Learning to play an instrument in school increases achievement in maths, science and English as it teaches ‘transferable skills’
- Experts carried out a study of more than 100,000 students to make the finding
- Students who mastered instruments were around one year ahead of their peers
- Researchers believe it increases concentration and a host of other study skills
Children plinking away on the piano or tootling on the recorder may seem like a distraction from ‘more important’ subjects such as maths, English science.
But new research has found that time spent on musical instruments boosts exam scores in arithmetic and biology, chemistry and physics.
Overall, students who mastered instruments were around one year ahead on their non-musical peers.
This goes to show time spent practising should not be seen as a distraction from subjects valued more highly by many parents and employers.
The discipline of mastering instruments and musical notation increases concentration and a host of other useful study skills, researchers say.
Experts say that music boosts learning as working out how to play an instrument offers ‘transferrable skills’.
Children plinking away on the piano or tootling on the recorder may seem like a distraction from ‘more important’ subjects such as maths, English science. But new research has found that time spent on musical instruments boosts exam scores (stock image)
Peter Gouzouasis of the University of British Columbia carried out a study of more than 100,000 Canadian students.
Dr Gouzouasis said: ‘It is believed that students who spend school time in music classes, rather than in further developing their skills in maths, science and English classes, will underperform in those disciplines.
‘Our research suggests that, in fact, the more they study music, the better they do in those subjects.’
Researchers looked at school records for all relevant students in British Columbia.
That included those who started the first grade between 2000 and 2003 or who had completed the last three years of high school; had completed at least one standardised exam for maths, science or English at 10th or 12th grade – the equivalent in the UK of exams at 16 and 18.
Experts took into account further information including gender of student, their ethnicity, and their socioeconomic status.
Of the more than 112,000 student records studied, approximately 13 per cent of the students had participated in at least one music course.
Overall, students who mastered instruments were around one year ahead on their non-musical peers – going to show time spent practising should not be seen as a distraction from subjects valued more highly by many parents and employers (stock image)
Dr Gouzouasis added: ‘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 discipline to practice.
‘All those learning experiences play a role in enhancing children’s cognitive capacities and their self-efficacy.
‘We think that the effects we see are partly a result of the fact that children engaging in school music over many years mostly receive quality music instruction and need to master the high expectations of performing at a high school band or orchestra level.
‘In fact, it is that high levels of music engagement for which we saw the strongest effects.’
The full findings of the research were published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.