How cool is school?

Schools are synonymous with education. But do they nurturecreativity? Do they give importance to students’ individuality and help them enjoy learning? What’s wrong and how can it be redressed? An overview by students ofLALAJI MEMORIAL OMEGA INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, CHENNAI.

We attend school in order to master several subjects. In the process, we defer our creative urge, and don’t listen to what our intuition tells us in order to join the line of students soon-to-graduate, blinkers fastened tight to make us sure-footed. Yet examples of successful creativity abound around us and we don’t pay heed, because they are not recognised and therefore highly risky.

Is it possible to have a school that improves the correlation between happiness and success?

The gap between scholastic and creative potential

They say genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. However, it is this 1% that is the game changer. While we have heard stories of incurable curiosity (CV Raman), an interest in cycles and flying (Wright Brothers), and sheer grit (Michael Faraday) as launch pads to success, we have not heard of their schools being stepping stones to their success. Yet the school is the most obvious place for nurturing creativity, insight and inspiration. So what went wrong?

Learning is as old as civilisation

Though the school is a late entrant, today schools are synonymous with education. In ancient times, early man had no way to accumulate, preserve and record learning though he learnt to make fire and the wheel. In ancient Egypt, most children learnt what we would call ‘on the field’ today, accompanying elders to the farm or for trade. Wealthy children in ancient Greece and Rome learnt under scribes or a home tutor. In India, the gurukul system denied access to the lower classes.

Education became affordable when schools of different kinds opened their doors to the middle and lower classes. Soon after the Industrial Revolution, workers were required to render their services in factories. A young, educated workforce was needed.

Social reform in schools

“And looky here-you drop that school, you hear? I’ll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own father and let on to be better’n what he is. You lemme catch you fooling around that school again, you hear?” ( The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn )

We have come a long way from the days of Huckleberry Finn when schools were places of strict disciplinary action on the one hand, and perceived as a way to acquire superfluous mannerisms on the other.

* While corporal punishment in schools was outlawed in the U.K. only in 1986, education has served as a tool for reform for more than two centuries.

* Peel’s Factory Act of 1802 made it compulsory for employers to provide education to child apprentices.

* Elementary schooling was made compulsory in 1880 up to age 10. School leaving age is now 16 in the U.K.

* In India, the colonial system of education took root during the 19th century. After Independence, education was a central category in the Five Year Plans and in three decades the number of schools tripled.

* Universal free elementary education till age 14 is assured to every child in India.

What went wrong?

Because the school started after industrialisation, the mass production of qualified students became the objective. This led to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach as students clambered to excel in several subjects, all of which were compulsory. The situation applies even today and has given rise to several problems.

* Efficiency and performance take precedence over creativity and individuality as each student is prepared to pass standardised exams, none of which has aptitude or proclivity as a measure of a student’s calibre.

* The obsession with marks results in blind spots as colleges and employers rely on the readily available marksheets from schools rather than comprehensive and accurate testing mechanisms for hiring. Poor hiring choices are thus the fallout.

* By reporting curricular performance alone, schools indirectly state that excellence in academics frequently precludes excellence in co-curricular activities.

* Vital skills such as cognitive flexibility, risk and innovation, exploration and experimentation, communication, collaboration are neither tested nor captured in other ways in schools.

* Excessive competitiveness in schools results in egoism and the lack of a culture of caring.

A Whole New World

“Every Child Can” Suzuki

The number of children enrolled in schools is unimaginable and if each of these children brings a unique attribute (which clearly is the case), schools should be vibrant places of creative interaction. The suzuki belief in the natural abilities of the child, be it for cognition, application, execution or innovation suggests that it is the USP of each child that makes him or her successful. Schools have to first understand that each one of us is inherently competitive and the school has the formidable task of of identifying, nurturing and launching our individual USP, not just making us score on paper.

What if the school’s real function were to open up opportunities that creatively pave the way for success? What if we define these opportunities as ways of making connections between the several things we learn? What if math is taught through music? Or science through arts? Is it possible to join these dots?

What we learn can be stored on a pen drive. The skill sets however that we develop during this process of learning could unleash the hidden attributes that make each one of us unique. True education would then be synonymous with creativity.

When we make such connections between science, maths, music, arts and language, we explore uncharted territory and learning becomes a discovery.Students

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