SCHOOLS are caught up in a moral panic about the three Rs and failing to release creativity, a Whitehall adviser told a lecture in Edinburgh, co-sponsored by the Scottish Arts Council, last week.
Kenneth Robinson, professor of education at Warwick University, said: "We have an education system that was designed in the 19th century. It is based on an intellectual model and wrongly assumes that academic ability is the same thing as intelligence.
"It is obsessed with this academic ability which is only a small part of what we are capable of. We all have creative capabilities which are the key to our survival."
Businesses needed "people who can bend with the changes" to survive and the future workforce would have to be imaginative and mobile. Creativity was about applied imagination and was a function of intelligence. It was up to schools to give pupils the skills, confidence and techniques to release their abilities.
Professor Robinson, who advises the J Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, maintained that primary schools were the bedding ground and that the arts, science, maths and the humanities all provided scope for originality and innovation.
"All human brains are different and unique to the individual. It is not the case that one size fits all. People do their most creative work when they find their element. Teachers have to find ways of tuning into their kids'
capabilities," he said.
But teachers would need better training. "Just now they are being given a command and control mentality. I would invest heavily in their training, give them a framework and then let them get on with it," Professor Robinson said.
The way pupils were assessed had to be rethought. "Assessment should be a part of the teaching. It should not be about matching progress to a set of standards which are merely about doing more of what you did before and at a higher level," he said.
Sylvia Dow, head of education at the arts council, said a range of subjects could give pupils the chance to become "critical, lateral-thinking people".
"Instead, teachers are being restricted to merely teaching pupils how to pass exams," she said.