How to create a better school system

Every year, hundreds of millions of children enrol in public, municipal Indian schools, strictly following a set-out curriculum. This is normal, as every country sets up a curriculum that each public school has to follow. However, the issue in India is not what the children are being taught, but how they are being taught.

By interviewing people who used to be taught in the schooling system here in India, I found that the Indian education system is set out in such a way that children are constantly memorising dates, lessons, and various other pieces of text or information that they must regurgitate. There is no creative or innovative thinking involved. The fact that the Indian education system overvalues memorisation over innovation and originality is its biggest limitation. Memorising material simply isn’t going to teach children the skills they require to be successful.

I run a service club at my school, where my colleagues and I allow children coming from public schools through NGOs to explore their creativity by helping them build toys from recycled material. One day, as we were teaching, I approached one of the kids: “Have you ever done a workshop like this in school?” He laughed and said: “In school? Never!”

Although I expected that response, I was still shocked. Having been in many different education systems due to constantly moving around, it made me think about the way I was being taught, which brought me to a realisation: School loses purpose without education.

Being in an education system where most students have been taught in many different ways (many of these not incorporating ideas of creativity, like in India), I decided to ask them questions on how they felt about creativity and innovation, and about a school’s purpose without the incorporation of these skills.

Statements such as “school isn’t just about academics” or “creativity is an integral part of everyone’s life” were the themes of each interview, and not a single person questioned doubted the importance of creativity. While all of them did say there had to be some aspect of real, hard academics, they agreed that creativity was a necessity that didn’t just keep them engaged in school but also felt like learning something meaningful.

However, creativity isn’t only about finding success in school or later, as most of the interviewed students said. Some said that creativity “allows children to express themselves for who they really are”, and not become people “who just know how to follow directions”. One even argued that restricting creativity might give children “the idea that expression is a negative thing”. Not only do people think that creativity might educate children in order to help them succeed later, they also think that on a personal level, creativity is a great and important thing. Creativity will allow people to express themselves and be who they really are without doubting themselves.

I found that the main thing most people were talking about weren’t their life experiences and how creativity might be useful during school, but about why creativity was important after school. People thought that without creativity, the world would be “stagnant”, without change, and even that society wouldn’t be able to “move forward”.

If a skill keeps being overlooked by the education system, there won’t be any innovation or flow of ideas coming from these individuals and nothing will evolve.

As Ken Robinson, a famous educationist, said: “Creativity is putting your imagination to work and it has produced the most extraordinary results in human culture.”

If education systems keep discouraging it, people won’t know how to put their imagination to work — an indispensable skill in our era.

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