Discussions about the cultural canon in the educational system relate to the debates on globalisation, the multicultural society, and the maintenance and protection of countries' own national culture and language. In addition to cultural differences in the history of nations, it is assumed that two formal sociological characteristics - a country's size and centrality in terms of core-periphery relations - also contribute to a better understanding of the relation between culture, canon, and nationality: Large countries behave differently from small countries in the provision of education in art and music, in particular with respect to the cultural canon. The question papers on art and music of the secondary school exams in England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands were analysed over a period of 15 years (1990-2004). The presence of a cultural canon can be interpreted as the extent to which in the exam papers emphasis is put on the country's own culture or the culture of others, on the past or on the present, on high or popular culture. Content analysis of the papers showed that Germany, France, and England give the most attention to their own culture, to the culture of the past, and to high culture. Germany and France do this to a greater extent than England. The Netherlands deviates in all three respects. Unlike large countries with a strong cultural past and a dominant position in transnational cultural relations, a small country is inclined to watch and to follow the cultural centers in the world, and to emphasize and to join what is new instead of nourishing its own cultural past. National cultural values and repertoires, the cultural canon included, may be fruitfully understood as demonstrations of a core-periphery structure governing the transnational cultural exchange.

dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2005.09.008, hdl.handle.net/1765/59023
Poetics : Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Bevers, A.M. (2005). Cultural education and the canon: A comparative analysis of the content of secondary school exams for music and art in England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, 1990-2004. Poetics : Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts, 33(5-6), 388–416. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2005.09.008