The trouble with education

It’s Summer holiday for our young people. My two daughters are thinking of hanging with their friends and raiding my makeup bag instead of what’s going to happen next term. But as a Mum, I think of their future and what’s coming up in a few short weeks.

Then I saw this video the other day and it really resonated with me and of course totally got me thinking…

It seems that the education system is no longer about students learning things to help them later in life, but solely revolves around passing your exams.

If you think about it for more than a moment, it is VERY ‘judgey’. Our schools continue to use a very cynical way of judging our students; labelling students with letters as a reward for cramming their heads with facts, or as a punishment for doing it less effectively.  The UK’s education system is characterised by standardised exams and a fiercely competitive nature. The nation needs an education system that excites and stimulates children, providing them with the learning they need – and deserve – to fulfill their potential.

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso.

Ask any group of young children if they’re good at art and they’ll tell you YES with much gusto. Ask a group of adults the same thing and you’d be lucky if one or two say they’re “maybe good at art.”

Why does this happen? Children don’t have insecurities about what can and can’t be done. We’re not paralysed by failing as a child, it’s something we LEARN. When we are children we are allowed and almost encouraged to fail because without trying, we don’t learn. We don’t learn to walk by being taught to do it the ‘correct’ way or by following the ‘rules’ of others. We learn to walk from first-hand experience, by trial and error, by failing, over and over again.

We are given the opportunity to learn for ourselves. If children don’t know the answer to something, they will still take a chance. They will still have a go, because they are not afraid of getting the answer wrong.

By the time children start taking their  A-Levels they don’t take the same chances, they are, unfortunately, less prepared to take chances because of a deep fear of failure, which results in major stress.

Diagnosis Happy

When Gillian Lynne was a young girl, she struggled in school. She had a hard time focusing and fidgeted a lot, so much so that her mother took her to a doctor to get help. And help the doctor did, but not in the way Gillian’s mother expected – the doctor turned on a radio and left Gillian alone in the room, and then asked her mother to observe. Gillian was dancing! The doctor realised that Gillian’s true calling was as a dancer, and he encouraged her mother to enroll her in dance school.

Once in dance school, Gillian knew she had found her life’s passion. She went on to have incredible success as not just a dancer but also an actress and a choreographer! Today, she is renowned for the amazing work she has done, particularly with Andrew Lloyd Webber.  She created amazing choreography in the Broadway productions of Cats and Phantom of the Opera, in which she has created magical worlds of dance and enthralled the world.

She needed to MOVE to think. And move and think she did. 

Below is a short snippet of a video from Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk ‘Do Schools kill creativity‘ tells the story of how Gillian got her “chance to dance” and the profound impact it had.

How can creativity in schools thrive if the message from the ‘top’ is to only focus on core academic subjects?

And it is true that today in schools, students are not encouraged to pursue creative subjects – they are simply taught to pass exams, churned out to become academics with no emphasis on the creative arts.

As Sir Ken Robinson described it:

“What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong”

And Michael Morpurgo, award winning Children’s author said…

“Those authors who created Toad, and William, and Winnie the Pooh didn’t do it because they went to school and Did Literacy. Those stories came from a different place of learning, where children were allowed to explore, even when it became uncomfortable.”

What can we do? 

As parents we can try to counteract some of the focus on grades and exams. We can appreciate our child’s success by a different standard. Just like last week when we talked a bit about ‘Forgiving Our Children’ for not being perfect, we can incorporate this into their education as well. Worth is not always shown by a letter grade. Excellence isn’t always on a report card. Encourage your children to excel in other areas. Just like Gillian Lynne, what others perceive as a flaw could really be the markings of brilliance. Don’t buy into the trap of perfection.

How can you help your children stay creative? What have you done to foster creativity? Does your school help or hinder your child? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below or on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Let’s talk about it!