Do we need to radically change our perception of creativity in education?

Choosing a Career

I was first asked ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ when I was in primary school. It seems somewhat incomprehensible that we’re asked to form a decision on want we want to do with our lives at such a young age. This question is almost always met with similar responses such as; a nurse, a teacher, a doctor or a lawyer. The advice from here is to curate our academic timetable and choose only the qualifications that are going to benefit that career choice.

What I find discouraging is that I never once heard anyone say they wanted to pursue a career within the creative industries. These include paths such as; designers, illustrators, creative directors, strategists or even account managers. It’s not because these roles didn’t exist, but more that they weren’t options – least not where I studied. It feels like education is pushing children into a box and that as a collective we’re not letting them think about ideas. Ideas need nurturing. Copernicus, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, to name a few, are great examples of people whose ideas have helped shape the world we live.

Flaws in Education

One of education’s many flaws is that it tells you that you have to know exactly what you want to do in order to do it. But this is unrealistic. As Millennials, we are a particularly indecisive generation who struggles when it comes to making career choices. Most will leave university with a degree only to then ask themselves ‘Now what?’. So after upwards of 18 years in education, many of us still don’t have a clue. We’re always stifled that some graduates are unable to present themselves. (Side note; if you’re a designer don’t send your CV in a Word document! You’d be surprised how often this happens) This begs the question; what exactly has all that “education” achieved?  

What’s Next for Education

There needs to be so much more to education than training students’ memory capacity. Rather than focusing on Pythagoras’ theorem, (because really, when have you ever used it) we need to focus on building strong, independent, determined, knowledge-hungry, creative thinkers that are ready to take risks. We also have a duty to teach the new generation the fundamentals of life after education. We need to teach them how to pay bills, how to build meaningful relationships, how to communicate and how to cope with rejection.

When it comes to education, we need to remember that we no longer live in a world where a ‘one shoe fits all’ approach can apply. This is largely due to the shift from industry to tech as well as improved connectivity and transportation links.

How can we change it?

Ken Robinson – international advisor on education in the arts – believes that ‘we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status’.

I believe that we need to reconsider the value of our existing educational system as it stands. At this point, it would be wise to look towards the Montessori and Steiner approaches in particular. Montessori believes in self-directed learning; emphasising on independence, freedom and respect. Thus helping to develop creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking and time-management. Similarly, the Steiner/Waldorf approach helps to prepare students ‘for living’. It focuses on the development of the ‘whole child; body, soul and spirit’. These alternative institutions can not only be found in the UK, but all over the world.

Not only do we need to change the education system per se, but also our elitist attitudes towards it. You don’t have to have to be degree educated to follow your dreams. And similarly,  success isn’t determined by how big your salary is. A great friend of mine pointed out ‘As long as marking is done by ticking boxes, we’ll keep creating candidates that tick boxes and nothing else.’


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