Turn the key and unlock a dream

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Schools have a responsibility to develop creativity in all pupils, not just the artistically inclined, leading experts told teachers last week.

"There's a bit of a myth around that creativity is the preserve of a few talented individuals," Fraser Sanderson, director of education in Dumfries and Galloway, told a conference on creativity and enterprise in education.

Participants also heard a call from Careers Scotland for pupils to be given greater encouragement to set up their own businesses.

Mr Sanderson was supported by one of the world's leading exponents on the subject, Sir Ken Robinson, a consultant to various governments who is currently a senior adviser to the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

"There is a misconception about creativity that it's about exceptional people like Beethoven or Picasso. My contention is that everyone has powerful creative capacities and the challenge is to find them," Sir Ken said. "The problem today is that many people have been displaced from their capacities."

Mr Sanderson agreed that "creativity lies in all of us and we have to identify, support and develop it".

A member of the board of Learning and Teaching Scotland, he confessed to admiration for the Chinese approach to the curriculum which he recently discovered is half core and half creative.

The creative side is aimed at helping young people anticipate and cope with jobs that do not yet exist. "People don't respect those who repeat the past," a Beijing spokesman commented.

Sir Ken said that studies from the United States showed there was "a decline in genius" with age. Tested for creativity based on their "divergent thinking", 98 per cent of three to five-year-olds were found to have the capacity for divergent thinking, which steadily declined to 32 per cent among eight to 10-year-olds and just 2 per cent at the ages of 25-plus.

He told his audience at the Crichton campus in Dumfries that encouraging pupils to be creative was now becoming more urgent because "a major paradigm shift" is occurring in an education system based on assumptions that are no longer true. "It's a burning issue," he believed.

Sir Ken noted that schools had been set up to cope with the impact of industrialism, which demanded mass literacy and numeracy and a labour market which was 80 per cent manual and 20 per cent professional.

An inflation in qualifications had occurred because it was no longer possible for people to walk into a job just because they have a degree. "A degree is not now a passport to a job," he commented. "It's a visa which gets you in for a while and then you have got to prove your rights of residency."

Sir Ken said that change is now occurring because the rise in technology is "rampant" and has been accompanied by a growth in population which is "shifting the axis of the planet": manufacturing is moving to China and services, particularly in IT, are developing fast in India.

"So creativity is essential for a consistent flow of new ideas and for a supply of educated people to generate these ideas and be flexible enough to cope with the changes they will bring about," he stated.

Schools would have to abandon notions of utility ("there is no point in you doing music; you'll never be a musician") and of academic ability which is a very limited definition of intelligence.

Sir Ken concluded: "Education may be the key to the future, but you can turn a key two ways. If you turn it one way, you lock things up; turn it the other way and you release them."

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