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Energising our curriculum and learning: Simple measures to instil creativity in 21st century education

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Energising our curriculum and learning: Simple measures to instil creativity in 21st century education

Typing the word creativity on Google leads to an incredible deluge of 401,000,000 results and around 16 different definitions on Oxford Dictionaries. So, what exactly does the word mean? Government officials, psychologists, teachers and a wide range of professionals have often pushed towards their own notion of creativity and how it can be introduced in our society. Without associating the term to a particular discipline, creativity is essentially the process through which new and imaginative ideas are turned into reality – it is about opening up new, often abstract ways of thinking and analysing. Now, I have to admit; I have a problem with the concept of creativity. It has often been an overused term, used by people belonging to the upper echelon of society. Government officials, urban and fashion designers and educationalists have often remarked that we are now in a ‘creative age’ to an extent to which the term has become a cliché. But is creativity only a domain for the wealthy and privileged? Absolutely not. In this article, I would like to hearken back to what teachers have said for decades – the British education system requires a much-needed injection of creativity so that our younger generation can aspire to lead the 21st century globalised world. So why is creativity stagnant in our education system, you ask? The blame game is everywhere. A survey conducted by Guardian in 2017, suggests that 1 in 10 teachers have reported that music and drama, alongside other creative arts have been dropped from their schools due to funding cuts (austerity). Coupled with this, teachers also suggest that the government’s Ebacc (English Baccalaureate) measure, a system that judges secondary schools according to the proportion of pupils gaining good GCSE grades in a narrow range of subjects such as English and Maths has reduced the importance of creativity in lessons. The government, on the other hand, suggests the opposite. Childish bunch of individuals, I would suggest. We need to escape this finger pointing and political posturing and instead find some practical ways in which creativity can be injected into our lessons. I have found some ways (thank me later):

Fusion of creativity and technology

I have a confession to make – I am a technophobe. I am the sort of person who is wary and even scared of the impact that the endless hours of screen-time can have on our younger generation. However, the injection of technology into our education system can bring the creative landscape into our schools and have many tangible benefits. Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Google challenged the British education system by commenting on how computer science lessons in schools focused on teaching how to use software but gave no insight into how it’s made.

I often remember my dreary physics and computing lessons during GCSEs where we read endless amounts of pages on artificial intelligence and computer software, without actually having looked at these programmes and systems in real-life. I hate to make comparisons however we need to turn our heads towards the Far East where teachers are including practical technology into their lessons whereby children have the opportunity to relate the theory they have learnt to actual real-life scenarios and objects – no wonder they are producing a new generation of engineers, scientists and creative thinkers. KeeKo, a robot in China is used across
Chinese schools from Kindergarten to college level education where it helps children by playing games, reading stories and carrying out ordinary conversations. Such technology does not reduce the importance of textbooks but allows young children to connect the theory to real world application, a skill required to flourish in the 21st century techno-centric world.

Computer coding can also teach young children how to process information and allow them to become more creative as they find new ways of producing things. Apps like Move the Turtle (see picture below) teach young students programming and coding fundamentals using animated objects such as turtles. Introducing complex ideas in a simpler form, software like this enables children to get familiarised with subjects such as computing, physics and social communication which can aid them in future life.

Introduce unconventional learning materials

Text books and lessons plans are essential to any teaching environment and play a key role in instilling theory into young minds. However, introducing unconventional learning materials can introduce a new dimension to teaching and learning. For example, TED Talks, an online media organisation posts a plethora of talks on every known discipline. Role models play a crucial role in the creative development of students and these videos can give our young generation a chance to understand how different people think and allow them to discover their hidden talents. From entrepreneurship to guitar playing, these inspirational talks cover the breadth of life and also relate to many topics covered in the National Curriculum. This one is my favourite: https://www.ted.com/playlists/129/ted_under_20. Apps like Google Maps should also be incorporated into lessons as they can allow students to explore the world from the comfort of their home or classroom desk making them more geographically and culturally aware (my inner geographer is spilling out here).

Way forward?

Many commentators and educationalists would disagree with the ideas I have listed above, and rightly so. However, the vision should be the same – we need to open the minds of our children and enable them to see the world in a different perspective. As Dan Holden eloquently writes in the New Statesman, creativity in schools shouldn’t just be restricted to the teaching of ‘creative’ subjects such as English, Art and Design and Technology. In fact, labelling and defining creativity in terms of these subjects is a massive misstatement of what creativity actually is. Creativity can be injected into any subject, be it Mathematics or Physical Education as the fundamentals are the same. Again, I hate to make comparisons however our squabbling teachers and governmental officials should look at the Finland model of learning and teaching. Finland’s education system has ranked highly in the official PISA rankings for decades and dominates other education rankings in comparison to other European countries. Why? The reason is simple – there is an emphasis on creative play at early years and important learning happens outside the classroom through trips, practicals and other excursions. Keeping that all in mind, the central issue still remains: will our politicians and teachers stop this incessant squabbling and look at practical ways to restore creativity?

Parch Hill