Singing education is an important segment of future preschool teachers' education in the music field. Singing is the basic child's expression in the preschool age, ergo the importance in all students, future preschool teachers, developing their singing abilities, music skills and knowledge in the course of their preschool education studies. Singing skills reflect upon the future preschool teachers' competence, influence their self-confidence and the frequency of implementing music activities in their work with children.
Pedagogic faculties have an important role in future preschool teachers' education. The structure of education in the music field on faculties in Slovenia and Croatia is realised within three-year professional and university education for preschool teachers. As an important music area, singing doesn't exist as an independent course, but is incorporated in required and elective courses. According to faculty programmes, within which future preschool teachers' singing education is taking place, lessons fund of the aforementioned courses is different between certain teacher education faculties in Slovenia (Ljubljana, Koper, Maribor) and in Croatia (Zagreb, Rijeka, Split, Osijek). Preschool education students’ singing competence encompasses knowing one's own voice and mastering it, preserving vocal health, applying voice hygiene, and knowing and appreciating children's vocal development. It is important that preschool teachers learn and acquire singing skill in the course of his/her studies as well as possible, because children imitate singing and learn by imitating the model.
The development of preschool teacher students' singing abilities is influenced by the quality of their primary and secondary education in the music field, and also by their participation in extracurricular music activities. As a school subject in primary schools, Music is a part of Slovenian and Croatian school curriculum. In secondary schools, the quality of music education depends on the school type. There are general, professional and art secondary school programmes in Slovenia and Croatia. Within the general grammas schools programme in Slovenia, there is the required subject Music in the first year of schooling. In Croatian gymnasiums, school subject Music lasts for four years and deals with the history of music chronologically (National Curriculum Framework, 2011). In Slovenia, in secondary school professional programme of Preschool education, music is incorporated in the programme of all four years of schooling (Practical secondary school professional education, Educational programme Preschool education, 2004). There aren't any music subjects within the programmes of Croatian professional secondary schools. In the art programme secondary schools with vocationally directed music programmes, music is intensely dealt with because the programme is professionally oriented and enables young people to develop their art potential (White Book on Education, 2011; Art Education; Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of RC, n.d.).
Music and singing abilities can also be developed within extracurricular activities. Most frequently they are: music schools, choirs, vocal-instrumental groups, cultural-arts associations, or they can be developed through private and individual tutoring. According to the White Book of Education (2011), the most important extracurricular activities in Slovenia are based on music and dance. They are implemented in music schools and also through motivating students for participation in singing choirs. Additional music education in Croatia is most frequently directed at music schools, cultural-arts associations and choirs.
According to Denac (2010), certain types of learning and methods are used in singing education. There are frontal, group, individual mode, and also learning in pairs. Considering the process of singing learning, certain social modes of learning can be combined or chosen with regards to the goal and purpose of the singing task. In the preschool field, frontal mode of singing is present in song demonstration, which is done by a preschool teacher in front of a particular group of children. Group type of work has a common goal for all participants, and it is mastering the children's song. Practising a child song can be organised as pair work or individually. Working in pairs stimulates learning and activity of more introverted people who express themselves through singing more freely. Intellectual, sensory, practical and expressive layers of the learner are optimally activated with individual learning mode. In this way, self-education is taking place with the sign of acquiring more permanent knowledge (Stevanović, 2001; Bognar and Matijević, 2002; Pranjić, 2005; Jelavić, 2008; Terhart, 2010).
Music is a part of everyday life of individuals who choose music based on their own preferences. According to Dobrota and Tomić – Ferić (2006) and Schäfer (2008), music preference is created in the moment in which the strengths of the stimulus, provoked by certain music, create a feeling of excitement and (dis)liking. Music preference is influenced by socio-demographic factors. They are: gender (Dobrota, 2008; Reić Ercegovac and Dobrota, 2011; Bunič, 2013), peers (Schäfer, 2008; Selfhout et.al. 2009), media and free time (Szubertowska, 2005; North and Hargreaves, 2007; Dobrota, 2008; Bunič, 2013), family (Szubertowska, 2005; Hirano, 2010) and education (Szubertowska, 2005; Dobrota, 2008; Droe, 2008; Dobrota and Reić Ercegovac, 2009; Bunič, 2013). Many researches show that personality traits also influence music preference (Rawlings et.al, 1994; Kemp, 1996; Rentfrow and Gosling, 2003; Schwartz and Fouts, 2003; Pearson and Dollinger, 2004; Nater et.al, 2005; North et.al, 2005; Popović, 2006; Perkins, 2008; Rawling and Leow, 2008; Schäfer, 2008; Sigg, 2009; Reić Ercegovac and Dobrota, 2011). Individual's identity can also influence the preferential listening of music genres (Choen, 1991; Firth, 1996; Hargreaves et.al, 2002; Hudson, 2006; Chamarro – Permuzic and Furnham, 2007; Rice, 2007; Lundberg, 2010).
On the basis of the stated starting points, two researches are shown in the empirical part. The first is about music experiences, knowledge of music, and music competence of preschool education students in Slovenia and Croatia. The other is about the effect of cultivating and shaping preschool education students' voice with the use of individual and group learning modes.
First research is based on descriptive and causally non-experimental method of pedagogic research and is quantitative in character. The research was carried out in the academic year 2013/2014. Participants were first and third year students of preschool teacher education at teacher education faculties in Slovenia and Croatia (N=707). The questionnaire examined future preschool teachers' music knowledge and experience with regards to their primary, secondary and higher education. We researched students' involvement in additional music activities, their knowledge of children's singing literature, inclination for music genres and the differences in the examined items between Croatian and Slovenian students. The results show that all students rate the acquired knowledge in primary and secondary school as good, and the one gained at university as very good. Slovenian students have higher assessment for the item of knowing music areas from primary and secondary education in comparison to Croatian students. Slovenian students have higher assessment of knowledge about the music language basics than Croatian students. Croatian students gave higher assessment of their knowledge of music history and music genres, in comparison to Slovenian students. In the whole sample, 41,7% of the students had additional music education. Comparing these countries shows that 50,5% of Slovenian students and 35,2% of Croatian students, before enrolling in preschool teacher education studies, were additionally educated and engaged in music. Slovenian students were more engaged in music schools, participated in choirs and orchestras more frequently, and attended private lessons more often than Croatian students. No statistically significant difference was found on the items of participation in folklore associations and other extracurricular activities. Connecting extracurricular activities which include singing, 37,9% of the subjects schooled their voice through choir participation, by attending singing lessons in music schools or privately, while 62,1% of the subjects haven't educated their voice at all. 37,5% of the Slovenian subjects educated their voice, and 38,2% of the subjects did the same in Croatia. In primary school, the highest number of Slovenian and Croatian students sang in every Music class. The percentage of those students is 36,9% in Slovenia, and 45,1% in Croatia. In secondary school, 45,3% of the students sang in Music class. In the light of the country where they study, 81,7% of Slovenian students sang in the course of their secondary schooling, and in Croatia only 34,7% of the subjects did the same. Singing frequency is connected with the level of knowledge about child singing literature. As it was shown, Slovenian students know more children's songs from primary and secondary school, while Croatian students know more from higher education. Slovenian third year students of preschool teacher education have assessed the acquired knowledge and skills in the music area equally well as Croatian students. From the tested thirteen items, Slovenian students had better assessments on ten items, which are: voice formation; shaping the sense of rhythm; use of the Orff Instrumentarium; knowledge of preschool children's music creation; knowledge about the methods, ways and modes of working in music activities with children; connecting music content with other areas of preschool curriculum; knowledge of basic principles and ways of stimulating expression and creation; shaping children's music taste; music-didactic games (games with singing, rhymes); planning, implementing and analysing music activities in kindergartens. Croatian students have shown higher assessment on the items listening to music, playing instruments and knowledge of style features within music history. The result is statistically significant for seven items on which Slovenian students have the higher assessment.
The research subjects mostly listen to music genres of pop and rock, and only partially like classical music. The results show the existence of statistically significant difference in music preferences between Slovenian and Croatian students on eight from the eighteen stated music genres. More often, Slovenian students listen to classical music, world music, recent pop music, film music, and not stated music genres which fall into the category other. More often, Croatian subjects listen to rhythm and blues, hip hop, soul, electronic dance music and turbo-folk music. Their preferential listening is mostly influenced by peers and society. A certain link has been proved to exist between the inclination towards more demanding music genres (classical, film and folklore music) and the years of participation in extracurricular music activities, principally in connection with music school education.
With regards to the fact that students with different music abilities and background enrol in teacher education faculties, the second part of the research was directed towards the examining the use of individual and group learning modes in future preschool teachers' singing education, with the goal of determining the quality and efficiency of the stated learning modes. The research was carried out as a quasi-experiment in which we observed, on the smaller sample, the way different learning modes influence the development of intonational abilities and the voice range of the research participants. The subjects in the research, done in academic years 2012/2013 and 2013/2014, were female students of the Faculty of Teacher Education in Zagreb, Department of Petrinja (N=36). They were divided in two experimental and one control group. We determined the singing abilities by testing intonational accuracy, accuracy in repeating melodic patterns and the subjects' voice range. The 15 weeks research has shown that singing abilities develop over a certain period of time, whether the singing is competently led or based on students' intuition (without the teacher). All research groups have shown a certain progress in intonational accuracy and widening the voice range. The research shows that experimental groups, in which the singing was competently led, either individually or in a group, have better results than the control group which didn't have the additional singing treatment. Singing practise improves intonational abilities and leads to widening the voice range.