In a new study, researchers found that high schoolers who take music courses score much better in certain other subjects, including math and science, compared with their non-musical peers.
The research was done by a team from the University of British Columbia.
Currently, in public education systems in North America, art courses, including music courses, are commonly underfunded compared with like math, science, and English.
It is believed that students who spend more school time in music classes will underperform in math, science and English classes.
In the study, the team tested more than 100,000 Canadian students.
They examined school records for all students in British Columbia who started the first grade between 2000 and 2003.
About 13% of the students had participated in at least one music course in grade 10, 11 or 12, such as concert band, conservatory piano, orchestra, jazz band, concert choir, and vocal jazz.
The researchers found that the more they study music, the better they do in those subjects.
Students who participated in music, who had higher achievement in music, and who were highly engaged in music had higher exam scores across all subjects.
In addition, these associations were stronger in students who took instrumental music rather than vocal music.
The team found that the children who learned to play a musical instrument for many years, and were now playing in high school band and orchestra, were about one academic year ahead of their peers with regard to their English, mathematics and science skills.
These findings are against the traditional view and show that music training may help improve students’ academic performance.
The team believes that some skills learned in a band, orchestra, and conservatory music lessons transfer very broadly to adolescents’ learning in school.
For example, learning to play a musical instrument and playing in an ensemble is very demanding.
A student has to learn to read music notation, develop eye-hand-mind coordination, develop keen listening skills, develop team skills for playing in an ensemble and develop the discipline to practice.
All those learning experiences play a role in enhancing children’s cognitive capacities and their self-efficacy.
In addition, these students need to master the high expectations of performing at a high school band or orchestra level.
The researchers hope that their findings can provide important information for students, parents, teachers and administrative decision-makers in education.
One author of the study is Peter Gouzouasis, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia.
The study is published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
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