Education and Creativity – Who needs it?

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The simple answer is that we all do.

But I am not talking about an ability to reel off all fifty (or sixty seven depending on what you read) European Capitals or spell the word ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ in 10 seconds or less.

I am simply talking about the ability to apply knowledge effectively to solve problems creatively and innovate. Oh, and work with your hands – be practical. That’s important too.

ImageFor me a little knowledge applied well is of far greater use than a mountain of knowledge that resides in someone’s cranium never to see the light of day.  Many schools simply work on the ideal that ‘cramming’ is the way forward; Learning the ‘way of the exam board’ by constantly doing past papers so that technique is assumed. The aim being to avoid ‘red ink’ on your papers so you know that you have been coached through the process with apparent effectiveness? What happens if that exam paper changes the format of its questions and no one knew? A ‘two point’ marker was now obsolete and all the questions were ‘four point’ markers? Oh the shock horror of it all. It happens. The secret though is how you respond to the change – think on your feet and apply the knowledge you have gathered irrespective of how the question is phrased/set. Sadly many are unable to do that.

I often think that it would be great for everyone studying GCSE’s (a UK qualification for 15/16 year olds) to sit one exam paper in a subject. Let’s take Mathematics for example. The syllabus is set by a central agency (government possibly – like in France) and the teachers deliver that body of content as they see fit, in their own way. All the students in the country then sit the same paper at the end of two years study – a level playing field for everyone.

ImageI realise that there are countless issues with the idea (not least the financial ones relating to the various syllabus providers that make their money from ‘bums on seats’ as teachers and schools choose a syllabus for a myriad of different reasons…) but wouldn’t it sort out the wheat from the chaff regarding ability? Everyone had to answer the same maths questions – no coaching of exam paper techniques, just applying the ‘language’ of maths that they had accumulated over two years of study.

In my subject, Design (and Technology), you can’t really ‘train’ students to answer questions because invariably the outcomes are often different; unique. None are really wrong, or right – they just need justification as to why you have chosen your final idea over another; A bit like Art in many ways.

Of course there are areas of material science and engineering skills that have to be applied and learnt for the theoretical and practical parts of the course (written exam and coursework components). Not only do we have to apply that knowledge but we need to learn how to grow that talent – that is  the key to an innovative and creative outcome.

ImageThe fact that for so many the process of idea evolution as a consequence of sketching, modelling, making mistakes, communicating, evaluating and modifying to improve your idea… is alien to many… to me is very sad.

This is especially so as it is these core skills that so many youngsters are lacking; and it is these core skills that are required in the real world of work irrespective of academic (or other) discipline. 

Radical? Design Thinking? Not really; Just education.

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