Music Lessons: How effective are they to students’ development?

Nearly everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing, or playing an instrument. Music lessons of any type are beneficial to children in many ways. Singing, learning an instrument, and developing appreciation for different types of music are wonderful for helping children develop.

Science shows that music lessons speed up maturity in areas of the brain responsible for sound processing, language and speech development and reading skills.

All children should be given the opportunity to learn music at some level, though music education should be a positive experience, led by an encouraging music teacher and parents, according to experts.

A recently published five-year study, conducted by neuroscientists at the Brain and Creativity Institute, at the University of Southern California, examined the impact of music instruction on kids’ social, emotional and cognitive development.

The results, along with its initial results  published in 2016, suggest  that as little as two years of music training can boost a child’s brain power in areas responsible for decision-making, giving them the ability to focus attention and inhibit impulses (a combo that comes in handy in the classroom).

According to USC neuroscientists, music instruction changes both the white matter (which carries signals) and the grey matter (which processes information) in a child’s brain.

Indeed, researchers found that children who received music instruction had more thickness and volume in certain areas of the brain compared to peers who didn’t take music lessons.

Music was included in the national competence-based curriculum for primary schools however, many schools are having to do away with their music education programs. With schools losing not only an enjoyable subject, but a subject that can enrich students’ lives and education.

In October 2015, Korean firm, Booyoung Co. Ltd, donated 2,000 digital pianos to the Government of Rwanda. All public primary schools have already received at least two digital pianos in each school throughout the country. However, most of the instruments have remained idle because of the lack of instructors.

Juvenal Rwiririza, the head teacher of Groupe Scolaire Kivugiza ,Nyarugenge said that the school acquired those pianos but they are struggling with professional instructors to help students .

“We acknowledge that music instruction can be helpful for learners especially in terms of discovering their musical talents which can prepare them for future artistic careers. We acquired musical instruments but we have a challenge of teachers who are knowledgeable about the subject,” he said.

On the other hand, some schools have managed to get a trained teacher and they are reaping the fruits from piano lessons.

Cyriaque Ngizumuremyi, head teacher at GS Jabana said that the school was lucky to have a teacher among the small group who went through short term trainings, following the distribution of the pianos.

“An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Music class is held twice a week and students really love the subject. Some have already mastered playing the instrument and are eager to learn other instruments as well,” he said.

The Rwanda Education board pledged to bridge the gap of music instructors in primary schools by training more teachers in the academic year 2019 under the agreement with Booyoung Co. Ltd.

Irene Ndayambaje, the director general of the Rwanda Education Board said that as included in the national competence based curriculum, music is considered as an important subject to develop students emotional balance, motor, language, and overall literacy.

“Playing an instrument for complete pleasure is rewarding enough in terms of recreational activity for but also studies indicate that there are more benefits such as encouraging them to build relationships by providing them with experiences to share with each other, enhancing reading comprehension abilities, nursing creative thinking among others,” he said.

For a long term solution, Ndayambaje added that they also seek to advocate for the introduction of a musical department at Teacher Training Colleges to create a sustainable workforce for professional music teachers.

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