We are all born scientists. From the moment we leave the womb we are flooded with information. The amount of new information a child takes in in those formative years is incredible and they do it with such ease. Babies and younger children want to discover new things, so why do we insist on stopping them? We think we are good educators, we try to be good parents and we generally do an okay job with most things, so why do we still fail so miserably at encouraging creativity? The education system needs an overhaul and so does the way in which we approach raising our children.
This discussion leads to many thoughts. While most would agree that the education system needs an overhaul, just how to do this is still a question waiting for an answer. When you have a class of 30 children just how do you give them full responsibility over their creative learning? How can you ensure that with this freedom you can keep control of the class? Some argue that children adapt to their environment and there has been recent discussion over the idea of not intevening when children have disputes and that they need to learn to resolve discrepancies rather than have us taking them away from the situation. Should we be setting boundaries and what does this take away from the children? There have been times when I have asked children to sit down and listen but they would rather play with a toy. For the teacher it is time for learning and they need to focus on phonics or maths, but just what am I stopping that child from thinking about? Did I just stop the next Gillian Lynne? The child will want to play for a reason, they are discovering, they are creating, so should we just let them loose?
Well this is a simple idea complicated by a complex society. To get along in the world children need to be able to read and write, they need basic maths and different school based skills. At some point children need to be pulled away from their creative environment and told to listen. If not, they will not be able to fit into society and will struggle to find a job. This whole concept is wrong. Education should not be a factory belt for creating a workforce, but the way society is shaped, it can’t help but be. For the education system to change, societal structures need to be rethought too.
Time restraints and societal pressures
Just how do we rate and weight the most important subjects in the curriculum? Which ones are the most important and beneficial to help a child grow up as a valuable member of society? English, Maths and Science have for some time held the title of “Core Subject”, whilst their lesser counterparts, such as Design and Technology, French, PE and Dance have always been relegated to the “Foundation Subject” category. Over the last few years ICT has been promoted to being a core subject, not surprisingly, looking at how the world is changing, but what happens when we develop even further? How many core subjects can we fit into a school day? The UK is notoriously bad at languages. While Europeans speak 2 and sometimes 3 or 4 languages, the British on average muster just 2 and not even very well at that. Spanish or French were previously only taught at Secondary School but now they have been squeezed into the Primary curriculum, where a class of 60 learn one hour every two weeks. Is there any point? The fact is the timetable doesn’t allow for any more than this. As a result of increasingly busy timetables, cross curricular and topic based learning have been pushed. This is where the subjects all link together so that learning is more efficient and life related. Children are often in charge of what they learn suggesting topics and having the teacher adjust plans to suit the needs of the class. Whilst this is a good route to take, it can be hard work and often leads to other problems. The more knowledge Humans accumulate, the more difficult education becomes.
Overworked teachers stunt creative lessons
Teachers are already pushed to their absolute limit and while people like to believe that teachers have long holidays, every teacher worth their salt will work for at least 75% of their vacation time, whether it be producing teaching strategies, long term, medium term and short term plans, or making resources, learning about new students or simply researching their topic. During term time the average teacher will work 60 hours a week. Making good plans and quality lessons where the children really are responsible for their own learning is almost impossible to do successfully.
Class sizes mean someone will always be left behind
As much as we want to see every child as independent and treat them individually, this is not possible 100% of the time. Society dictates that children need basic skills: reading, writing and maths. Children need to be treated fairly, so when one child won’t sit and listen and the other twenty nine will, is it fair to let that child run free? Often it distracts the other children and affects their learning adversely. Under the current system its just not possible to reach every child on an individual level.
Funding issues set boundaries for creativity
I have always thought that the best type of school would be a mixture of a discovery centre with an indoor and outdoor classroom, however in reality this would require an enormous amount of funding and planning and is just not a sustainable option right now. Funding for resources is always difficult and whilst schools in the UK are pretty well equipped, to really promote a creative environment the children need to be exposed to so much more.
What is the answer?
All educators know that the system needs to change. Ken Robinson is leading the way with his talks and slowly changes are happening. Reform probably isn’t enough and the whole system needs to be rethought. The answer still isn’t forthcoming and all we can do for now is our best. However creative the curriculum gets and however good we think it becomes the fruit of that curriculum will always be more creative than the seed. As boring as we may have found school, our parents would have thought it was ten times more creative than when they attended. The next generation that our schools produce will be even more creative than us and no doubt this circle will continue. To see real changes in the education system we need to see real changes in societal structures and demands. Children need scope to develop. Our most creative minds tend to be labelled rather than challenged. Why? Because our worst fear as educators is not preparing a student for the next stage of their life.