Is education killing creativity?

Published: January 17, 2016
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Robinson jocularly points out that the education system is educating only for university placements, and only academic achievement is recognized as intelligence.

This one TED-talk made me rethink my concept of education. Education for me had always been about rote learning and grades. I mean, if I could repeat the day’s lesson verbatim I was one of the most intelligent students. But if that logic applies, then a parrot can repeat things perfectly too so it is probably the most intelligent of all life forms. But parrots aren’t educated. Do you see my conundrum? Education should be about more than just about becoming literate, it should also facilitate creativity and originality.

In my opinion, formal education is producing a workforce conditioned to be conformist; nothing about it is original anymore. Today human intelligence has been harnessed by education to be ‘uncreative’, but hasn’t human progress been a result of human creativity? Has the formal education system taken away more than it has given us?

The three ‘R’s’ (reading, writing and arithmetic) of contemporary education enables us to learn and then reproduce available knowledge. The question that comes to my mind is:

Has this knowledge helped us in our daily and professional lives?

In my personal experience, it hasn’t.

Yes I can read, write and subtract because of it but it hasn’t exactly prepared me for ‘life’. I also regret that my education didn’t teach me to be creative and original; I was and maybe still am afraid to be wrong. What is wrong? Is there anything that has not proven to be right in absolute terms yet?

The way that our education system is structured, self-doubt seeps into our consciousness and corrodes our ability to think independently. We have not been taught to have confidence in our own mental faculties. What would have happened if some of the pioneers in human history had allowed the strains of modern education to haunt them?

Would the Wright Brothers have been able to invent the first airplane?

Would Alexander Fleming have dared to invent the penicillin?

Would Graham Bell have caused the revolution of communication that he did?

I think not.

How many of us have felt lost in our years of schooling?

I, for one, couldn’t balance chemical equations and suffered through chemistry lessons with emotions of self-hate. That feeling of inadequacy had tortured me and has affected many others in their years of formal schooling. This academic complex causes psychological and emotional trauma, which leads to truancy and in extreme cases people drop out altogether.

The education system celebrates the ‘gifted’, and the ‘not-so-gifted’ are left feeling unintelligent. The ‘gifted’ ones are those who conform, to the greatest degree, to the modern education system. The ones who do not are shunned to academic failure. That leads me to question: Why are we celebrating only one form of human intelligence?

Not only does that lead to the stagnation of ideas, its exclusivity banishes many non-conformists to a life of mediocrity.

Human intelligence is diverse, interactive and dynamic. Humans can be gifted in music, drama, art, etc. The formal education system, however, does not allocate enough importance to them, the stress remains on mathematics, languages, sciences, etc. Picasso said,

“Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Sir Ken Robinson addresses this issue in a very light-hearted manner.

He says,

“We educate waist up”.

And,

“The whole education systems is predicated on the idea of academic achievement.”

Thus, boxing intellect in an academic perimeter inhibits the fostering of other talents that people have.

I agree with Robinson, that we are educating our children only academically. Every child is instructed to choose certain ‘important’ subjects in his academic career. These are subjects which ensure admission in good universities. The current education system is not preparing children for the future, it is serving the needs of the past, the industrial society. Thus what we need is a complete overhaul of our current education system.

The present society is economically mature enough to allow dancers, musicians and actors to earn decent livelihoods. Humans have progressed beyond the worries of food and shelter and the education system should follow suit.

The ‘new and reformed’ education system should allow human imagination and creativity to flourish. Intelligence should be explored beyond academics in our institutions. Drama, music, dance and arts should be given the same importance as mathematics and languages. That’s the only way we can give birth to the new Beethoven, Mozart, Picasso and Da Vinci in the future.

As a parent I believe that education should allow our children to discover and develop their unique intelligences. Our children should be educated, in the complete sense of the word, not wired for society’s economic requirements.

Tara Kashif

Tara Kashif

The author is a Master's in Education from University of London. She is passionate about reading and cooking.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • hamza

    i disagree. Religion is the most important thing. Only after that comes education or creativity. We can be creative as long as we dont go against the commandments of Allah. The spiritual peace is more important than quenching the thirst of the mind by being creative and original. We must believe in the existence of the unseen, the spirit. Whatvere we innovate might not necessarily benefit us in th end. Please give a thought to this. The creator knows the creation better than the creation itself.Recommend

  • sarmadh

    this video is almost 10 year old ! I remember translating it for Ted in Urdu back in 2009. Also, I read the blog twice, couldn’t find any material associated to it. You are just repeating him ! Did I miss anything or you just wrote a blog for the sake of writing something?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Excellent topic….. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. If one sees the changes in industry, in science, in technology, in engineering, in the arts etc they are immense when compared to the changes in the core method / system of educating people……..and possibly this is because this method / system that feeds all else, is a tried, trusted and successful system and it is because of this system that one sees the positive evolutionary process mentioned. In simple words if its not broke why fix it. I don’t think the system is broken but what it needs is a better quality of teacher capable of teaching a child ‘ how to think ‘ and not tell it ‘ what to think ‘……….. because in this field its the teacher who is absolutely paramount. So the engine does not need to be changed, it needs to be tuned up.Recommend

  • Parvez

    If so……why is it widely believed that the holy Prophet (PBUH) indicated that ‘ one should get knowledge even if one has to go to China ‘Recommend