Something that fascinated me as a Primary School Teacher was the process of education and its purpose – its true purpose. There is a well known experiment conducted by NASA research scientists in 1968. The task was to give different age groups of people a set of paper clips and ask them to come up with different uses for them, or to create something with only the paper clips. The results revealed what percentage of each age group would be considered at a ‘genius’ level. Surprisingly the results showed that children 0-5 were overwhelmingly most likely to show genius levels of divergent thinking – which simply put, is creative thinking.
This experiment poses questions about our education system. Does it serve to dampen creative thinking as it progresses, reducing metacognition? The answer is it probably does, but this is more of a reflection of the world we are preparing our children for. Pupils and schools are judged on results and in England this is particularly noticeable as children as young as 6 have to sit statutory SATs test to measure progress, not just for the child – but for the school itself. My career in education has exposed me to two systems – the English National Curriculum and the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. In Scotland the curriculum runs at a slower pace and focusses on the development of the whole child. England is very much focussed on learning and progress. That is not to say the English curriculum does not enable children to be supported, English schools are some of the best in the world for supporting pupils with SEN (or ASN if you are north of the border).
In Scotland, you’d assume that there would be more space in school for creative thinking and to some extent – from my perspective – this is true. One of the items on the most recent school improvement plan in the school I worked in was to focus on Metacognition – that process of thinking about thinking. A curriculum that works in this way does indeed allow children to go at their own pace, but what must be noted is that the world they are being prepared for does not allow them to go at their pace. What I have noticed as a parent, is that now my children are back in England, they have had to catch up with their peers after 3 years in a Highland School. Thankfully my children are typical when it comes to ability and have caught up quite well, however it can be argued they have been forced to go at a pace that suited the curriculum and not themselves. This is an individual case but the curious outcome of this is that by raising standards they have achieved and enjoyed achieving.
This is not to say that either system is right or wrong (ideally a mixture of the two would be best) but it does bring into question what education is preparing our children for. The simple answer is nobody knows because a large percentage of jobs that children are preparing for, simply don’t exist yet. Therefore the argument sways towards school to be a place of creativity – divergent thinking. For this to occur there would have to be a major shift in curriculum priorities, which is another 5 blogs entirely. It is clear though that there must be a significant change in education to ensure divergent thinking is maintained into adolescence and beyond.
In Tik Robin and The Krismas Goblin the very notion of divergent thinking is doused and down right banned by the nefarious Mayor Motley Muffles, his nazi-like regime stomps out anything that veers from his status quo. However as readers will have learned it is divergent thinking that saves his world. As is often the case in many fantasy fiction novels. Creativity is the key to a better life for everyone and it starts in very early childhood. Encourage it, one day that encouragement might just bring about a world saving idea.