Saudi Arabia has embarked on one of the most advanced education reform programs since it was founded almost 90 years ago. The aim is to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030 — in doing so, it is critical to consider how “today’s education” will provide the skill base and thought processes needed for “tomorrow’s jobs.”
It is great to see the Kingdom introducing art and music to schools and allowing female students to participate in sports. As a Saudi and a high school student myself, I would like to share my perspective on creativity in education from my own experience and research.
Over my, admittedly, short time on Earth, I have seen many configurations of intelligence: Artistic, linguistic, kinesthetic, spatial and interpersonal. However, I have also seen that schools largely reward just one kind of intelligence — the kind embodied in students who can memorize and replicate a mark scheme.
It is no surprise that a significant number of students feel failed by their schooling experience and disillusioned with education. In “Free to Learn” Peter Gray, a professor of psychology, posits that every person is born with an innate love of learning and that education should be a lifelong process. Students should be intrinsically motivated to pursue their own curiosity, rather than being driven by exams and expectations.
Presently, engagement and critical thought are not held as priorities in schooling, but are certainly considered priorities in life and progression after high school. Indeed, critical thought as a skill is perhaps more significant now than ever. With the rise of fake news, social media algorithms and constant advertisements — an individual taught to receive information blindly and passively is a danger to society.
Education needs to be more than just passive reproduction of information — I believe the missing element is creativity. As schools predominantly value only one kind of intelligence, they are failing to nurture a skill that will be endlessly important. In science, mathematics, the arts and any other discipline, creativity is an essential component of progression, growth and innovation. But creativity is a skill that relies on having the courage to make mistakes. Through summative assessments and prescriptive mark schemes, students are being scared away from making mistakes or venturing guesses. This process represses their ability to innovate, which at its core depends on creative and original thought.
Education needs to be more than just passive reproduction of information — I believe the missing element is creativity.
For future students to have relevant skills and the background for tomorrow’s jobs, the tradition of students memorizing and replicating mark schemes to succeed are skills that are being surpassed by technology that performs similar methodical, “thoughtless” tasks. It is time for us to ask if traditional education is giving students the professional and creative tools they need to succeed or, in a rapidly evolving world, are we preparing them for increasingly obsolete careers?
Fortunately, there have been philosophers and educators in the recent past who have opened the gates of creative reformation. As the founder of the Steiner and Waldorf Schools, Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual educational philosophy balances cognitive, artistic and practical skills. This pedagogical style not only educates the mind but nourishes the spirit. Now more than ever this focus on our “spirit,” our creativity, our ability to collaborate, to be critical and to express ourselves, is crucial as we move into a world of artificial intelligence and data-driven technological advancement.
Hello Genius (www.hellogenius.com) is an example of an emerging AI (artificial intelligence) platform that is looking to revolutionize the dynamics of education and learning for individuals around the world. Aiming to make learning more personalized and adaptable, its goal is to give every person the chance to be all that they can be, to continually optimize their potential and to enhance their chances for meaning, self-fulfillment and economic well-being. Hello Genius is the company that Sir Ken Robinson (who delivered the world’s most-watched TED Talk in history — “Do schools kill creativity?”) selected to be the company that aims to make his vision of education a reality. It is activists, organizations and schools like this that are likely to bring true change to global education.
Education is a long-term investment, and the long-term results of reform only begin to be seen 10 or 20 years after they are implemented. For this reason, education reform can often be a tough sell. Why risk changing something that is doing OK? But of course we know it can be better than “just OK.” The benefits of successful reform are unparalleled, both for the individual student and the nation that implements them. It is arguably the most important investment a nation needs to make.
• Leelya Sakka is a high school student who is interested in education reform. She founded the student-led initiative toward better education for all, “Not Another Brick on the Wall.” She also works for Hello Genius.