Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tuned to Learning


By Anna Tham

WHEN is comes to music education, there are parents who are divided about its benefits to their children’s development. Should it be given priority equal to that of academic subjects like history, mathematics and science for example?

Many studies have been done over the years and the general conclusion is that music is good for children. However, research and tests are still on-going to determine the specifics of its benefits.

A study done in 1993 by scientists at the University of California at Irvine, found that listening to classical music before a test could improve one’s memory.

However, this study, known as the ‘Mozart Effect’, has been conducted by other researchers could not provide the same findings. While there is no evidence that music enhances memory, it does not mean that music education is not important.

According to Kindermusik, a popular children’s music programme, learning music “encourages self-discipline and diligence traits that carry over into mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography”.

Findings from a study conducted at Sam Houston State University in Texas reports that early music training can improve intelligence.

It’s said that “strong correlations were found between musical abilities in young children – particularly the ability to match vocal pitches and reproduce rhythmic patterns – and abstract reasoning abilities”.

Apart from intellectual benefits, I personally think that music education helps children develop discipline, focus, self-esteem and confidence.

My daughter is currently enrolled in a junior music course. Like most children, she has problems concentrating. However, she knows that in order to receive praise and applause, she has to focus and practice consistently, and does try to do that sometimes.

At the end of each semester, there is a mini concert where each child sings and plays individually for the audience. They also perform an ensemble. This develops confidence and team spirit. Even the most reserved and shy child can be seen performing without any problem.

Music also helps the child develop his fine and gross motor skills and rhythm sense when he participates in music and movement activities, for example jumping and skipping to music and using his fingers in action songs.

Research ahs found that the human brain has specialized parts to process music. As such, exposure to music developed cognitive skills, visuo-spatial capabilities, and perception, thus improving intelligence.

According to a youth arts project by the US Department of Justice National Endowment for the Arts, arts education has a measurable impact on youth in deterring delinquent behaviour and truancy problems.

It also increases overall academic performance among those youth engaged in after school and summer arts programmes targeted towards delinquency prevention.

If you do not wish to spend too much for music education initially, you could simply start at home by more consciously engaging your child in singing and moving to music, and listening to various types of music from ethnic and classical to jazz and rock.

Bouncing your baby on your lap in a rhythmic way while singing is already exposing him to music. Make musical instruments such as drums and shakers in craft projects, clap and dance to different rhythms. Find free and useful resources from the Internet to help you get started.

Bringing up children
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Page 20

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