The case for creative education

29 Jul


“We are educating people out of their creative capacities.” — Ken Robinson

I was listening recently to these three excellent presentations by Sir Ken Robinson.

I was particularly interested in the concerns Sir Ken had about how education policies in the USA, although you could argue globally, are leading to a reduction in creative thinking within schools. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) disciplines are clearly vitally important to both children’s development and the wider economy. There is, rightly, a focus on literacy and numeracy in schools in Wales. But as Sir Ken states, they are important but they are not sufficient to a rounded education. Just because we have a focus on STEM disciplines doesn’t mean we should ignore the creative subjects of arts, music and so forth. These subjects not only actually help develop the way pupils think, complimenting the focus on literacy and numeracy, but also speak to the creative parts of a child’s mind that otherwise will remain inactive. Marginalising creative subjects is educating the imagination out of individuals. Failing to stimulate the minds of pupils will quickly switch them off education and therefore hinder any progress in literacy and numeracy, as well as contributing to generational problems with disengagement with the school system.

In speaking about this disengagement Sir Ken notes that America has a high level of pupil drop out, especially in comparison to Finland whose creative education ensures very low numbers falling through the cracks. On a positive note absenteeism and individuals leaving school without qualifications are both going in the right direction here in Wales. However, we are at a crossroads in educational policy and must consider the wider implications of a narrow focus leading to that work potentially being undone. Feedback from teachers who have recently conducted the standardised literacy and numeracy tests suggest the impact on students well-being, and their investment in the school community, has been alarming. A further point made in these presentations is the impact of standardised testing and how instead of supporting education it often obstructs it, echoing the blog post I previously published here. Sir Ken is completely correct when he highlights that standardised testing has its place, but they should be diagnostic supporting education rather than driving the direction it takes.

All the high performing nations in the world do two things. They offer a creative approach to education, individualising teaching and learning. Secondly they empower schools by accepting the discretion and professional judgments of teachers. Those nations that have moved to a system where creativity is stifled by standardisation and where teacher’s freedoms has been undermined by an approach of central government imposed regulation, are seeing a decline in quality. An important consideration for us here in Wales.

I’d very much recommend listening to Sir Ken Robinson’s presentations as he puts the above points across far better than I and presents in a very funny and engaging way.


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