Education and the Importance of Creativity

I am currently attending the annual conference of the New Zealand Educational Institute. Our keynote speaker was Prof Yong Zhao an internationally regarded scholar, author and speaker. Prof Zhao is an elected fellow of the International Academy for Education and was named as one of the ten most influential people in educational technology by the Tech and Learn Magazine. His speech was strongly critical of most education systems and especially those that use national standards and competitive assessment systems.

Prof Zhao explained how modern economies now operate has meant that we need to have a different approach to teaching and learning to best prepare our students to be successful in the current and future employment environments. Increased mechanisation has seen the end of mass jobs in the manufacturing sector and a growing need for those who have creative and entrepreneurial skills. Far more people are self employed or work in service industries and there is a huge increase in jobs that revolve around the food industry.

Once when a person got a job they remained in a similar line of work until they retired, but now few young people expect to remain in the same job all their working life and many see themselves changing jobs often, whether by choice or circumstance. To remain employable, or in constant work, school leavers need to be adaptable and multi-skilled.

The sort of skills and attributes that school leavers and graduates now need are complex. Successful entrepreneurs, for instance, need self confidence, people skills, creativeness, ability to identify and meet needs and good organising skills.

Many countries, including our own, are attempting to measure the success of their education system by using the international assessments PISA and TIMMS, which only measure a fraction of what is taught in schools. Sadly by focussing on the areas assessed (literacy and numeracy), and supporting them with National Standards, has narrowed what is taught. Many learning areas such as the Arts, Science and Technology no longer receive the same levels of resourcing or professional support.

Research has revealed that many countries that heavily assess literacy and numeracy and create competition between students and schools may get some good results in those areas but most students develop a lack confidence in their ability despite generally achieving well. Countries that do not encourage children to develop their individual talents, or celebrate success in the wider curriculum, display much lower levels of creativity and resilience.

Prof Zhao was adamant that all children needed to discover what they do best and have their talents recognised and developed. Those who are confident in themselves and their abilities are more likely to pursue their dreams and be successful. Lorde, the dyslexic John Britten, Aaron Cruden and Peter Gordon may have all been assessed as below the standards under the current regime.

I cannot see how a data driven system that values a small fraction of what schools can do will produce innovative, enthusiastic and resilient school leavers. Prof Zhao explained how too many education systems use a one size fits all approach that is able to turn out endless uniform sausages, which is fine as long as we don't need variety and can use lots of sausages.

One of my earliest posts, on mono culture education, discussed a similar theme.


Creativity is one part of learning but of course, there are other things that must still be considered. There are a lot of issues in education today that must be tackled right away.

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