Music education: the key to raising literacy and numeracy

In recent years there has been research reported about the advantages of learning to play music for cognitive development in the young.

This week in The Age, Anita Collins, a researcher in neuroscience and music education at the University of Canberra made a number of points about the contribution music education can make to the literacy and numeracy debates. Here's some of what she said:

It is now commonly understood that the first seven years of a child's life is the most important time for the creation of neural networks. Get these neural networks established as well as we possibly can from the beginning, and a child has a better chance of success, cognitively, physically and emotionally.

Two decades of frenzied research has now found that music education grows, hones and permanently improves neural networks like no other activity. Children who undertake formal, ongoing musical education have significantly higher levels of cognitive capacity, specifically in their language acquisition and numerical problem solving skills.

They also continue in education for longer, reverse the cognitive issues related to disadvantage and earn and contribute more on average across their lifetime.

Based on neuroscientific research, the approach used at present of "more time in the basics means better results" may well be flawed.

The creation of strong and effective neural networks is a product of more than just specifically focused literacy and numeracy lessons. It is a part, and not the only part, of an educational experience that extends from home to school and back again.

Such research flies in the face of suggestions in the Australian Government's Review of the Australian Curriculum this year that music and arts education should only be started after Year 3 so students could get a handle on the core literacy and numeracy requirements.

It's never too late to start learning how to play an instrument. Contact Miss Katherine Hewitt for further information.

Mr Mike O'Brien - K-10 Director of Creative Arts