Bindu Subramaniam, singer-songwriter, author, and Founder-CEO, SaPa – Subramaniam Academy of Performing Arts
According to a Deloitte study published in 2018, with automation becoming more sophisticated, it will be increasingly difficult to predict what the in-demand jobs of the future will look like. This means, as educators, we are not always sure what we are preparing our children for. Today, as we battle massive uncertainty around the world, this statement rings truer than ever. The landscape of learning, workplace culture, migration opportunities – we cannot confidently predict what any of these will look like even months from now, never mind the next 20 years.
But what we can say with certainty is there will always be a high demand for well-rounded, empathetic global citizens who are able to easily adapt to big changes. This is where the role of music comes in. It is a common misconception that music education should be exclusively for students who want to pursue it as a career path. Music is a gateway to developing the 21 st century skills such as teamwork and communication, and it is an especially effective way to bridge many of the gaps created by online schooling.
Here are ten reasons why an educator should consider a structured music curriculum for all
1. Helps build community: With online schooling, children are missing important aspects of
socialising. Snack breaks, group projects, and play time are all crucial to community development. Introducing regular musical activities (adapted to the virtual classroom) gives students an opportunity to build their community, and bond together.
2. Helps integrate SEL: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an important part of the curriculum. Children are grappling with major changes, and it’s important that we continue to focus on their mental well-being. Music education helps build the five pillars of SEL – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making – without being too heavy. One example of this is using a song like ‘We Shall Overcome’; to give students important social context, and make them sensitive to the hardships faced by others without burdening or preaching to them.
3. Teaches the 4 Cs of 21 st century learning: The big picture of music education offers great
potential. When structured well, music can help integrate the four Cs of 21 st century learning – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity – into a child’s life.
4. Helps enhance academic performance: Research suggests that music enhances academic
performance everywhere. Closer home, we’ve seen a sharp spike in attendance, reading ability, and overall confidence after music was introduced in the curriculum.
5. Helps build motor skills: For younger learners, music is a great way to build fine and gross
motor skills. Teaching children how to use simple rhythm instruments (like shakers) will help
them listen closely and make the sound they want. And when they move along, they also develop coordination skills.
6. Helps build entrepreneurial skills: In an article from a few years ago, Panos Panay, founding managing director of Berklee ICE (Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship), had some great insights to share about the link between music and entrepreneurship. “Learning how to play a musical instrument and becoming a musician,” he says, “is an exercise in developing good listening skills, experimenting, overcoming repeated failure, self-discipline, and successful collaboration.” Since these are also qualities seen in successful entrepreneurs, there is merit to teaching children early on that there is a lot to be gained from hard work and perseverance.
7. Recommended in the NEP: The National Education Policy stresses on the need for music
education for all children, and for ensuring that there’s no hard separation between the sciences and the arts. This is a unique opportunity for us to help them appreciate how the two (seemingly opposite) streams are interlinked. It’s important to design the curriculum in a way that encourages students to draw parallels between rhythmic and mathematical patterns or explore why the violin sounds more high-pitched than the double bass.
8. Helps focus better: Research shows that musical training engages the parts of your brain that are responsible for decision-making and better focus. It also helps inhibit impulses, and keeps students calm – which is the need of the hour.
9. Helps deal with online fatigue: Most adults are struggling with online fatigue, so we can only imagine what it’s like for kids. It isn’t easy to focus for too long while staring at a screen, and it is especially hard to learn in isolation. Some of the reasons for online fatigue are: stress, excess screen time, and too much time spent sitting. And we can use music education to help children manage anxiety, work on activities on and off screen, and spend some energy with simple rhythm activities.
10. Brings joy: Music makes us happy – it’s as simple as that. It lights up every part of the brain and helps release dopamine – the feel-good chemical. It is a powerful way to keep kids calm and centred. And if we don’t focus on these things first, how can we expect students to be productive?
Music is much more than a great mood-booster. It is a transformative tool, and the key to providing every child a well-rounded learning experience. With a new school year around the corner, and virtual learning here to stay, it is a good idea to integrate music education in the school curriculum right away.