TED Conversations

Mohanapriya Rajasekaran

Human Resource Management - Student, School of Management, University of Southampton, UK

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Can we change today's stringent education system? Can we bring the right balance between creativity and academics?

The present education system embeds the fear of making mistakes (from which we can learn) deep into our minds.

There has to be a balance between creativity and academics. We are so engulfed in improving the products and technology each year (wont be wrong even if I said each month in fact!), that the education system is still what it used to be 50 or more years ago. We are failing to bring that balance!

P.S - Share your views on your education system as well, even if it contradicts my point of view. It would be a set of valuable ideas that can implemented in education systems that are still lagging behind in time.

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    Jan 6 2013: You write that the present educational system embeds fear of making mistakes deep into our minds. I think this may be true in some classrooms, schools, or systems but is very far from universal. Fostering creativity and risk-taking (including making mistakes) is well understood in the field of education as important practice and has been for some time. I do not doubt your experience but only want to assure you that that experience is far from universal.

    I agree with Greg that your taking twenty-five years to determine what you want to do and what you are best at may not be a result of your school system. One learns this through inquiry and the experience of trying things for long enough that one can really feel what doing the work at the level of practice is like. This takes time. The role of education is very much to lay the groundwork for your experimentation with a broad array of potential options, much of which will occur when you are no longer in the lower grades.

    I see you live in the UK. Is it still true that one specializes there very young?
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      Jan 6 2013: Yes its definitely not universal... It does seem to be changing but at a very slow pace though... it would take a long time to eradicate some stringent education systems that still exists...
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    Jan 6 2013: Well I agree to the point that there is no use blaming the overall education system... But it does play a certain role.. at least in most developing countries... the fear of not making it big one day by choosing creative job like dancing, painting, drama and so on... I can at least talk about the statistics in my country that I know the best.. Just a hand full of people in 1000's I know are into creative field.. And It was not the education that helped them choose to do something creative.. It was the fact that they had to either choose between academics and creativity... its this lack of balance I am talking about....

    There are quite a number of people who feel a creative job is not as respectful as Engineers, Doctors, Scientists, Management and so on..

    And I am glad you found the best of the education system out there... But if you look at the whole picture.. the percentage of kids who went to such schools is very less...
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    Jan 6 2013: Well, it seems like you're throwing out too many different criticisms here. It's hard to know if they're all related, or separate, or what.

    I think there's a good opportunity to do both academics and creative work in the schools I went to. I could take a math class or an English class for academics, and an art or drama class for creativity. I would say that some academic classes, such as English, allow one to be creative. I guess there's different kinds of creativity, academic creativity and artistic creativity.

    Whether the system allowed me to think independently...I think it did. The professors encouraged discussion, which gives the kids a chance to think independently and self-directedly. How about you? Did you have discussions in class? Did you participate and speak up when you had them?

    I don't know about the fear of making mistakes. It doesn't seem bad to have a fear of making mistakes, after all you don't want to make the mistake of stepping off a curb when a car is coming, or you might get hit.

    I wonder if the education system is really to blame for you taking a long time to find what you want to do. After all, some kids went through the same system you did, and they discovered what they want to do at a young age. Maybe some people just take longer than others. I'm glad you finally found it.
  • Jan 26 2013: Ofcourse we can change. As a coach using my horse with the coachees it is very clear that energy and motion from within- the horse and the coachee - are very good means of education to get the message across.
  • Jan 22 2013: I think the word "balance" implies separation and that the two pieces form a whole which has equal parts. I think the best solution for today's education system is to blend the two elements so that the two are indistinguishable. There needs to be an entirely new curriculum created by revolutionizing the methods with which knowledge is imparted to students. The tools need to be sensational as well as tactile. And learning should involve all five senses, not just sight and sound. There is also an incredible limit put on what art, music, theater and dance educators can teach students. So many branches of those disciplines are never covered under the pain of one restraint or another. Time is a concern, as well as testing. But I say, there can be ways made if there is a will to make them. Curriculum has to be broadened to include more options. By doing this, we would, in essence be introducing our basic mechanical microbial brains to a primordial ooze of opportunity. Our society, which was once rich with master-level artisans, is now scraping the bottom of the barrel for specialists. If education systems provided more of a blended teaching method, we will see new fresh talent emerge in all of the subjects, not just the language skills, mathematics and scientific arenas. Some may say, "Easier said than done," but is that right? After all we as a human race has done, all the marvelous things we've accomplished, hasn't the meaning of 'easy' changed? Doesn't 'easy' just mean that there is a procedure in place that everyone follows? Well procedure doesn't spring out of the ground. Anything that is easy now was once difficult. It is practice and passion which makes the difficult easy. I think by combining our respective wills, we can find a better way to educate our students and give them more options by really *enriching* their minds instead of just standardizing them.
  • Jan 8 2013: In any university program, there are a certain number of elective classes that are required to complete a degree. These are the choice of the student.

    The balance is already there.

    Besides, nothing is stopping anybody from taking additional classes, going to a museum, reading a book, listening to music, or taking up a creative hobby like painting or playing the piano on their own.
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      Jan 8 2013: There are still many kids who are not motivated to go on their own and do things. They don't know the importance of extra curricular activities as much as they know about maths or science. But if it was a compulsory part of an education system it would be more effective wouldn't it?
      • Jan 8 2013: If THEY don't know what they like, then what system would? In the end, you are talking about motivation, not opportunities. The opportunities are there.

        You give kids too little credit. If a child likes to be active, they will pursue it on their own with very little prompting from anyone. If they are a natural couch potato, they probably wont.
  • Jan 6 2013: "Can we change today's stringent education system? Can we bring the right balance between creativity and academics?"

    Education in Europe and the US has already become much less stringent than it used to be, some countries may already have gone too far in this, in any case creativity is overrated, especially in the absence of a solid knowledge base: it doesn't really help you in most jobs and when it does it's often the sort of creativity that most people do not have in them and can't be taught either. On some level school is supposed to be a little stringent and boring, at least from a child's perspective.
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      Jan 7 2013: "creativity is overrated, especially in the absence of a solid knowledge base" - Does that mean that to choose to be a professional artist or dancer one need to give up on their academics? If yes, Thats the missing balance I am talking about.

      "Creativity doesn't really help you in most jobs and when it does it's often the sort of creativity that most people do not have in them and can't be taught either." - What sort of creativity are we talking about here that cannot be thought? Obviously a professional artist cannot seek a computer engineer job, but he definitely can be a illustrator or inspire graphic designing, interior or even production design. Cant they?? Most jobs are interrelated and knowledge sharing derives the best outcome.

      "On some level school is supposed to be a little stringent and boring, at least from a child's perspective." - I appreciate the difference of opinion here. Does that mean a child has to be forced to learn something?? But schools that facilitate more independent and creative learning have had better outcome.
      • Jan 7 2013: "Does that mean that to choose to be a professional artist or dancer one need to give up on their academics? If yes, Thats the missing balance I am talking about."

        No, it means we shouldn't turn the education upside down for that minute fraction of students who will later become professional artists and dancers.

        "Does that mean a child has to be forced to learn something?"

        Yes, at some point a child has to be forced to learn math, science and history. It will make them better citizens and chances are that when they're older they'll come to understand why they needed to be taught those things. This may sound harsh but I believe it's true: if a graphic designer gets held back we'd just have obnoxious advertisements that look a little different from the ones we have today, when schools stop giving students the math they need to become engineers and scientists then the lights will go out and planes will fall from the sky.

        "But schools that facilitate more independent and creative learning have had better outcome."

        There's nothing wrong with creative methods of learning (such as video games), as long as useful things are being learned. The problem is schools where kids get to choose to not take math, science or history at all, because most kids would choose not to take those even though society needs people who are profficient in those fields.
        • Jan 9 2013: I really do agree with you on some point here John. There is a great deal of functional practicality in students learning their simple arithmetic and basic language grammar that makes traditional forms of learning seem sometimes mundane to a student. I especially appreciate how you acknowledge the merit in fun, alternative ways of learning (video games? Booyah!). But if I could share a relevant story...

          Here in Alberta, Canada there are three levels of math courses that a high school student can enroll themselves in. In grade 10 I was taking Pure Math (the highest level), and though I wasn't particularly struggling with any of the concepts, I found myself losing interest in the concepts that we were studying. One class we were reviewing the Pythagorean Theorem, and after thinking to myself decided to put my hand up and ask the questions I was fighting myself over. "Why do we need this? What can we use this for after school? Why is this important?" I realize that those questions seem rather naive, and I can concede to that knowing what I know now after my own private explorations of mathematics (a right angle can be used to demonstrate the spiraling effect of the golden ratio, for example), but my teacher could not answer me. She replied with a simple, "Because it's in the curriculum." I didn't accept that answer. That was not practical to me. If she herself were to be even slightly more creative in her teaching methods she could have began explaining about the relationship between the theorem and the golden ratio, and from there have extrapolated any other mathematical concepts that she needed to teach in the curriculum. My curiosity for math ended that day, and I only just recently rediscovered it.

          I'm of the opinion here that the pedagogy of hard subjects like math, science, and history, can, and should, be approached differently, because the amount of students who lose interest as a result of the teaching method aren't exactly few. Call it creative education.
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    Jan 6 2013: And I guess the first para on my experience in very subjective.. and in a way its diverting the whole intension of this topic... Thanks for pointing it out...