The research conducted alongside the study program in Cambodia focuses on music education in Cambodia as a post-conflict society, the continuing vulnerability of music education and musical forms in Cambodia, and the difficulties, complexities and opportunities that arise from student teacher cultural exchange projects.

Articles published in international, peer-reviewed academic journals relating to the Multicultural Arts University project may be found below.

Kallio, A. & Partti, H. (2013). Music Education for a Nation: Teaching Patriotic Ideas and Ideals in Global Societies. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 12 (3), 5–30.

Music often features as a tool for the communication and creation of national identity, and has often been included in music education curricula as a means to enculturate students into a unified citizenry. This instrumental multiple case study explores patriotic sentiments as they appear in the music education policies and practices of two countries: Finland and Cambodia. Although very different in many respects, both nations have unique cultural histories that are celebrated within a dynamic of globalized society. Through the thematic analysis of macro level policy decision making seen in educational curricula and policy documents, and micro level policy implementation through semi-structured interview data with teachers, this article explores tensions that exist between the construction of a cohesive national identity and preparing students for participation in a global world. Through this, it may be seen that music educators cannot afford to approach policy nor practice on wholly local, nor global terms. Patriotic sentiments cannot be uncritically imposed upon diverse student populations, but neither should they be regarded as redundant or irrelevant. Rather, through a perspective of cultural cosmopolitanism we may reconsider patriotism in music education in a way that supports both national and global citizenship.

Kallio, A.A. & Westerlund, H. The Ethics of Survival: Teaching the traditional arts to disadvantaged children in post-conflict Cambodia. International Journal of Music Education: Research. Prepublished June 25, 2015. DOI: 10.1177/0255761415584298

Cambodia’s recent history of conflict and political instability has resulted in a recognised need to recover, regenerate, preserve and protect the nation’s cultural heritage. Many education programs catering for disadvantaged youth have implemented traditional Khmer music and dance lessons, suggesting that these programs share the responsibility of cultural regeneration, and view the survival of traditional artforms as dependent on their bequeathal to these young children. In this regard, the musical future of the country is, at least in part, dependent on the success of the vulnerable. However, these vulnerable students are living in a rapidly changing Cambodia, with higher levels of education, increasing international communications and influences, developing infrastructure, urbanisation and fundamentally different ways of going about everyday life, work and leisure, to their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Through semi-structured individual interviews conducted with Cambodian staff and music, dance and theatre teachers of three music and dance programs provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) catering for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, we explore how the conflicting objectives of conservation, and cosmopolitanism, are negotiated and navigated in the schools. This study explores themes of conservation, coexistence of multiple traditions and education in the wider Cambodian society through performance. These themes are discussed in relation to the ethics of arts teaching, which - whilst intensified in the Cambodian context - are relevant beyond this particular case study.

Westerlund, H., Partti, H. & Karlsen, S. (2015). Teaching as improvisational experience: Student music teachers’ reflections on learning during a bi-cultural exchange project. Research Studies in Music Education, 37(1), 55-75.

This qualitative instrumental case study explores Finnish student music teachers’ experiences of teaching and learning as participants in a bi-cultural exchange project in Cambodia. The Multicultural Music University project aimed at increasing master’s level music education students’ intercultural competencies by providing experiences of teaching and being taught abroad in traditional music and dance programs run by Cambodian NGOs. The article suggests that beside the importance of learning new music and dance traditions, the student music teachers regarded the learning experiences gained through peer-teaching in an unfamiliar context important, as these experiences evoked them to step out from their pedagogical comfort zones and to engage in a deep reflection on the nature of teaching and the purpose of music education. Rather than perceiving their teaching as individual performances, the student teachers’ reflections proceeded towards an increasing emphasis put on the quality of interaction and the benefits gained from having to spontaneously create the structure of lessons in the fast-changing situations. Based on the analysis of individual and focus group interviews and other research data, we discuss the concept of teaching as improvisation and its implications for teacher education.

Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki
Faculty of Music Education, Jazz and Folk Music/MuTri
Doctoral School

PO Box 30
FI-00097 Uniarts

Contact persons

Heidi Westerlund  heidi.westerlund(at)
Alexis Kallio  alexis.kallio(at)
Danielle Treacy  danielle.treacy(at)