April 19, 2022
A question, do schools kill creativity? was wonderfully presented by Sir Ken Robinson in a TED talk. The talk throws up several things such as, “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” How much is this true for schools and teachers in the classroom?
I had this question though no longer how are schools different? As schools have the same board, same subjects/ books and several assignments / examinations are the exact same way. So how different schools are?
A weapon schools have is socialisation; schools & teachers who use it rightfully creates wonderful human beings who would become progressive thinkers. All that a teacher needs to do is to treat each child as themselves. The question that lies with teachers & school is, am I a loving human being? Often teachers get into the rhythm of judging because of examination, discipline patterns and expectations of the system. I think this is likely to not just kill creativity but also kill an opportunity to become a wonderful progressive person.
I always check if the students in class know the languages I speak? Because there is no common language there is no business. My qualification, achievements, attire etc would be of little value if I don’t succeed in touching the hearts of students. I would like students to relate to me. I believe this opens the door to the creativity of anyone. It’s just around the corner!
I remember a fifth grader from a school in Mumbai who seemed restless and wanted to build a robotic project by himself. I suggest the team members let us give him space to try! Unlike others who believed in collaboration for this child, collaboration meant to work with a teacher. I chipped in with the child’s permission. Initially I just sat and observed, after about ten minutes I began talking to know about him. The child kept the conversation going by sharing about his grandpa who takes care in absence of working parents. I shared about my late grandpa, the child asked if I miss him. I smiled and nodded.
The child had built a structure that looked unique, without judging I asked – what is it? The child continues to tinker/ building and mentions its a vertical car. I was like, I have never heard something like this. I was curious, so I asked, why vertical cars? The child for the first time makes eye contact and says, I don’t know why my dad drives a seven-seater car when he is the only one to drive. I was like. Hmm. The child continued to tinker, trying to build one seater car. My curious mind led me to probe further, what would you do if you needed to travel with your dad? The child was quick to reply, you see this expandable section. The car would become two seaters. I was like, I am becoming a fan of curious conversation. After a moment, I asked the child, do you have any other reasons to have a vertical car? The child again makes eye contact and says, Mumbai is so crowded, why such huge cars with seven seaters? I sat smiling and thinking that creativity is around the corner! And maybe we shut it with several closed ended systems for the child’s needs.
This doesn’t mean other students weren’t creative, its just that they’re process orientated in approach of learning and building. The above case on hindsight might seem creative because somehow, we equate creativity to newness. Its just that one might take longer route to achieve a newness others might take lesser.
The underlying message of creative thinking is allowing each child to be unique. Learning in classrooms not to be made as running for a competition. This way uniqueness/behaviour of individuals is not determined with anyone else behaviour. Does this mean no value creation? There is a value creation by preserving the uniqueness or creating individual own race. These values are integrated forms, creating identity not yet another student or labelling as average student. The integrated values include ability to work on strengths, understand the weaknesses and create a road map. They include ability to secure future socially and economically. Ability to find avenues during challenging times.
If I look back and think, why this case here? I think for few reasons –
1) learning is associated with personal expression, discovery and imaginative play.
2) unquantifiable assessment.
3) no competition
4) the child in the case seem to have greater desire to do something in life than I could guess otherwise.
5) the functioning of our classes and convention away from regular classroom could also be one of the reasons.
According to Sir Ken Robinson, creative work is a process, not just an event. If this is true, do schools make kids creative beings or kids are being creative by birth? Or do parents play a vital role in nurturing creativity? A seasoned educator Mrs. Kalpana Mohan who is Executive Director at Academy for Creative Teaching believes that – “Schools do not kill creativity as students are allowed to do certain things and teaching is in continual evolution where classroom learning is happening through activities and experiential ways. She thinks, as the outcome of education relies on marks and percentage hence creativity aspects in school aren’t reflected.”
A school leader and Principal of Young Scholar Academy, Hebbal Bengaluru Mrs. Surabhi Yamini Iyengar said, “Schools provide a holistic platform for students to explore their interest & nurture it in the span of 13-15 years of school education.”
Another school leader and Principal of Seshadripuram Public School, Yelahanka Bengaluru Mrs. Parimala L K said, “School is the only place for a child to nurture creativity. Pandemic set a precedent for teachers and students to explore creative ways to teach and learn”.
“Parents inquiry for school admission is changing, unlike the past where it heavily relied on board examination results. Working parents are exploring if schools are offering additional activities for skill development,” said Mrs. Parimala L K
One of the challenges to put creativity in the classroom is Time Table as kids have to open and shut minds every 35-60 min affecting for educators to try beyond academics. If this is true, how do we fix the challenge?
“Time table must be a combination of lighter and heavier periods to facilitate learning for students in the most balanced manner”, said Mrs. Surabhi Yamini Iyengar
“Time tables don’t hinder the creative aspects. Its ability of teacher’s lessons plan to engage teaching and learning”, said Mrs. Kalpana Mohan
“Activities such as puzzles, storytelling, debates etc imbedded in lessons is a way to bring engagement and learning”, said Mrs. Parimala L K
With schools implementing NEP 2020 and a large number of electives, would this help in achieving 21st Century Skills that include creativity?
“Teachers who are willing to learn and facilitate learning are the kind of teachers who would see NEP 2020 as a boon”, said Mrs. Surabhi Yamini Iyengar
“NEP 2020 if implemented properly, Indian education would flourish just like Gurukula system that prevailed in ancient India”, said Mrs. Kalpana Mohan
Maybe a day isn’t far when parents will start inquiring on the child’s creativity during Parent Teachers Meet (PTM) just like academic inquiry as existed till now. Do you think Indian schools do not kill creativity?
Santosh Avvannavar, Education Journalist QtSTEAM & Mentor QtPi Robotics