OPINION Music and children: the importance of education

Scientists have always emphasised how equal humans are. But we are differentiated too – through gender and race, through religion and culture. Sometimes these factors have served to separate us and cause divisions in the human race.

We are quick to forget that underneath the skin is a composition of plasma that happens to be red for all of us. And we share many other common elements that bring us together and also serve crucially in our growth and development.

Music is near the top of top of that list.

It’s common for mothers and nurses to soothe a crying baby with a song and a rhythmic sway. Most times this works like magic. But you already know this: now prepare to be awed.

A group of Australian biologists were researching the effects of music on plants. Their research was composed of two test groups and one control group – some plants were allowed to grow in an environment of extremely loud music, a second group was introduced to soothing music, the control grew in normal conditions with no noise interruptions. The second group experienced the best growth and started yielding fruits long before the control group (which only experienced normal growth) and the loud-music group (which actually experienced some plant deaths). If this is the effect of music on plants, how much more are humans likely to benefit?

It doesn’t end there; there’s a demonstrable chemical link between music and emotion – music appears to increase production of the ‘feel-good hormone’ dopamine. The same hormone is produced when a mother looks at their own baby and will have an influence on their bond. During pregnancy music doesn’t just benefit the child but also the mother. It’s believed that listening to music is therapeutic and will reduce the risk of anxiety and depression.

Most cultures have a form of communication considered to be music; the art is also used in all religions as a form of supplication and adoration. When you take away music, you basically have life without meaning – assuming you’ll have that life in the first place.

Music in education

We could come up with a whole encyclopaedia of how crucial music is to the development of children. Check out:

Music education for children is important as it not only makes them understand music as an art, but it also helps them understand the world from a very young age. This develops in them a deeper sense of maturity that helps them as they stumble through life’s sketchy paths.

Music is fun, and music education should be so too. Eventually, you should end up with happy little intelligent souls who make a great impact on the societies they live in. In spite of all these, there seems to be a prevalent issue which if not addressed properly puts the future of music at stake.

Here’s the issue: many countries are going through major changes in their education sectors, in particular by putting more emphasis on technical subjects including mathematics and sciences while giving art less and less attention. Indeed, arts education in general is increasingly being left in the hands of private investors who open up institutions to impart such knowledge. What was once integrated in our education systems is slowly being eradicated to pave way for “more important” subjects.

White-collar jobs have been overrated in the 21st-Century such that everyone is being pushed to get a college degree. This has made more institutions to offer STEM subjects to impart the technical skills needed in such places of work. As such, governments have been less willing to invest money in boosting art and craft hence limited opportunities for music education for children.

Since there are limited incentives to motivate music teachers, it’s no surprise that their skills atrophy; many don’t have the courage to teach for fear of making mistakes. You can’t really teach what you don’t know, can you?

A way forward?

There is still a glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel. To realise it, calls for a united front from all stakeholders.

The first thing for parents to do is to understand and embrace the value of music education. Music offers multiple benefits to the growth and development of children. When combined with STEM related courses, children are brought up with multiple strengths and capable of tackling independently the challenges they face. A society with individuals that have focus, perseverance, excellent motor, collaborative and decision making skills, confidence, and good academic performance among other traits comes from incorporate music and other art forms into the learning.

We must advocate for policies – and funds – geared to realising this ambition. Spread the word, influence others into joining the campaign. Let’s do our best for our children.

About the author: Elaine E is a writer and content editor at Brooklyn Melodies Music Center, the music school with eight branches around Dubai.

We’re looking for further contributions in this occasional series of Opinion features. If you have something to say and you think it might be of interest to magpie readers, get in touch

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