The Grapevine

Taking Music Lessons Positively Impacts Children's Academic Performance

There has been growing concern over the fact that many schools around the world are cutting fine arts education due to a lack of funding as well as an increased priority of subjects like math and science. Teachers and artists argue that the inclusion of arts in the curriculum is necessary to provide a well-rounded learning experience for growing children.

A strong case for music education has been made in a new study which was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. The research is said to be the first large-scale, longitudinal study to be adapted into the regular school curriculum. While numerous past studies have shown that people can reap health benefits from creative activities, long-term approaches in research have been rare. 

"Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula," said lead author Dr. Artur Jaschke, who is a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. "This inspired us to initiate a long-term study on the possible effects of music education on cognitive skills that may underlie academic achievement."

As part of the study, 147 children across six Dutch schools were studied over a period of two and a half years. Researchers used a structured musical method developed by the Ministry of Research and Education in the Netherlands and MOCCA, an art education expert center. The children were divided into groups based on whether they received a music education, a visual arts education or no inclusion of arts in their education curriculum. The groups that received music and art education were given both theoretical and practical lessons.

After two and a half years, the children were assessed on their academic performance and other cognitive skills such as problem-solving, inhibition, memory power, and verbal IQ. Findings showed that the children who received music lessons experienced significant cognitive improvements compared to the other groups of children in the study. 

"Children who received music lessons showed improved language-based reasoning and the ability to plan, organize and complete tasks, as well as improved academic achievement," said Dr. Jaschke.

He explained that the skills developed during music lessons can improve the overall academic performance by enhancing children's cognitive abilities even in unrelated subjects.

On the other hand, children in visual arts classes experienced a significant improvement in visual and spatial short-term memory compared to students who had not received any supplementary lessons. The researchers hoped that the results of the study would help highlight the importance of integrating arts into school curriculums, for the benefit of human culture as well as cognitive development.

"Both music and arts classes are supposed to be applied throughout all Dutch primary schools by the year 2020," Dr. Jaschke stated. "But considering our results, we hope that this study will support political developments to reintegrate music and arts education into schools around the world."