Popular evidence of how schools kill creativity is the story of Gillian Lynne, an eight-year girl, who was already considered as a problematic student suffering from learning difficulty because she was unable to sit calm and still concentrate in class. Her worried mother sought after medical help for Gillian’s continuous fidgeting and lack of focus. Upon meeting the doctor, he asked they speak in private. The two adults after speaking left little Gillian alone in a room with music. Observing her through the window, to their surprise Gillian started fidgeting and dancing. The doctor turned to Gillian’s mother and said, “she is not sick, “she’s a dancer”. Today, 92 years old Gillian, is classified as one of the world’s most successful choreographers. She had a long career in ballet dance and won many achievements. Yet her school nearly killed off her extraordinary talent describing it as some form of behavioural impairment or cognitive damage. Conformity pedalled by most curriculums tends to stifle originality, imagination and inspiration. One shudders to think, how many Professors and academic Doctors are creative and wealthy?
This scenario is very common in our African schools, unfortunately, most African students are not saved like little Gillian, their talents and creativity are written off. The success of the African continent largely depends, on its ability to hone the creativity, skills, and talents of its ever-growing youth population. However, these success factors are not a reality. Quite interesting to note that almost 60% of African youths are not in school and it is claimed that those who are in school, however, are not receiving a quality education.
In the current African education system; subjects like Math, English, Science, Law, etc. are seen as the core and central subject every student must excel in. The Arts subjects and more creative curriculum are seen as less important and most of the students are discouraged from pursuing them.
The system encourages students to learn “what it is” not “how it can be used” and how the knowledge can be turned into other innovations. Math and science, for example, are important, but it is essential to have a balanced education, one which includes skills acquisition and exploration, practical knowledge that will shape students to be functional independence.
The African education system mostly promotes compliance and standardization, which discourages creativity and diversity. Too much theory, too little practice. Students ought to be encouraged to be curious, be empowered to desire to explore. These elements must come from the education system and authorities. IBM 2010 Global CEO Study shows that creativity is the most crucial factor for future success. But creativity is less infused in the education system rather the “teaching-to-test culture” is the order of the day. Students are taught to be tested, to produce what they have been taught, not how they can apply it in other fields and how to innovate with knowledge acquired.
Students are mentally conditioned to focus on test scores. Grading systems, assessment criteria decide who is smart or dumb which is the wrong foundation in the education system. Most students have mastered the art of getting good grades, which do not reflect when it comes to job performance.
These assessment criteria and grading systems judge everyone as one according to a particular standard, this promotes, “chew, pour, pass and forget” mentality. Students are not exposed to the idea of how to use knowledge to create the future we desire. The systems need to understand that exams and tests cannot measure a student’s capabilities and potential for success. Students are afraid to be wrong and to make mistakes. Students are not encouraged to make mistakes because out of that comes genuine ideas and experiences thus memorization to forget is an essential weapon to succeed in school. The saddest aspect of the education trend is, most graduates come out of school without using half of the knowledge they acquired because they become irrelevant in the job market, it boils down to say the world is changing at a fast pace and most of the information and course outlines and books used in schools are irrelevant, outdated and retrogressive.
Change in the education system is possible and achievable, the African education system needs massive improvement. Our methods of teaching, curriculums, equipment, and tools used should be revived. Our education system should train the head, hand, and heart, which are the three principles of growth. Creativity and innovation should be infused in our method of teaching, as a tool for exploration in every discipline and subject. The system should encourage students to address ‘How and Why’ not ‘What’ and should be problem-solving oriented. This creates innovative new solutions to longstanding problems of the continent.
In today’s world, people are being replaced by robots and computers in their jobs, thus the critical skill needed to survive is the ability to use knowledge to solve problems. And this is what we lack in schools. It seems an African model of education is well orchestrated to churn out employee mindset as opposed to the employer, job creator mindset.
Sir Ken Robinson, an international education advisor, and speaker highlighted a mind-boggling question, “we don’t know what the world will look like in 10 years’ time, so how do we teach to ensure students are successful in a near future?” A decade from now, would our education and knowledge acquired in schools, give us a place in the future job markets? Is Africa education system preparing ‘out of the box’ creators and thinkers?
The African education system should have creativity as its core. Teach students to innovate, fail, and learn from their failures. To understand that knowledge is flexible and can be applied outside of the specific context in which it was taught. Skill acquisition, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and the art of learning to understand, among others, should be the forefront of African education.
The failure to tackle our education system deficit will deprive African youth of opportunities to succeed globally and locally, which will undermine our progress and growth as a continent. Until and unless this educational model is addressed, Africa’s dependency syndrome beyond self will persist.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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