Changing Lives. Inspiring Action.

By Sebastian Krutkowski

Eight years have passed since Sir Ken Robinson’s influential TED talk about the significance of creativity in education and the economy.

We are now in the knowledge economy, but we still do not have an education system that can cater for its needs. As old careers become replaced by new ones, creativity becomes the salient differentiating factor between people competing for jobs. At the heart of rebalancing our education curricula to reflect the needs of this new economy is our view on creativity and human intelligence.

What is creativity and how can we cultivate it?

Creativity is about looking at existing problems in new ways, seeing new opportunities, and exploring emerging technologies. According to Sir Ken Robinson, while the knowledge economy expects us to produce something original and useful, people continue to have their creative potential educated out of them at schools.

The enduring paradox is that most children think they are creative, while most adults think they are not. However, creativity is not a rare talent that only special people have. The human mind is naturally curious. Culver Hill from the Institute for Applied Creativity at Texas A&M University, notes that before entering the school system, a young child asks an average 125 probing questions every day. After the university experience, young adults only ask a mere six questions a day.

Schools under the current education system teach conformity and compliance to procedures. Incessant testing and pressure on students to perform well academically makes them risk-averse and effectively incapable to adapt to new ways of performing work in the current, let alone future economy. To maintain efficiency and productivity in a rapidly changing world, we cannot afford to overlook the human factor as we will never get the best out of people.

This is why students should be encouraged to experiment more, make cross-disciplinary connections between different subject areas, use their imagination and interact with classroom equipment (rather than merely sit in desks and receive direct instruction). Answers and solutions should be discovered, not written down from the board to memorise.

Another way of awakening creativity is to mainstream the arts into education curricula as it is the norm in Montessori and Steiner schools. The arts would foster the students’ aesthetic inquiry into the nature and diversity of the world through an exploration of the shapes, colours, rhythms, artistic expressions and relationships arising from various cultural contexts.

Teaching methods, which are dominant today, should be revised and tailored to assist each child in fully realising his or her creative potential. Enabling children to enjoy learning without the unhealthy stress or risk of early burnout from excessive pressure or criticism can only yield positive long-term outcomes. An exploratory spirit cultivated throughout one’s entire education will result in a “reservoir” of creativity that will be essential to better deal with economic, technological and cultural change.

Interested to learn more?  Read and download TVF’s whitepaper – Developing creativity and innovation in Education