15 Ways to Reimagine Education

5. Value Creativity and Innovation.

People are viewing creativity and innovation as key to the development of society, and many believe that it should be treated with the same importance as literacy and maths. 

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

This was the subject of one of the original 2006 TED Talks, by Sir Ken Robinson, author and international advisor on education. His talk entitled Do Schools Kill Creativity?” has become the most-watched TED Talk film ever, with over 60 million views on TED.com.

Given the popularity of the talk that he gave over a decade ago, it is disheartening to see how little has changed.

Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Robinson defines creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value, and he believes passionately that:

“We don’t grow into creativity; we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” 

Sir Ken Robinson

He observes that every education system in the world has the same hierarchy of subjects. At the top are maths and languages, then the humanities. At the bottom are the arts. He maintains that schools should move towards more personalised and organic approaches to learning. Any curriculum which emphasises multi-disciplinary learning is more likely to foster the creativity which is crucial for society.

You can watch another talk by Sir Ken Robinson (2018), on the same theme, here:

Sir Ken Robinson on transforming the future of education

NASA Says the Education System Dumbs Us Down

In his TED Talk entitled, “The Failure of Success”, Dr George Land gives a brief history of human innovation and stresses the importance of creativity. Dr Land is an author, speaker, consultant, and general systems scientist with a background in communications, business, education, and government. 

Dr George Land on the failure of success

He tells his audience how NASA had contacted him to develop a test that would enable them to measure the creative potential of NASA’s rocket scientists and engineers. The test proved very successful, and the scientists subsequently gave the test to 1,600 children between the ages of four and five.

The study looked at the ability to come up with new, different and innovative ideas to problems. It measured the percentage of the sample whose imagination was found to be at genius level. They found the following results:

  • Genius level at 5 years – 98%
  • Genius level at 10 years – 30%
  • Genius level at 15 years – 12%
  • Genius level of adults – 2%

At five years of age the majority of children are genius innovators, but following years of schooling, by the time we reach adulthood only 2% of us are at genius level. You can read more about the study in this article by Idea Pod:


Sir Ken Robinson presents a similar study in his 2010 TED Talk, “Changing Education Paradigms”:

Sir Ken Robinson on changing education paradigms

His talk presents a longitudinal study of kindergarten children which looked at divergent thinking (defined as an “essential capacity for creativity” and “the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question”).

It found that 98% of them measured at genius level in divergent thinking. Five years later, when they were aged 8 to 10 years, the number of those at genius level had dropped to 50%. After another five years – having been further immersed in ‘education’ – the number of divergent thinking geniuses had fallen further still.

This is Bad News for the Workplace

These studies have been replicated more than a million times and the results are telling us that schooling inhibits creativity and innovation. Business leaders are naming creativity as a top quality required for their job applicants. Employers are complaining that young people are coming out of school without the skills needed for a 21st century workforce.

Further Reading

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, by Sir Ken Robinson Ph.D.

Further Reading on Why Progressive Alternatives are Needed

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