Can an arts education in school improve academic performance?
Are the arts a waste of students’ time? Source: Shutterstock

Are students who lack exposure to music and the arts disadvantaged academically?

Recent research in the US, published by the journal of Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, suggests so.

Researchers followed a large and diverse sample of pre-school children until they completed sixth, seventh and eighth grade; 40 percent of students took some kind of art elective course (music, dance, drama, visual art) during middle school.

Interestingly, through this decade-long study, they found that students who were exposed to an arts elective in middle school “had significantly higher GPAs and math and reading scores, and decreased odds of school suspension, compared to students not exposed to the arts”.

This study joins the growing body of research that suggests students can benefit from an arts and academic curriculum as it supports growth, such as this 2013 study which found that students who study music have better grades in all subjects.

The power of an arts education

Studies suggest that students can and do benefit from diverse education that includes the arts. Source: Shutterstock

The New Mexico School for the Arts, a public high school that serves students across New Mexico, US, believes that both arts and academics are equally important for students. On Edutopia, they note that both their experience and research shows that the benefits of an arts education can include:

  • Helping students develop resilience, grit and a growth mindset, which can help them master their craft, improve academically and succeed in life after school
  • Helping students build confidence
  • Improving their cognition
  • Helping students learn a multitude of communication skills via a team or an audience
  • Deepen their cultural and self-understanding

Seeing the potential benefits of an arts elective, should students be encouraged to take on more classes in dance, drama and music?

Perhaps the answer should be yes, as these findings suggest that students can and do benefit from a diverse education that includes the arts, showing that it isn’t a waste of time and doesn’t come at the expense of students’ academic results.

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