Today I want to share with you a TED video I have come across and with which I totally agree. In this video, Ken Robinson, expert in education and creativity, shares his vision on the current education system in a fun and entertaining way. Not to be missed!
The challenge for education
Education has a big challenge to overcome. We have no idea what will happen in the coming years, no one can say today how things will be in just a few years’ time, yet education must prepare our children and young people for that uncertain future. Reflecting on the speed at which things change, I’ve gone to my Facebook account to see when I first created it, and was surprised to see that it was only 8 years ago! – towards the end of 2008 to be exact. If I remember correctly, WhatsApp came into my life just a year later…. amazing to think that when my first child was born, I only communicated with friends and family over the telephone! It seems so far back that it’s almost impossible to believe that this was so only a few years ago. Who could have told us seven years ago that telephone calls would lose out to social networks or instant messaging services?
If we take a moment to analyse education and see how the various subjects are classified, we’ll quickly realise that there is a hierarchy to the importance afforded to each subject: maths and language first, the social sciences second, and last of all the arts. And if we focus on the arts, drawing and music are ranked before theatre or dance. And this is the case in most of the education systems the world over.
Here I’ll make a short aside to quickly explain how our brain works. The left hemisphere controls the right side of our body and is responsible for logic, language, science and mathematics. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, controls the left side of our body and is responsible for intuition, creativity, the arts and music.
Historically, education has developed the intelligence of the left hemisphere, leaving the right hemisphere to one side (considering that it was less important). This worked well until a few years ago, because developing those skills and getting a degree were then a guarantee for a good job. But today, with more university graduates than ever, university degrees have lost part of their value and a master’s or two or a PhD are necessary additions to your CV in order to earn some bonus points. Add to this the fact that technology will soon automate many of the tasks we humans carry out today, and we soon realise that it is becoming increasingly relevant to have original ideas and know how to market them. So, should not education also support the development of these other qualities?
The Importance of Creativity
And here’s where I get to talk about one of my favourite subjects: CREATIVITY. Humans are creative by nature (just look at evolution if you need evidence of that), especially as children. Children see no limit to their ideas; they try them out rather than assume they may not be feasible, and are not afraid to fail. This means that they learn from their own mistakes and can therefore improve their initial ideas. This natural ability we’re born with gradually disappears as we grow up… or rather, we could say that society and our current education systems gradually “kills it off”, because failure and error are barely tolerated. In the words of Pablo Picasso,
Every child is an artist… the problem is how to remain an artist as you grow up.
And as an example of this, watch this short film based on Helen Buckley’s story The Little Boy
Fortunately, there are signs that things are beginning to change. For example, Finland, the country with the best results in education, owes its success partly to the stringent selection of teachers (a profession which is greatly valued, contrary to what happens in many other countries), who have to pass tests for reading, artistic sensitivity, the ability to play a musical instrument, and communication skills. Schools are also increasingly, albeit slowly, incorporating critical and creative thinking into their curriculum. In the words of Robert Swartz, a philosopher who created the Thinking-Based Learning method, Teach how to think, not how to memorize, especially when all the information we need is always there at the click of a mouse.
Of late, I very often hear the term re-imagine used ubiquitously… we re-imagine processes, we re-think jobs, we re-imagine Human Resources… and we even go as far as to reinvent ourselves. And so the time has also come perhaps to redefine education. The system has served us well up to now, but today, in a climate of constant change, we should stop to think whether the principles on which it has been based to date should be maintained into the future.