Joining a music class may help children improve academic performance as researchers have found that such lessons can enhance their cognitive abilities — including language-based reasoning and short-term memory.
Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula, reports a study from VU University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
“This inspired us to initiate a long-term study on the possible effects of music education on cognitive skills that may underlie academic achievement, Jaschke added.
For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, the researchers conducted the study with 147 children across multiple Dutch schools, using a structured musical method developed by the Ministry of Research and Education in the Netherlands together with an expert centre for arts education.
All schools followed the regular primary school curriculum, with some providing supplementary music or visual arts classes.
In these, the children were given both theoretical and practical lessons.
After 2.5 years, the children’s academic performance was assessed, as well as various cognitive skills including planning, inhibition and memory skills.
The researchers found that children who received music lessons had significant cognitive improvements compared to all other children in the study.
Visual arts classes also showed a benefit. Children in these classes had significantly improved visual and spatial short-term memory compared to students who had not received any supplementary lessons.
Children who received music lessons showed improved language-based reasoning and the ability to plan, organise and complete tasks, as well as improved academic achievement. 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.