The importance of music education at NACE Schools

Music is a universal language which all human beings possess and understand without needing to study it. We use it to express ourselves and communicate, and it can cause us to feel a range of emotions and feelings. At NACE Schools (Agora International Schools, St George’s and Areteia in Spain, EIB Paris in France, and Stonar in the United Kingdom), we see music education as a fundamental pillar in our pupils’ education, and an integral part of the academic curriculum.

Receiving a music education at school introduces pupils to the world of rhythm, melody, singing, and the use of instruments, which encourages their emotional, social, cognitive, and body equilibrium. Furthermore, the pupils take a more active role in class, develop their spatio-temporal ability, are able to solve complex mathematical operations more easily, and tend to be children who are more civic minded, and maintain a higher average.

Music education also helps them to improve their reading comprehension and verbal skills, particularly in cases which concern bilingual children, like the pupils at NACE Schools. Music alters the organisation of the brain, and prepares it for the development of cognitive skills, a fundamental process for the children to begin to speak and learn words both in their maternal language and in a second one, therefore reinforcing their ability to speak more than one language. Similarly, learning to play an instrument has an impact on other skills such as the understanding of discourse and emotions in the voice, and the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.

In terms of physiological factors, several studies demonstrate that playing an instrument causes an acceleration in the organisation of the cerebral cortex in skills such as attention, managing anxiety and controlling emotions. It has also been shown that it increases the thickness of the parts of the brain responsible for executive function, which controls the cognitive skills which are focused on achieving a goal and oriented to the future. Similarly, the process of rehearsing an instrument, which produces emotional factors of repetition and attention, encourages cerebral plasticity, the change in the structure of the brain from experience.

In the same vein, some researchers maintain that music education and training can work as treatment for cognitive disorders, such as ADHD. In these cases, music reduces levels of anxiety, improves the relationship between the body and the environment, modifies and assimilates behaviour, and activates selective attention.

For all these reasons, music education is a priority at NACE Schools, culminating at the end of each academic year in International Music Week, one of the most important events in which pupils from NACE schools in Spain, France, and the United Kingdom come together to take part in a range of activities, which end with a big concert.

Excellent Workshops based on multiple intelligences

Attention to diversity is one of the challenges of the Areteia Educational Project, which aims to create a context of success for each student, accepting and working on weaknesses, but above all, encouraging the strengths and talents of each student.

In this way, in accordance with the fundamental principle of the Educational Project which states that all pupils can learn, though they need not all do it in the same way, Areteia applies Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences with the creation of the Excellent Workshops.

The theory of Multiple Intelligences developed by Gardner states that there is not one intelligence but multiple types, and that we all possess similar abilities, though some of us are more skilled in some things than in others.

Areteia began this initiative in the 2010-2011 academic year, and with time it has become one of the pillars of the school’s educational project. On the one hand, the Excellent Programmes enable the pupils to learn about a subject, and on the other hand, they enable the development of each pupil’s potential to the maximum, so that through their strengths they reach excellence. Each student is assigned to a Workshop related to the type of intelligence in which they stand out.

Luis Garcia, headmaster of Areteia, helps us to better understand this. “For more than 20 years we’ve been holding events and organising one-time activities to motivate the students to show the best of themselves, and after the successes achieved, we believed it necessary to go one step further and organise these activities within the curriculum and the school day, with the objective of going further in this wonderful task of maximising the best in each pupil. For this reason, since 2011 we have incorporated the Excellent Workshops in our Educational Project and begun to work on them”.

Art techniques workshops

“Outside the curriculum, but at the same time perfectly linked with the pedagogical objectives, on Friday afternoons within school hours we break out of the school structure and work on the workshops. We put the Primary pupils together, and the ESO, Baccalaureate, and Vocational Training pupils together, who are then in turn divided up according to the workshop they’ve been assigned”, the headmaster says.

The choice of Excellent Workshop is agreed on between the tutor, the pupil, and the family, and is supervised by the school’s Psychopedagogy Department. This decision is made during the first few weeks of the year, in which the tutor of each group presents Gardner’s 8 Multiple Intelligences. An analysis is then made of each pupil’s potential to agree on their participation in the most suitable workshop for them.

ESO Science Experiments Workshop

Luis Garcia adds that “year after year we survey the pupils to draw valuable conclusions about the satisfaction achieved in each workshop and, based on these conclusions, we redesign the offer for the following academic year”.

It is difficult to highlight certain workshops above others, though we can confirm that “the Sports; Self-defence; Science Experiments; Rock; and Singing programmes etc. are the most popular, while the Video; Photography, and Radio and Readers programmes are chosen by fewer pupils, but with a higher level of motivation and potential to progress.”

The Excellent Workshops, based on Multiple Intelligences, help to promote the objectives of the Areteia Educational Project, and form a real Learning Community. “These workshops create particularly motivational moments for the students, and also for the teachers, given that they can share their hobbies, tastes, and skills, etc. with the pupils. It is, ultimately, about favouring an experience of being able to contribute, to be useful, to be competent, to be good, and to build.

In this way, the school becomes greater because it provides its participants with happiness and learning”, Luis Garcia concludes.

ESO Rock Workshop

What do our pupils and teachers say about the Excellent Workshops?

  • The Comics Workshop is a space in which a group of pupils who like drawing get together to work on this hobby in a fun way. To do this, exercises are recommended in which they can develop a feeling for human anatomy, proportion, movement, and narrative, which help to stimulate and mould their creative dimension. David Segovia, Teacher
  • The Comics Workshop is a calm space with nice people where I learn and improve in something I like. Miguel, 1st Baccalaureate B pupil.
  • I like drawing and learning from my teacher, I want to be an artist and I love my classmates. Fiorela, 2nd ESO A pupil.

ESO Comic Workshop

  • For me, being part of the Sport Workshop has been a very productive experience, because I see pupils of different ages interact in one learning context, respect each other in the face of differences in terms of ability, and resolve conflicts which arise, with the older ones mediating, so that there is a healthy atmosphere of co-operation. Iván Cortijo, Teacher.
  • I chose the Sport Workshop because it was the one which stood out most to me. In this workshop, I can play and enjoy doing what I like: moving around and playing. And if I’m with my friends, even better. I feel that I’m part of a team. Also, thanks to the workshop I play sports which I wasn’t very good at, like basketball, badminton, tennis, etc. Juan, 4th ESO B pupil.
  • Friday afternoons are different and fun. It’s a way of becoming closer to the pupils, thanks to their aptitude for and motivation to take part in the activity. The environment is great, and students from different year groups interact, so it’s really enriching. Beatriz Moreno, Teacher.
  • In the Redecorate your World Workshop you can be creative and no one judges you. Paloma, 3rd ESO C pupil.
  • Friday afternoon is fun and there’s a good atmosphere. I do things which we never do. Adriana, 1st ESO B pupil.

ESO pupils in the Video Editing Workshop