Study results suggest the earlier students take instrumental music classes the better their academic performance will be. (iStock)

Taking music class predicts better academic performance: study

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Students who took instrumental music classes performed better in high school science, math and English than those who didn’t, according to a study of over 100,000 students in western Canada. This was true even after researchers controlled for such things as gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status.

Those who took several years of instrumental music class had higher scores in math and science in grade 10 and higher English scores in Grade 12 exams and were one year ahead of their peers.

Test results showed that students who had taken instrumental music classes were one year ahead in math, science and English. (iStock)

Results correspond with other study outcomes

The study did not prove that the music instruction caused the better grades, but it did predict that those who studied music got better academic results.

“While we may not fully understand the mechanisms of how music learning transfers to the areas of development that we look at, our current work and numerous studies that we cite suggest that extended engagement with music learning, particularly instrumental music, enhances all of the areas that we looked at from…executive function to socio-personal or socio-emotional development to motivation-related development and brain development,” said Peter Gouzouasis, a professor at the University of British Columbia and one of the authors of the study.

So based on the results, he says, “I would recommend instrumental music (classes) and the earlier children can start learning how to play an instrument and engaging with things like learning how to read notation…how to practice…how to perform not only alone but with other people in an ensemble…All of these things contribute to this kind of development that we’re looking at.”

The study was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

Prof. Peter Gouzouasis says he was surprised at the study results.

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One comment on “Taking music class predicts better academic performance: study
  1. Kudos to Dr. Peter Gouzouasis and Martin Guhn. It’s refreshing to see quantitative findings that support arts enriched education. I’d like to draw attention to work being done by Dr. Adele Diamond at UBC (Tier-1 Canada Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience) in dance education and Executive Function development. One program in particular that Dr. Diamond refers to comes out of the National Dance Institute (NDI) in New York City. The NDI Method has been taught in urban schools in NYC since the mid-1970s. It’s now in schools in 11 other US-cities. Learning to dance trains Executive Function. Executive Function is a better predictor of success (in school and, later, in working life) than IQ.
    The NDI-method makes dance ed’ accessible to, and inclusive of, kids with learning challenges, physical challenges and other special needs, and kids from low-income families (this, and you don’t need an instrument to take part). Studies done on children and youth who get regular dance ed’ in school arrive at findings similar to Dr. Gouzouasis’s study.
    Educators, policy makers and parent advisory boards, take note. School budgets have been listing to port (the left-brain) and in need of balance. Yes, learning to code is important – it’ll get you a job in the digital economy, but so too is having a well-rounded education. Put another way, if coding is the new math, then arts ed’ is the imagination that will drive it forward. Just ask Albert (Einstein).