education are:

  • art education
  • music education
  • technical crafts
  • textile crafts
    (Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 79).

Art education [Bildnerische Erziehung]

Art education supports general education processes. Through painting and drawing children learn to express their own ideas and to visualise their emotions. Art education helps them to develop joy within experimenting, to display an open mind and a willingness to take risks.

Children learn to perceive art with all their senses, to form associations and to reflect on their experiences. Art education evokes children's curiosity and an intrinsic interest in culture and the arts. The children are able to explore, how to express themselves. They learn to reflect on the process of making a work of art, while considering their personal intentions and the effect on others.

Children learn to cooperate and to be flexible. Cooperation in projects with bigger dimensions encourages their social learning. Besides, by cooperating with others, children experience, that they are able to change their environment. By visiting exhibitions, museums and studios children have the opportunity to see original works of art and to talk with experts. ‘Reflective and productive learning offers many possibilities to make connections with other subjects' (Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 179).

Music education [Musikerziehung]

The aim of music education is to provide a basic knowledge and first understanding of music as a means of artistic expression. Musical education supports the development of linguistic skills in that children experiment with both voice and language.

Listening to music can enhance concentration and helps to develop acoustic senses. Besides, children learn to differentiate between acoustic musical impressions. They learn to reflect on their own acoustic and aural impressions, either verbally or by using graphic symbols or movement. Through the use of musical examples children experience that there are different genres of music. They become aware of music's social functions and its cultural connections.

Through music education children become acquainted with music of the present and the past and learn to enjoy music. Music education especially focuses on actively making music - both vocal and instrumental and in combination with movement. By making music together, children learn to be considerate of the individual and the group.

Music education includes free movement and dance, and thus supports children's' capacity for coordination, makes them aware of their own body, and of the concepts space, time and form.

The curriculum for music education clearly emphasises the importance of creative activity, experiment and improvisation, and includes intercultural and interdisciplinary aspects. Creative musical expression and improvisation are stimulated by reading and listening to poetry and stories in which various moods are expressed.

The curriculum for music education explicitly mentions that a clear connection should be made with other disciplines, such as art education, German, writing, crafts, dance, physical education/sports and science [Sachunterricht].
(Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 164-170)

Technical crafts [Technisches Werken]

At first sight technical crafts seems to focus on technical rather than on artistic skills. Yet, through crafts children are encouraged to develop ideas for housing [Wohnfantasien entwickeln] and are introduced to cultural aspects of building and architecture. Besides, children are involved in the actual process of designing products [Produktgestaltung] which not only introduces children to technological-constructive concepts, but also helps them to think creative.
(Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 181-185)

Textile handicrafts [Textiles Werken]

Textile handicrafts encourages creativity, teaches children to take pleasure in experimenting and helps them to be spontaneous and flexible. By making use of role-play and games, children are involved in the entire process from designing costumes, objects and attributes needed for role-play and games to the actual playing.
Besides, children come across culture and the arts [Kunst und Kultur] through activities like jewellery and textile handicrafts, which help them to develop aesthetic notions. On the whole Textiles Werken emphasises interdisciplinary learning.
[Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 186 -192]

Optional subjects

Pupils can choose from the following optional subjects related to arts and cultural education:

  • Choral practice [Chorgesang]
  • Music-ensemble [Spielmusik]
  • Drama [Darstellendes Spiel]
  • Musical production [Musikalisches Gestalten]
  • Visual design [Bildnerisches Gestalten]
  • Supporting interests and talents [Interessen- und Begabungsförderung]
    (Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 233).

Dance is an integral part of physical education/sports [Bewegung und Sport] and of musical education. Drama is an integral part of the optional subjects drama [Darstellendes Spiel] and musical production [Musikalisches Gestalten].

Subjects supporting cultural education

Social studies [Sachunterricht]

Support children's cultural identity. Children are encouraged to make connections with their cultural roots by visiting cultural monuments and historic buildings in the immediate environment of schools. (Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 85).

German [Deutsch]

German has an affinity to art education through 'the creative use of lettering'.
(Lehrplan der Volksschule, p. 103-133)

Mathematics

Mathematics can provide a bridge to artistic learning by challenging the competencies of perception and visualisation. Creative abilities will be developed through playful experimental, explorative and constructive activities. (Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 145-163).

Number of hours within the curriculum

The number of hours reserved for compulsory cultural education in primary schools amounts to 95 hours a year within both the 1st and 2nd grades, and 127 hours within the 3rd and 4th grades (details see Wimmer, 2008, p. 2). If schools offer optional subjects, one or two lessons a week have to be spent on each of these optional subjects. This means that the total number of hours for optional cultural education may differ from 0 to 250 hours a year (s. Lehrplan der Volksschule, 2008, p. 29).

Continuous learning lines for cultural education

Each subject of the curriculum is progressively distributed from lower elementary education  including 1st and 2nd grade [Grundstufe 1]to upper elementary education including 3rd and 4th grade [Grundstufe 2]. Following the principle of guiding children through learning processes, each subject is built up in phases, starting from a playful introductory phase and ending with a final phase in which children acquire intrinsic interest in the various subjects and learn to apply new knowledge and skills at the end of primary school.

A Regional Full Year Schedule [Regionale Jahresplanung] was edited by the Pedagogical Institute Upper Austria [Pädagogisches Institut Oberösterreich]. This serves as a manual to accompany the curriculum of primary schools and is used as a planning guide for continuous learning lines within the subjects of artistic and cultural education (Landesschulrat für Oberösterreich, 1988). As a consequence of the new curriculum for art education and craft, a new edition of Guidelines for the Curriculum of Primary Schools [Leitfaden zum VS-Lehrplan] was published in 2008.