By Roli S
On 29 January, the country celebrated ‘Vasant Panchami’ hailing the arrival of spring. On this day, Goddess Saraswati, who blesses people with wisdom and learning, is also worshipped in homes and schools across India. On the day, I am reminded of the marigold decked corridors and auditoriums of my schools when ‘Saraswati Vandana’ used to be sung with so much enthusiasm by students and teachers. The most popular prayer of all that still reverberates in my mind is “Var se veena vadini var de”. The prayer is fresh in my mind and so is the question, ‘What is the connection of ‘Veena’ with the Goddess of Learning?’ The figure of Goddess Saraswati holding the Veena in her hands has always fascinated me. Surely, there has to be a connection between music and learning, I used to think when I was a child.
My journey in the field of education and pedagogy has answered the question that incorporating music even further into the learning experience helps focus and retention. Music is very integral to the learning experience for a child right from the beginning. Be it the lullabies sung by mothers or nursery rhymes sung by kindergarten teachers, music has always enhanced the understanding and wisdom of a child.
The soundtrack increases interest and activates the information mentally, physically or emotionally. Music can also create a highly focused learning state in which vocabulary and reading material is absorbed at a great rate. When information is put to rhythm and rhyme, these musical elements will provide a hook for recall. Have you ever wondered why we still remember our nursery rhymes and songs of old movies even though we have not used them for years! As soon as we listen to the tune of a song we immediately remember words of the lyrics even though we have not heard or used the song in the recent past? Our favorite childhood song pops on the radio and we’re instantly transported back to those exact feelings and emotions we’ve felt years ago. There’s a reason why we remember all of the lyrics of a song, yet we can’t remember what we had for breakfast a day before. Those neural connections between music and memory are strong and enduring. Isn’t it true that we do not remember most of the textual information that we learn in our schools at all and we forget most of it within a few days and the memory of most that we learn in our school or read in newspapers and magazines is very short lived?
That is why we should take a clue from ‘Goddess Saraswati’ and her ‘Veena’ and incorporate music even further into the learning experience in our schools at different levels. Nearly everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing, or playing an instrument. But despite this almost universal interest, many schools give very little importance to music education in the teaching and learning process. This is a mistake, with schools losing not only an enjoyable subject, but a subject that can enrich students’ lives and increase their power of recollection.
Music helps develop language and reasoning as the left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds. It helps in the mastery of memorisation and this skill can serve students well in education and beyond. Learning through music increases coordination and can also improve students’ hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when using music.
Music keeps children interested in the subjects and improves their academic performance. Students also learn pattern recognition and develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of music. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format. This helps in getting better marks in the board examination.
Not only this, music also helps in building imagination and intellectual curiosity by developing the whole brain and child’s imagination. Learning with music is also relaxing and soothing. Music can develop spatial intelligence and can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows students to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.
I suggest that, along with textbooks, lectures and in-class activities, content-based songs and poetry can be provided to the students, which gives them an alternate method of understanding the basic concepts of different subjects. Research shows that alternate learning methods allow students opportunities to connect ideas and organise information through their own meanings. This concept aligns with the constructivist perspective, claiming that content-based songs and lyrics can help students build meaning of in-depth concepts on their own terms.
Extensive research tends to point toward the positive in terms of using music and rhythm in the classroom to improve learning outcomes. Within the proper context and situation, music and rhythm can help students learn and actually enhance learning experiences. With the important role that music plays across the world within our daily lives, it’s surprising to find a general lack of its adoption throughout our education system.
Beats and rhythm of a Haiku:
A middle-aged star
Enormous effect on Earth
Continues to shine!
When turned into a song, makes a geography lesson interesting and increases appreciation for poetry and lyrics at the same time. Thus, letting the music and rhythm be the way to learn has its own allowance and benedictions in the area of education!
(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Mumbai)