He made castles and mountains. He sat for hours oblivious of the surroundings watching with awe how the sand slinked away from his fingers while he patiently tried to sculpt it. It was his creation and a marvelous one for that matter. His genius was not limited to sands and castles alone. He twirled a simple sheet of paper with artistic grace. He could make it float in the shape of boat. He could make it fly high just hitting his pesky neighbour at the right time. He made a wind mill which could swirl; he could make a cone and paper balls.
A pack of cards, marbles, plants, umbrellas, stars, water, clay and colours, all formed his objects of fascination and creation. He made innumerable pieces of art each strikingly distinct from the other. He curiously asked infinite number of questions when out on a day’s trip with his father.
Then sometime in summer his parents started wheedling him into sweet talks of school. He cried, he protested. He wanted to go back and play. He wanted to discover a new shade by mixing his paints. He wanted to make new shapes out of sand and clay. But all he was granted were little periods of structured play. He reiterated poems and learnt tables verbatim. He joined the dotted lines that formed alphabets that looked the same even in his neighbour’s book. If he could not write them neatly he would attract the penalty of practising it for an extra hour.
The time he gave for ideation, innovation and creation kept shrinking. There are more feats to be achieved, there are more theories to be learnt, and there is more information to be gathered. At most he has the luxury of joining some hobby class in the time that is left over after school and tutorials. But is that a substitute to the content that one achieves out of personally creating something different? Years passed by, he stopped experimenting; he stopped asking those questions, he did only what he was instructed to do. There was no time for observing, creating or for leisurely thinking what can be done with colours, sand and clay. All he was busy with was in the competition to come first in class and flash that report card which was supposedly indicative of his progress.
‘The standard tools we’ve relied on so long in parenting and teaching-evaluation, reward, competition, and restriction of choice – can in fact destroy creativity. (amabile’s book page 79)’
Is your story any different than his? We need to sit back and think. On what basis are we earmarking progress? What is the true objective of education? Is it amassing information or learning how to innovate and be different? If it is simply amassing information and reproducing the thoughts and techniques in the same format then that can be left to computers alone. Amassing the same information through learning in classrooms can result in all of us being ‘intellectual clones’. If that’s the purpose of education then kudos! It has served the purpose well.
We all want innovation in our gadgets, innovation in our automobiles, innovations in our houses, but what have we done to foster creativity and innovation in kids? There are small periods for each subject- history, geography, maths, science, English, computers, etc. albeit they are important, but equally important is a period on innovation. It is a subject that compliments all the others. Innovation should in fact be ingrained in all the subjects and in the teaching methodology itself.
Our education system rather promotes learning through rote. Students are used to learning theory verbatim and are bowled over when it comes to applying this practically. Conventional education system often hinders the development of skills, attitudes and motives necessary for production of novelty. Among other things, they frequently perpetuate the idea that there is always a single best answer to every problem and that this can be readily ascertained by correct application of set techniques and conventional logic that needs to be learnt and then reapplied over and over again. The standard tools we’ve relied on so long in parenting and teaching-evaluation, reward, competition, and restriction of choice – can in fact destroy creativity.
We need to take some drastic steps to bring back experimentation to the core of science and education. That can be done using a collaborative and customised learning medium which deploys the latest technology. Great nations are built by great minds. And great minds are nurtured through the education imparted. We have to make a conscious and sustained effort to make education more meaningful.