Music Teacher Training in Estonia

Music Teacher Training in Estonia

by Ene Kangron



The Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (EAMT, provides both academic and professional teacher training for instrumental teachers, for primary, basic and secondary school music teachers at all academic levels.

Tartu University ( and Tallinn University ( ) offer teacher training programmes for pre-school, primary and   basic school music teachers.

A strong foundation is created on the Bachelors degree level for development as a music teacher, and the basic knowledge and skills are provided, but completing this level of study does not by itself confer the right to work as a teacher in full standing. This requires 300 ECTS. Graduates of the Bachelors programme can work as conductors of amateur choirs, leaders of music hobby groups or continue studies in the Masters programme.

Graduates of the Masters degree programme can become music teachers at Estonian upper secondary schools and basic schools, and the leaders of amateur choirs, school bands and musical hobby groups. There is the opportunity to continue studies in the EAMT music pedagogy Doctorate programme or in the field of educational sciences at universities.

The Continuing Education Centre, in cooperation with the Music Education Institute and other academic units, is responsible for the opportunities for students to develop in desired direction after they graduate from the academy. Elective subjects help to ensure diversity within the programmes as do opportunities to take electives at other Estonian universities to study for a semester or two at a foreign university (using the possibilities for grants from the Erasmus programme and other foundations).

According to the 2002 curriculum reform of higher education, all Estonian universities had to implement either a 3+2 or a 4+1 system instead of the common 4-year Bachelor + 2-year Masters system. EAMT chose the 4+1 system for its curricula.
According to the 2002 curriculum reform of higher education, all Estonian universities had to implement either a 3+2 or a 4+1 system instead of the common 4-year Bachelor + 2-year Masters system. EAMT chose the 4+1 system for its curricula. This reform did not affect the Bachelor studies very much. However, the Masters programmes were changed considerably.


The Music Education Institute of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre is responsible for implementing the following programmes:

a)    A Bachelors music education study programme
b)    A one-year Masters music education study programme
c)    A Doctoral music pedagogy study programme

Table 1  Curriculums in the EAMT

Name of the curriculum Standard period of study (years) Extent of studies Qualification of a graduate
1. Music education 4 240 ECTS Bachelor of Arts in Education; BA
(Batchelor of Educational Science)
2. Music education (MA) 1 60 ECTS Master of Arts in Education; MA
(Master of Educational Sciences)
3. Music pedagogy (PhD) 4 240 ECTS Doctor of Philosophy; PhD

The general objective of all three levels of this study programme is to prepare teachers to be:

a) Competent and capable in many areas of music to be able to direct people`s musical development
b) Competent to create conditions for the development of the individual as a whole, using music as a tool
b) Open to self-development – meaning that they have well developed powers of reflexive and critical (including self-analytical) thinking.

Other competences cited in the general objective are the following:
1) Practical competence in the area of music
2) Competence in the area of educational sciences
3) Philosophical and reflexive competence
4) Intellectual or cognitive competence

Both the Bachelors degree programme and the one-year Masters degree programme consist of four content modules:
1) Courses in Educational Science
2) Courses in Music Performance
3) Courses in Music Theory and History
4) Courses in Social Sciences and Humanities


Students specialising in music education are required to have multifaceted musical abilities, prerequisites and interest in working as a music teacher at a general educational school, a wide general cultural outlook, a healthy vocal apparatus and singing skills.

Curriculum for Bachelors degree programme at the EAMT

Table 2 Compulsory courses

1. Courses in Educational Science School Music Didactics, Pedagogical Practice I-II, Pedagogical Philosophy, Pedagogy of C. Orff, Methods of Z. Kodaly,  Bachelors Exam, Education Science (Learning Stiles), Educational Theory Proseminar, The Psychology of Learning
2. Courses in Music Performance Choral Conducting I, II, III; Choral Training I, II; Mixed Choir and Work with Choir I, II; Jazz Rhythmic, Arrangement, Instrumental Ensemble, Vocal Ensemble, Practical Training in Ensemble Leadership, Main Instrument of Rhythm Music, Percussion Instruments, Piano, Free Accompaniment, Vocal Studies, Fundamentals of Student Voice Formation
3. Courses in Music Theory and History Jazz Theory and Solfeggio, History of Jazz and Pop Music, Solfeggio, Relative Solfeggio, Harmony, Introduction to the History of Music, History of Early Music, History of Music in the 19th Century, Estonian Music, Introduction to the Estonian Folk Music, Analysis
4. Courses in Social Sciences and Humanities Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to the University Studies

Table 3  Elective Courses

1. Courses in Educational Science – to be selected as a minimum of 8 ECTS Active Music Teaching Methods, Musical Education for he Elderly, Communication Psychology, Creativeness Psychology, History of School Music in Estonia, Alternative Pedagogic, Overview of  Estonian Music-Pedagogical Literature, Human Philosophy, Child Philosophy in Literature and Everyday Life
2. Courses in Music Performance – to be selected as a minimum 11 ECTS Coral Conducting, Mixed Choir and Work with Choir III-IV, Methods of Choral Work, Methods and Practice for Teaching Choral Disciplines, Gregorian Chant, Arrangement II, Intrumental Ensemble II, Vocal Ensemble II, Additional Instrument I, Main Instrument of Rhythm Music II, Piano, Voice Improvisation I-II, Basic Course in Amplification of Ensembles, Vocal Studies II, Methods for Teaching Piano Playing, Pedagogical Practice I
3. Courses in Music Theory and History – to be selected as a minimum as 5 ECTS Theoretical Knowledge of Orchestral Instruments, Vocal Solfeggio, Modernism and Music Theatre, Music Criticism, Music Psychology
4. Courses in Social Sciences and Humanities – to be selected as a minimum as 3 ECTS English, History of Civilization, History of Art, Sources and Search of Information, Music in Film – Introduction, Introduction to Culture Project Management


The objectives of the Masters study programme are the following, based on the general objective of the study programme as a whole:
a) In the research branch: to develop integrative thinking through a work of research and to support the development of a teacher-researcher
b) In the pedagogical branch: to promote the development of a music teacher with high practical competence in the field of music, also possessing powers of integrative thinking.

The curriculum consists of Masters Thesis and masters studies: with the following make up of ECTS:
Compulsory Courses - 41 ECTS
Elective Courses - 16 ECTS
Free Elective Courses - 3 ECTS


The aim of the doctorate program in Music pedagogy is to produce the next generation of scholars in the field and to train future music higher educational institution lecturers.

The curriculum consists of doctoral dissertation and doctoral studies: with the following make up of ECTS:
Compulsory Courses   219 ECTS (including the doctoral dissertation 180 ECTS)
Elective Courses  - 12 ECTS
Free Elective Courses  - 9 ECTS.


Studies in musical subjects take place predominantly within individual lessons. The main learning methods are practice, practical work and independent work.

The cycle of speciality educational science subjects includes a lecture-based course as well as seminars. Much video material is used in didactics for analyzing music lessons.

Table  4 Study forms in the EAMT


To apply for a programme leading to the lower university degree, the students are required to have completed the Estonian secondary school or other education of equivalent level.

Assessment takes place continuously in the course of the study process, through the providing of an evaluation or feedback in the form of praise, encouragement or constructive criticism.
The following table illustrates the overall number of examinations in music education study programmes and the relative proportion of oral, practical and written examinations.

Table  5 Total amount of examinations

Programme level Total amount of examinations Including pass/fail examinations Oral and practical examinations % Written examinations %
BA 66 29 79,3% 20,7%
MA 10 4 75% 25%

Table  6  The Bachelor Programme

At the speciality entrance examination students must: 1. Sing - a cappella - a children’s song freely chosen, along with piano accompaniment, and transpose it up and down a half tone.
2. Display their musical knowledge and abilities
3. Respond to questions from a panel.
4. Take an examination in their main instrument (either piano or another instrument).
The graduation requirements: 1. Completion of the entire study programme
2. Passing the Bachelor degree examination. The Bachelor degree examination represents an integrative educational science examination, whose components are the major educational science subjects taken during studies – music education didactics, pedagogical practical training, educational science, learning psychology and educational philosophy.

Table  7  The Masters Programme

The entrance examination requirements: 1. To present one long work of research
2. To respond to questions pertaining to a narrower speciality field (music pedagogy, educational science, music education) as well as to general cultural themes.
In order to graduate from Masters degree programme students must: 1. Complete the study programme in full
2. Defend the Masters Thesis

Table  8 The Doctoral Programme

The entrance examination requirements are: 1. Masters degree or equivalent qualification 2. Entrance examinations.
Admission to the doctoral programme is decided on the basis of candidate's academic performance and on the basis of an interview on the subject of the proposed dissertation


Recent curriculum development activities and plans for the coming years include:

  1. The development the Bachelors and Masters study programmes by transforming them into competence based and internationally competitive programmes.
  2. The achievement of innovatory study processes.

The content and implementation of curricula are continuously analysed and assessed both at the department and at the academy levels. An important source of information for these activities is the recommendations of the alumni, employees and external experts.
The rector's office and academic staff of the EAMT have studied carefully the recommendations made by the expert 2007 accreditation team.

The EAMT Development Plan for 2005-2009 places emphasis upon continued re-organisation and further development of the curricula, paying special attention to developing outputs of curricula on different levels.  Collaboration with other higher education institutions and the Ministry of Education and Research is seen to be an important part of this.  There is also a focus upon participating in EU collaborative projects for starting the interdisciplinary joint curricula.

Two major curriculum issues are currently being discussed at the EAMT:
1.) The questions of what would be better for EAMT, a 4+1 system or 3+2 system? The current 4+1 system certainly has some strong points but it also creates some major problems on the Masters level, such as comparability with other institutions and possibilities for student exchanges etc.
2.) How to develop interdisciplinary joint curricula and an international summer
semester? EU Intensive Projects in August 2005 - 2007 have established good grounds for starting with international summer semesters. Different options for joint curricula such as conducting, electronic and multimedia composition and cultural management,  have also been intensively discussed.