The Founder of Creative Thinkers Foundation and the Association Director of Odyssey of the Mind – India, Mr Prebhat Sachdeva writes on why creativity needs to be a part of the Indian school curriculum, and how this can be done.
The learning of a child begins at home and the primary sources of information are his sensory organs. With growth, he gathers information from his surroundings, from the environment, which slowly adds on to the information database inside his head. Gradually, the importance of the formal education system and the role of a teacher comes into the picture.
The policy makers decide the curriculum (what is to be taught) and how it is to be evaluated– but the evaluation is only of how much has been learnt and not about how much has been understood, which can be further applied in future. The teaching methodology decided by the school and the question papers framed by the teachers are also being used to do the same.
Why do we need creativity?
With changing times, the nature of capabilities desirable for the development of the nation and for professional growth are changing at a rapid pace. Creative minds are the need of the hour. The aim of education is not only about making students an expert in a particular subject but also to help them identify their interests, their capacities, and build on them to make them generally aware and well-rounded human beings. The basic purpose of education is to build the capacity to convert information into knowledge, and then make use of the acquired knowledge to find solutions to all professional and social problems.
In life, the understanding becomes more important than the learning. We need a system where generation of ideas and problem posing is appreciated and where proper training is given to enhance this mindset. In many growing economies like China, Japan, Korea, Finland, Singapore this form of training has become a part of their formal education system. In England, creativity has recently been granted official recognition as one of the primary aims of the curriculum.
We need to provide an environment and curriculum which enables pupils to think creatively, critically, and builds their capacity to solve real-world problems. The confidence gained through experimenting with alternatives sharpens their entrepreneurship skills and makes them capable leaders, good workers and citizens.
Can creativity even be taught?
As research studies have indicated, creativity is not only genetic but can be taught, or rather, nurtured, provided the student is not being judged on what she knows, but how she does things. She needs to have the freedom to follow her inherently curious thought process and find solutions, do things differently, and gain self-confidence for taking calculated risks. Incentives and opportunities are being provided in various forms but still, it has not been a part of our curriculum.
The teaching of creativity is not very difficult. Even its qualitative assessment, although a bit subjective, is possible. The difficulty arises in its quantitative measurement, in terms of marks, grades, or numbers. In India, where admissions and recruitments are all on the basis of percentage of marks obtained, the acceptability in the curriculum is a bit challenging.
Our group, Creative Thinkers Foundation is working on this. The Govt. of India has helped the Foundation to study the positive change in thinking capacities of children who were exposed to certain kind of activities. This helped in concluding that given an opportunity, creativity can be taught, polished and harnessed. Moreover, it can be measured on a comparative scale, unlike evaluation of individual scores required in the formal education system.
In absence of determination of individual scores, these activities will remain part of extracurriculars.
How can creativity be nurtured?
Nurturing creativity needs some extra effort on the part of teachers. Encouraging students and not negating their ideas is very important part. Pooling the ideas and then sorting them for finding the most appropriate one needs an environment of healthy discussion. Making the idea from ‘my idea‘ to ‘our idea’ is another effort.
Creativity is not doing different things but it is doing things differently. It is about breaking up the old ideas and enlarging the limits of knowledge.
So, The basic task is encouraging children to generate ideas.
As per psychologist Ellis P.Torrance, the ‘Four Components of Creativity’, namely Fluency, Flexibility, Originality and Elaboration are to be nurtured. If in regular classroom teaching, open-ended questions looking for the child’s opinion are asked, then they encourage the child to explore and experiment. This will enhance cognitive growth.
Children feel free to imagine, invent, create, and try out new ways to do things.
Given a ‘problem‘, let them think and generate ideas about how it could be solved. Next, put different ideas together and see which is the most appropriate and the easiest, most economically viable solution. The task can be taken up easily in the school system by sparing some time to creatively solving a defined problem.
To foster flexibility, children should be exposed to approach different situations and find solutions from a number of different perspectives. Give children new ways of doing old ideas and activities.
What can we do outside the classroom?
Very few organisations across the world are working for nurturing the most desired trait for development known as creativity and innovation. Odyssey of the Mind seems to be the oldest one in the category.
The very first creative problem-solving competition ever was created by Dr C. Samuel Micklus, Professor Emeritus at Rowan University in New Jersey in 1978. There are 2 components in the competition – long-term projects and spontaneous problems. Long-term projects are meant for developing skills– be it technical or communication. The 5 Long-term projects are based on designing a mechanical device, a structure with defined parameters, or bringing classic architecture/ paintings to life, performances that revolve around “morphing” objects, and animals that express human emotions. These are all based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise and Earth Observing System Project Science Office have been sponsoring an Odyssey of the Mind Long-Term Problem. Certain opportunities of sharing the ideas even for short-term spontaneous activities have been created by active group in Korea. Young children in the age group of 8 to 18 are enthusiastic participants from countries like China, Singapore, Malaysia.
But in India, there is hardly any group working for nurturing the most desirable trait of creativity.
As only co-curricular activities can help the Indian scenario, a well-formulated educational competitive activity like Odyssey of the Mind is a great help, and we certainly need more of such opportunities.
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