Schools have prioritized academic learning in their curriculum over learning music, which is seen as more of a luxury now than a necessary part of education.
"Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula," according lead author Dr. Artur Jaschke, from VU University 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."
The research team conducted the first large-scale, longitudinal study with 147 children across several Dutch schools, using a structured musical method developed by the Ministry of Research and Education in the Netherlands together with an expert center for arts education.
The children were divided into groups: The first group received music education, which involved a structured musical method; the second group received a visual arts education. Meanwhile, children in the third group did not receive any supplementary lessons.
Fast-forward to 2.5 years later, the research team assessed the children's academic performance, as well as various cognitive skills including planning, inhibition, and memory retention.
The researchers found that children who received the structured music lessons, as well as visual arts classes, showed significant improvements in their visual and spatial short-term memory. Moreover, children who received music lessons showed improvements in language-based reasoning, as well as in their ability to plan, organize, and complete tasks.
"This suggests that the cognitive skills developed during music lessons can influence children's cognitive abilities in completely unrelated subjects, leading to overall improved academic performance," Dr. Jaschke remarked.
"Both music and arts classes are supposed to be applied throughout all Dutch primary schools by the year 2020," says Dr Jaschke. "But considering our results, we hope that this study will support political developments to reintegrate music and arts education into schools around the world."
The researchers hope their work will contribute to highlighting the importance of learning music and arts in human culture and cognitive development.
Learning to play an instrument has been known to sharpen a child's memory, which in turn helps him/her retain more information. Below are other benefits of music lessons that may help your child bolster more than his/her academic achievements.
Visit Brain.news for more studies involving children's cognitive development.