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Are Schools Destroying Our Children’s Creativity?

For some time now I’ve been wondering about how I’m going to handle Gavin and Gareth’s education. For us, there were three options:

  • Send them to a local school
  • Send them to a Chinese school
  • Send them to an International school

For a while, I thought that these were our only options until it came to my notice that there are a growing number of parents who are homeschooling their children because they are concerned about the inadequacy of the current education system. It appears, they aren’t the only ones. In a talk on TED, Sir Ken Robinson challenged the way we have been educating our children. He believes there is a need to rethink the current schooling systems so that we can cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

The current school model is drilling creativity out of our children and, as a result, we are creating a population who are good workers, but poor creative thinkers. We’re failing our children because we’re failing to help them achieve their best and the problem lies at the heart of our education system. This is prevalent not to any country but all over the world. Watch his talk on TED to learn more:

You should also read this article on the Washington Post by Heather Wilson – “Our Superficial Scholars“. This is what she has to say about the students from American Universities:

high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why.

Gone are the “students who wonder, students who are reading widely, students of passion who are driven to make a difference in the lives of those around them and in the broader world through enlightened and effective leadership.” This is because the “undergraduate education they are receiving seems less and less suited to that purpose.”

Are you worried? I know I am. But what is to be done?

Sir Ken Robinson continues on Youtube with an excellent presentation on changing education paradigms – go check it out.

So the current education system may have worked for us in the past – back in the day of the Industrial Revolution – but it is no longer working now. What we need, Sir Robinson believes, is not education reform, but an education revolution.

Although he doesn’t really present a solution to the problem, he does give us some direction. We need to help our children discover their passion (exactly what Ruiko Henmi shares in the Heguru Handbook). No matter what their dreams, don’t belittle them or discourage them because we think they are impractical. A great lesson can be learned from the example Sir Robinson gives about the man who had wanted to be a fireman all his life. When he was done with highschool, his teacher told him he was wasting his talent. Despite what his teacher said, he went on to become a fireman and ended up saving the life of his teacher and his wife.

Many parents easily crush the “silly dreams” of their children because they don’t believe they are practical. Instead, they steer them towards a direction that they believe will offer more financial security. For example, “You can’t be an artist because you won’t be able to make any money.” Many of the careers that exist today did not exist in our parents’ day, so how can they know what obscure careers can turn into amazing opportunities.

The other lesson I took away from Sir Robinson was the example he gave about the woman who choreographed the musical CATs. If she had been a child in school today, she would have been labelled as having ADHD. Instead of discovering her passion for dancing, she would have been put on Ritalin. She wasn’t an academic, but she was talented in dance. If we want to help our children make a difference to this world, we need to tune in to their passions and help them uncover their hiddden talents. We can’t do that if our children are too busy trying to make it through school.

With the increasing competition for good schools, parents are becoming too focussed on T-Scores and academics to the exclusion of everything else. Sir Robinson talks about toddlers undergoing assessments to get into a “good” kindergarten. In Japan, children as young as 10 years old have only 10 minutes to eat their dinner before proceeding to tuition classes to study until late at night. According to hubby, who spoke to some neighbourhood fathers, one of the children who was in Standard 3 (Grade 3 – primary school) woke up at 5:30am in the morning to get ready for school. He goes from school to tuition classes and isn’t home until 9pm. He’s in bed by 11pm so that he is ready to start all over again the next day. Despite all the extra classes, he’s still failing.

What are the solutions? Sir Robinson says a revolution is required. Hirotada Henmi (President of HEGL) says right brain education is the answer. The way I see it, until we get Sir Robinson’s revolution in the education system, right brain education and/or homeschooling may be the only solutions.

Sir Robinson has two books that may be worth reading:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

5 thoughts on “Are Schools Destroying Our Children’s Creativity?

  1. too real……….I’m lost …in this moment, which I have full work 2 month and work at home other two , I’m practicing what I call HALF HOMESCHOOLING, so My daughter goes to school the month I work, and stay at home the others……………….and I have to say that the difference EXIST, I can see it, and NOT ONLY ME…………persons who does not know , find mi daughter is not the same in one or other situation……………..
    excellent article, by the way, thank you very much


  2. excellent presentations by Sir Ken Robinson! a standing ovation from me as well.

    our current education system is exactly as what he described – a cookie cutter type – one size fits all – factory mass production. we need a paradigm shift…. become farmers…. and start ‘growing’ our kids organically…… tread softly on our children’s dreams.


    1. Ann – I wish I knew what to do. I try to work with my son while he is home, but I worry about what school is doing to him. I see the stuff he’s doing at school and I can see why he doesn’t like it. The only reason he still enjoys school is because he likes his friends there. He doesn’t like anything else about it. He told me he wishes he could learn from home and have his friends come over!

      Hui-Wearn – yup, excellent lessons. The other one is encouraging our children to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes. I think it is so true that many adults are afraid of making mistakes so they rather avoid trying anything they aren’t sure of.


  3. I am in same dilemma…I dont want to “lose” my son to his peers where he will start looking for their approval instead of mine. But I am not confident enough to home-school and dont have the support of my husband. :(…


    1. From what I understand, the concern isn’t with the peers but with the methods of teaching in schools. The problem is the system – it’s a cookie cutter style education that doesn’t allow for each child’s unique differences. They don’t value individuality and they kill creativity. What’s scary is that although children do gain a lot from school, Sir Ken Robinson believes they may be worse off from having gone through school because the losses exceed the gains. So unless we do something drastic to our teaching programs, school can have detrimental effects on our children’s development.

      My hubby, too, doesn’t support my desire to home-school. 😦 Although he agrees conventional schooling has its drawbacks, he still believes that going to a “good” school minimises that problem. I really hope so. International school is so expensive, but if their program can preserve our children’s creativity and help them to discover their passions, then I think it is worth it.


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