NASA conducted a famous study on the creative genius of humans to measure how creative we remain over the years of getting “educated”. What is the role of “divergent thinking” in preserving and nourishing one of the most important skills for us: “Creativity”?
The test results were shocking: 98% of 5-year-old children fell into the “genius category of imagination”, this number dropped to 12% for 15-year-olds and to 2% for adults. What the education system doing to our brains, our sheer capacity to imagine, stay curious, and being creative, is shocking, to say the least. All of us know that we are still sending children to schools and tuitions to make them ready for jobs, train them to test, and get admissions into colleges. What we don’t realize is, that in the process, all of us, and now our children are losing their most natural and precious skills.
To drive the point further why not revisit the famous TED talk by none other than Dr Ken Robinson:
The Covid pandemic has given all of us, parents, educators a break from traditional ways of thinking about education. But are we really doing that? Or are we looking for mere replacements of the existing system, online? If technology merely replicates the traditional offline systems online, it will fail us at an even larger scale.
The traditional classroom has always focused on “convergent thinking”, where a Teacher gives information, learners absorb it, and then take some tests to confirm if they have retained it. Not to say that all classrooms are ineffective, there are some great teachers who can inspire and break away from the mold. It’s not the teacher’s fault, it’s the way the system is designed to work, that’s the root of the problem. Our incessant reliance on “Instructionism” has failed us. Instructionism’s focus on information rather than human skill development and its tendency to objectify, quantify learning in information-centric data is the sign of its feeble foundation.
Every parent wants their children to find their passion, discover their talent, and develop skills to succeed in this world, find the joy of expression & creation while thriving materially. No one can deny that. We all discuss how the future is so uncertain and what kind of skills will our children need to thrive? A system focussed on information, instruction, and convergent thinking will not take our children there, well prepared.
What they need is an open canvas to throw in their ideas, to paint a picture that may not make sense to us, but will lead them to divergent thoughts and creations that are far beyond our imagination. Information will only help to a certain degree, imagination, creation, problem solving, and application will lead them to the future with aplomb. Constructionism focusses on applied knowledge, generating ideas, solving problems, inventing products, creating worlds that have not been imagined before.
Our focus needs a fundamental shift:
From Instructionism → Constructionism
From Convergent thinking → Divergent thinking
From Information → Imagination
From Content → Skills
If we want our learners to retain their creativity and hunger to solve problems in the future like climate change, growing population, pollution, economic crisis, create products, and generate ideas that will take the human race further, this is the time to make this shift.
Imagine a world where teens and kids will be free to wander, explore, work on real-world problems, projects, ideas with peers, with experts and find solutions fuelled by their curiosity, imagination, and creativity and become adults without losing these inherent strengths. Where they are creators, makers, inventors, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs who will change the world, rather than pupils sitting in a classroom, offline or online, absorbing information and data like machines, and reproducing it to clear tests!
Don’t you think we deserve this kind of a world, now?