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2020 | 76 | 63-94

Article title

Lapsele laulmise fenomen koduses kasvatuskultuuris

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The central question of our research project was: what is the position and significance of the phenomenon of singing to children in the domestic culture of education in today’s Estonia? Before answering this question, we have to a) define education as a cultural phenomenon, and b) define singing to children and children’s song as cultural phenomena. These are the two aims of our theoretical study. In our empirical research we have additionally sought to find out: a) what can be concluded from the comparison of our data and those of ethnomusicologist Anu Vissel from the 1990–2000, from the perspective of culture of education, and b) whether the results of our empirical research can enrich theoretical treatments of education as a cultural phenomenon. The article has two parts. The first, “Culture of education – a sign of a communicative educational reality”, provides a theoretical analysis of education as a cultural phenomenon. It concludes that the building blocks of culture of education are mediated educational reality, cultural symbols, and rituals. The second major section of the article, “Singing to children in the domestic culture of education”, has two sub-sections. The first, “Singing to children and children’s song within culture”, defines singing to children and children’s song as phenomena, building on the work of international scholars and Estonian folklorists. The second subsection, “Singing to children in Estonian domestic culture of education in 2016 in comparison to the results of Anu Vissel’s research from 1990–2000”, presents the findings of our empirical research. The data was collected with the help of a written questionnaire, compiled on the basis of the questions used by Anu Vissel in her research and international studies. Differently from previous research, we placed a stronger emphasis on the reasons for choosing a specific repertoire. Our respondents were 190 parents of pre-school children from five kindergartens. The questionnaire that included 28 questions (both closed and open-ended) was created using Google Forms. Answers to the closed questions were analysed with the SPSS and Microsoft Excel software. Our quantitative methods of data analysis included frequency and correlation analysis. Responses to the open-ended questions were analysed using summative qualitative content analysis. In the case of questions concerning song choice content categories were created using the inductive method. The comparison of our results and those of Anu Vissel allows us to conclude that singing to children is, without a doubt, a cultural symbol that testifies to the existence of a relatively stable domestic culture of education in Estonia. It can be viewed as a phenomenon of consciousness in people’s subjective reality (attitudes and meanings attributed to singing) and as a specific activity in the domestic reality. This is manifested owing to the communicativeness of reality or interaction between the participants in the culture of education. That is, our study showed that a child and a parent mostly sing together, instead of one taking the role of the singer and the other that of the listener. Parents also perceive singing to children as a dialogic joint activity, even when it is not that in reality. On the level of consciousness, communicativeness is expressed owing to the singer’s connections to cultural memory and meanings therein. Intersubjective communication also entails the interpretation and creation of meanings characteristic of culture, and it is both synchronic and diachronic as people operate within a space of historically developed meanings. The connection to cultural memory can, for example, be seen in the choice of songs sung to children. Parents’ song choices are overall conservative and the repertoire has been relatively unchanged across decades and is derived from the singer’s own childhood. Most of the repertoire has been acquired through life without special study. The comparison of our and Anu Vissel’s results shows that the most popular lullabies and play songs have been the same in families both in 2016 and in the 1990s and early 2000s. The choice of a specific song is not in the song itself (its notes or lyrics) but the cultural context and its significance for the parents as singers. Over decades lullabies have been the predominant type of song. Singing lullabies could also be called a ritual within local culture of education as it has most of the characteristics of a ritual. Lullabies have had a stable function within the culture of education (lulling to sleep, calming) and only these songs could be viewed as global phenomena of the culture of education. Otherwise cultural symbols are linked to local educational traditions and values. Further research is needed to determine which environmental factors and modes of communication within domestic culture of education actualise which different aspects of cultural memory, and whether the potential creativity of parents today is dependent on the scope and meaning cultural memory has for them or whether these links can be established.


  • School of Educational Sciences, Tallinn University, Uus-Sadama 5, 10120 Tallinn, ESTONIA


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