Schools or Creativity Crushing Mechanisms?

Our currently adopted schooling system is structured on a model that does not incorporate productive conditions necessary for children’s capacity building. The whole idea of schooling revolves around the academic achievement. Drilling the young minds in search of a particular academic commodity, it’s undermining the intellectual capabilities of the students by casting them all in the same mold.

The first culprit responsible for destroying creativity is the exclusionary school discipline. Having a set of self-defined disciplinary codes of conduct, the sole focus of our schools is to maintain the decorum instead of availing the environment for effective learning. All seem to follow the prototype of military-like run boarding institutions. By keeping up the tradition of buttoned collars, fixed ties, and polished shoes, we can only produce cadets but no scientists.

Secondly, quite miserable is the part of the educators. School teachers make use of rote-memorization as the only learning technique without realizing its hazards. A teacher must be able to distinguish a pupil from a parrot. Furthermore, not all but most of the school teachers do not buoy up the idea of critical dialogue. Envision a classroom having fifty students. The teacher tells the class “the world is round”. Almost 95 percent of the class will agree to it without reason except for one or two students who will question “why is it so?” Later, they will be grilled by their teacher for arguing. Once a child gets demoralized in front of his mates, it’s really difficult to recuperate his zeal back.

From the psychological perspective, self-directed learning (without direct instruction) enhances both creativity and cognitive skills.

To say, learning based on direct instruction bounds the vision to accomplish a specific task. Whereas, learning based on pure creativity aids perspective development and allows devising fresh approaches to arrive at the solution.

Surprising and a fun fact at the same time is to discover that most of the productive minds of the 20th century were actually school dropouts. Today, the name of Albert Einstein is used as a synonym for intelligence and curiosity. Unable to speak until four, he is also said to be dyslexic (a learning disorder). His teachers predicted that nothing good would come of him. He used to be absent-minded in his class being submerged into his imaginative world. “It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education” he once said. Also, Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Countless other examples follow who were considered poor at school but later emerged as the difference makers.

Pablo Picasso once said: “All children are born artists; the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” Unfortunately, we live in a society where making mistakes is considered worse than doing sins. We stigmatize mistakes, instead of deeming them as the doors to innovation.

I charge the evaluation-based grading system as the root cause of the problem. By taking grades as the only measure of intelligence, we are estimating capacities of the young minds in terms of digits. Research shows that adults tend to be less creative than kids. I can see the problem here. Growing into the adulthood, they become more afraid of failure than ever before. Moreover, they abandon the idea of seeing things the other way as a result of judgmental pressure from the society; thus putting their creativity to a halt.

On the contrary, countries like Japan, Finland, and South Korea are flowing against the tide. In Finland, for instance, there exists no standardized testing till the end of high school. Students learn music, painting, and dancing collateral to the academic curriculum. Education is 100 percent state funded. Separate time is allotted for academic counseling and career development. In Japanese schools, students don’t get exams until they reach grade four. The first three years of schooling concentrates on character building and intellectual training. Possessing these systematic hallmarks, they are reckoned as the flag-bearers of the global educational reforms.

Escuela Neuva (Spanish for “new schools”) is the pedagogical model which I believe is the alternative of the existing one. It originated in Colombia in the mid-1970s with the objectives of providing education to the underprivileged children, decreasing the school dropout rate, and overhauling the rural schools’ performance. It employs active child-centered learning that nurtures leadership, interpersonal, and collaborative skills in a child. Now, it has been adopted in about 20,000 rural schools across Colombia and 19 countries worldwide including Brazil, Philippines, and Vietnam. According to UNESCO, Escuela Nueva has paved the way for rural schools in Colombia to outperform urban schools by decreasing the school dropout rate and amplifying the academic achievements. Now, Colombia has the best rural primary educational setup throughout Latin America after Cuba. Statistical reports over the past few years prove that it’s the most suitable candidate for our future schooling.

The bottom line of the story is that the factory modeled schooling is in consistent with demands of the 21st century. It was designed to meet the demands of the Industrial era (i.e. to make children obedient factory workers). Today’s world requires ingenuity and inventiveness to tackle the global challenges. To achieve this target, the part of educators is crucial. School teachers need to embrace rational questioning and engage students in creative activities. Also, the educational policymakers should make sure that the reforms in education are made every five years. For an optimum outcome, organizing a census among students regarding the reforms can help. However, to meet the pace of the current century, we need to replace this obsolete system with coercion-less, non-comparative, and curiosity-driven schooling, which would foster a child’s talent rather than squandering it.

As for the students, Bertrand Russell has got a tip: “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”

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