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Learning a musical instrument raises achievement

TEACHING the performing arts in primary schools significantly boosts the results disadvantaged students achieve in academic subjects.

An independent evaluation of an arts program taught in disadvantaged schools found student grades in English, maths, science and studies of human society rose significantly compared with similar schools with no arts classes. And in national literacy tests, the proportion of Year 5 students meeting minimum standards in reading rose to 90 per cent compared with about 65 per cent in the non-arts schools.

The report by international education consultant and Melbourne University professorial fellow Brian Caldwell examined the effects of programs run by the Song Room, a non-profit organisation that provides teaching artists to schools who otherwise could not provide arts classes.

Professor Caldwell, a former dean of education at Melbourne, said he had not expected to find much difference in results, given the Song Room usually provides only one hour of lessons a week.

But he said participating in the program led to a rise in the national literacy tests that was the equivalent of having an extra year of school. "I was astonished. It's extraordinary," he said.

"It has enormous policy implications for the millions and millions of dollars being spent on programs to help boost literacy when an intervention like this has that impact."



  • Merryn Dunmill

    A must see - Music awakens closed minds. What can this mean for our special needs students? Music is critical to communication, wellbeing, physical response, emotional connection, language, cognition and so muh more..... All the key competencies playing out here due to musical response in someone who was not connecting on so many levels ....