Is our education system killing creativity?

Arun Perera

As I write this article I recall the famous words of Albert Einstein – “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”. To me this encapsulates what education should provide. I didn’t plan to coincide this article with the release of the O/L examination results nor do I intend this to be a slur at any education provider in Sri Lanka. Rather my intention is to open our eyes to the future whilst embracing the most basic quality in a human being, which is the pursuit of knowledge. The pre-requisite for this is curiosity. The catch is, a curios mind can only be fully satisfied if there is creativity.

Our education system is very good at standardization. Our curriculum is standardized, the assessment systems are standardized, and the teaching methods are more or less standardized. Standardization is required in order to maintain quality, but certainly not to the extent where it contributes to students losing their motivation to learn. The success of an education system should be measured not by the number of graduates it produces but rather by its ability to get students to be motivated, curious, engaged and interested to learn. My father used to tell me, “the day I stop learning is the day I stop living”. Although, it is the want to learn more that propels a man/woman from mediocre to exceptional.

Let’s face it, 80% of what we learn for our O/L levels and in most cases A/L’s will not be used in the real world (I am generalizing ofcourse). While a good potion of it will most probably be outdated by the time we are required to use our skills in a competitive environment – except for subjects such as history and languages. This is probably why eventhough there is a steady increase in the number of students sitting for the A/L examination every year, there is also a steady increase in the youth unemployment rate.

So, the question could be asked (and is asked by many teenagers) why we bother with an education system that includes a vast number of subjects and modules. Why not just limit school education to just the essentials of life? The answer lies in the primary purpose of education.

The primary purpose of education that is offered in school should not be to merely bombard the child with information but rather train him/her to think, to problem solve and to self-learn. In a nut-shell it should develop creativity in the child. It is this creativity that will sustain his/her future in the real world. Be it a doctor, lawyer, engineer, entrepreneur, marketeer, whatever the profession of choice, without creativity you are sure to be a little less than average at your job.

Training students to memorize information that is offered on a platter for the sole purpose of passing an exam, kills creativity.

I like to quote a statement from a report titled “All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education”, which was formulated by a team of professionals in the UK at the request of the government; “education should enable our children to make the most of themselves and take the best advantage of the opportunities and uncertainties that they face in a fast-changing world”.

In my next article on the subject I intend to shed some light on possible alternatives to traditional education. We need to rethink our approach to education. We need to innovate for innovation.