THE BENEFITS OF STUDYING MUSIC IN MALAYSIA

Category: Accounting

Recently, the researchers have started to pay particular attention to the benefits of studying music in the primary school. This aspect is significantly ignored in traditional education; as Young and Glover put it, "Music has often been taught as if it were different, something outside the mainstream curriculum, with teaching approaches quite at odds with early years work"1. Yet primary schools that maintain progressive education express unusual interest in the effects of music on young children.

A number of studies reveal that music in the primary school reinforces children's cognitive development. The research conducted by Schellenberg shows that music increases young children's levels of IQ; 144 six-year-old children took lessons in voice or keyboard and lessons in drama for one year. The researcher used IQ tests to assess children's achievements. As Schellenberg claims, "children in the music groups exhibited greater increases in full-scale IQ"2 than children who took drama lessons or did not attend any art lessons. Although different teaching methods were used in two music groups, the results were similar. In the viewpoint of the researcher, such increase in children's intellectual development signifies that the brain is activated during music performance or music listening. To deduce the meaning of a certain music composition, children should learn to interpret music symbols, improve concentration, and differentiate among various sounds. The findings of Schellenberg's study are consistent with the inferences of Kantrowitz; observing Charles R. Bugg Elementary in North Carolina, Kantrowitz finds out that integration of music in the school's curriculum improves children's cognitive skills and thus increases their academic achievements (especially in mathematics and reading)3. Due to the use of different musical rhythms during lessons, children in Charles R. Bugg Elementary demonstrate unusual interest in learning and acquire knowledge faster and more easily than children in other primary schools. As Kantrowitz claims, grammar rules, basic spelling rules, math concepts, and other information are better memorised through music. Young and Glover consider that such positive effects of music can be explained by the fact that "young children's attention is easily caught by hearing music; at a 'right' moment they respond with a natural interest and enjoyment"4.

The study of Costa-Giomi demonstrates that children who are involved in music instruction at a young age (up to five years) have no difficulties with spatial or spatial-temporal tasks5. Contrariwise, spatial development of children who are not involved in music instruction in early childhood is significantly impeded. Acquisition of spatial skills is crucial for children, as these skills help them solve different logic problems and cope with complex mathematical tasks. The findings of Costa-Giomi are in line with the results of Rauscher and LeMieux.

Their analysis of 3 to 4 year-old children from poor families indicates that rhythm, keyboard, and singing instructions increase children's achievements in various spatial activities, sequencing activities, and arithmetic tasks6. Rauscher and LeMieux acknowledge that rhythm instruction is especially effective for developing children's spatial skills, but they highlight that young children should take at least two years of such instruction. In the viewpoint of the researchers, music reinforces neural activity of the brain and thus increases children's intelligence. Learning to recognise rhythms of music, young children simultaneously develop their language skills. As words have specific rhythms, children usually draw parallels between musical rhythms and word rhythms.

The research conducted by Fujioka et al. provides definite proof that one year of musical training significantly enhances children's memory and stimulates "specific developmental changes in the responses to musical sounds"7. On the basis of these findings, it is clear that brain development of children who take music lessons and children who do not take music lessons is dissimilar in many ways. Observing 4 to 6 year-old children for a year and employing magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure changes, Fujioka et al. have revealed that musical training has a positive impact on spatial skills, verbal skills, and literacy skills of young children, as it "affects working memory capacity"8. After four months of musical training, children began to respond faster to the sounds of violin and could easily distinguish one sound from another. In addition, they demonstrated better attention and concentration. As MEG has shown, four lobes of children's brains (temporal lobe, frontal lobe, occipital lobe, and parietal lobe) were activated when children engaged in music activities. Children who did not take music lessons during the research of Fujioka et al. failed to recognise differences among sounds and adequately process music. Thus, this study provides conclusive evidence of the relationship between music and cognitive development of children. Activation of both the right and left hemispheres of the brain gives children a splendid opportunity to perform different activities. In addition to the development of cognitive skills, music instruction in the primary school also helps young children develop fine motor skills and gross motor skills. This is backed up by the research of Schlaug et al9. In the process of analysis, the researchers have found out that 9 to 11 year-old children who took violin and piano lessons for a year had more developed motor skills than children who took no music lessons. After musical training, children's motor coordination was significantly improved. The study of Douglas and Willatts clearly demonstrates that music instruction enhances reading skills of children aged 8 to 11 years old10.

Writers and researchers have also identified other benefits of integrating music instruction into the primary school's curriculum. According to Firth, studying music in the primary school shapes children's aesthetic values and taste11; it also gives children an opportunity to get acquainted with cultural heritage of different nations. Young and Glover point out that music helps young children employ their imagination to penetrate deep into the essence of music, draw inferences concerning the meaning of various musical compositions, and develop "a confident, open and enquiring attitude to music"12. Additionally, music listening and music performance considerably increase children's self-esteem and motivation and improve their emotional well-being. Young and Glover imply that children who succeed in performing music experience such positive emotions as satisfaction, enthusiasm, joy, and unusual pleasure. Through music, young children learn to express their selves, engage in creativity, and improve their mood. The more senses are evoked by music, the more knowledge are acquired and the more skills are developed. Music gives children necessary strength to cope with stresses, negative emotions, and uncertainty. In the viewpoint of Young and Glover, music also helps children develop social skills and acquire crucial knowledge of group working. When children are involved in group singing or other music activities, they learn to interact with each other, they learn to be an integral part of a social group, and they learn to be sensitive to others.

In view of all mentioned benefits of studying music at a young age, music instruction should be necessarily integrated in the primary school's curriculum. Music instruction not only shapes children's cognitive, motor, and spatial-temporal skills, but also contributes to the formation of their aesthetic values. As the recent research has shown, music helps children increase their academic achievements, stimulate their interest in various subjects, improve their reasoning, and preserve knowledge in short-term and long-term memory. Development of musical knowledge and skills is "tied up with other developmental pathways"13. The best age for the acquisition of music skills is 5-11 years. Music instruction provides children with an opportunity to acquire diverse experiences; due to the development of different cognitive skills, young children manage to easily perform different tasks and activities. As music also has a calming effect on children, they demonstrate better behaviour and concentration when they either listen to music or perform music. Overall, music can be successfully used in the primary school as both an educational tool and a therapeutic approach; integration of music instruction can create effective and stimulating learning environment for young children.