Music Participation in High School Linked to Higher Scores on English, Math and Science Exams

By Perry, Susan | MinnPost.com, June 27, 2019 | Go to article overview

Music Participation in High School Linked to Higher Scores on English, Math and Science Exams


Perry, Susan, MinnPost.com


Students who take music courses in high school tend to perform significantly better on math and science exams than their non-musical peers, no matter what their socioeconomic backgrounds, according to a large Canadian study published this week in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

The effect was observed among all types of high school music students, although it was stronger among those who played an instrument than among those who sang.

The findings suggest that schools should be encouraging rather than eliminating music programs, the study’s authors say.

“In public education systems in North America, arts courses, including music courses, are commonly underfunded in comparison with what are often referred to as academic courses, including math, science and English,” says Peter Gouzouasis, the study’s senior author and a professor of music education at the University of British Columbia, in a released statement. “It is believed that students who spend school time in music classes, rather than in further developing their skills in math, science and English classes, will underperform in those disciplines. Our research suggests that, in fact, the more they study music, the better they do in those subjects.”

Study details

For the study, Gouzouasis and his colleagues examined the academic records for more than 112,000 young people attending public schools in British Columbia. All had started the first grade between 2000 and 2003, had completed their last three years of high school and had taken at least one standardized test for English, math or science. The researchers also had demographic information for the students, including their socioeconomic status (determined by the neighborhood in which they lived).

About 13 percent of those students had taken at least one music course during their time in high school that required performing and practicing music, such as concert band, jazz band, conservatory piano, concert choir or vocal jazz.

The study found that students who had participated in these courses consistently scored higher on English, math and science exams than their peers who took no music courses. And the higher their level of involvement in music, the higher their exam scores were likely to be.

“Those associations were more pronounced for those who took instrumental music rather than vocal music,” adds Gouzouasis. “On average, the children who learned to play a musical instrument for many years, and were now playing in high school band and orchestra, were the equivalent of about one academic year ahead of their peers with regard to their English, mathematics and science skills, as measured by their exam grades. …

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