THE BLOG

Does the UK Education System Promote or Suffocate Creativity in Students?

01/12/2015 12:10 GMT | Updated 26/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Creativity, problem-solving and critical-thinking are essential skills in today's workplace, so why do schools in the UK crush creativity out of our students?

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up." - Pablo Picasso.

Ask a room full of young children if they are good at drawing and almost every single one will throw their hands in the air with enthusiasm and energy. Ask the same question to a room full of adults and you may get one or two hands at best, if you're lucky!

Why? Because when we're young we have no insecurities about what we can and can't do or rather, what we should and shouldn't be. As children we are not afraid of failure in the same way.

How can that be? When we are children we are allowed and almost encouraged to fail because without trying, we don't learn. We don't learn to walk by being taught to do it the 'correct' way or by following the 'rules' of others. We learn to walk from first-hand experience, by trial and error, by failing, over and over again.

We are given the opportunity to learn for ourselves. If children don't know the answer to something, they will still take a chance. They will still have a go, because they are not afraid of getting the answer wrong.

By the time children start taking their GCSEs and A-Levels they don't take the same chances, they are, unfortunately, less prepared to take chances because of a deep fear of failure. As adults, by the time we have worked our way through school, college and University, we are absolutely terrified of failure. One student applying to University said to me "How am I meant to choose a course when my School is telling me one thing and my parnets the next. It's not what I want."

It has been well documented that schools do encourage a particular type of learning, and their focus is very much based around a particular type of learning. Education in schools is 'top-down', usually one teacher preaching a syllabus from a textbook to 30+ students in one class. Academic ability is based on exam results, where failure leads is not an option.

This approach to education is the total opposite to how Google, one of the largest and most successful companies in the world, operates. Google doesn't recruit their employees simply because of their degrees. They look for leadership, your ability to learn, your ability to solve problems, think creatively and critically.

Sir Ken Robinson argues that the pinnacle of educating within schools is for students to become academics. In most cases huge emphasis is placed on 'the most academic subjects' such as Maths, English, History, Geography and the sciences.

Funnily enough, there is actually a 2012 press release from Gov.uk where the coalition Government gives credit to the introduction of the English Baccalaureate for a 'huge increase in the proportion of young people studying the core academic subjects so highly valued by Universities and employers'.

How can creativity in schools thrive if the message from the 'top' is to focus on core academic subjects?

And it is true that today in schools, students are not encouraged to pursue creative subjects - they are simply taught to pass exams, churned out to become academics with no emphasis on the creative arts, even IT!

Technology is certainly not being used the right way in schools in the UK. The technology sector has one of the highest demand for skilled young people to start with over 100,000 jobs advertised in the technology sector in the UK in February 2015. This sector is the fastest growing in the world, so shouldn't there be more focus on critical thinking, problem solving and ICT qualifications in schools to meet this new demand for skilled, employable young people?

It still seems that anything other than those typical core subjects just won't do.

So, is the education system to take the whole blame for our lack of perceived importance for creativity and critical thinking? Is the lack of emphasis on creativity and critical thinking just part of the problem? If those core academic subjects are indeed so highly valued by Universities and employers, then how come there is such a demand for creative jobs within tech, marketing, media and data analysis.

The seeds of creativity live within everyone. Some are fortunate enough for the freedom to allow their creativity to develop and blossom, but many young people in the UK aren't. Schools can and often do squander talent because they have targets to hit - churn out more academics, get more University placements.

Creativity should be celebrated within schools. Creative people invent, problem-solve, discuss and communicate in fresh, exciting ways, we don't want this to be lost during school. Whatever the industry whether it's medical, science, engineering, academic research, technology, business, entrepreneurial; they all require creative thinkers to progress.

It's time that our educational system started nurturing those that think outside the box.