Friday, October 22, 2010

The Creative Spark


The statement below is true.
The statement above is false.


What is creativity? How is it expressed in our thinking? How vital is it in our lives? 

To what degree does the education system we have gone through and the one we send our children through --- be that in the US, Singapore, the UK, China or anywhere else -- help enhance creativity? Can creativity even be taught and learned?

These are all questions that Ken Robinson addresses in this short 2006 lecture from the now famous TED series. 

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity | Video on

If you liked that, please watch Robinson's second TED lecture from May of this year entitled Bring on the Learning Revolution!



Yong Feng said...

Hi Brad!

I wouldn't say schools in Singapore kill creativity. Perhaps a more appropriate way to say it, would be that the Singapore education system lacks creativity.

But I believe things are gradually changing with times in Singapore. The younger batch of teachers generally are receptive to innovative ideas in class, as compared to the first batch of local teachers, who drilled students on memorizing and regurgitating concepts.

Another good example is the ES2007S module. I don't think one would see such a module, or modules conducted in similar ways, say, 10 years ago in NUS. (Perhaps I'm wrong, I'm just assuming.)

smplcv said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
steph said...

Hi Brad,

I was staring at the two sentences besides Albert's Einstein's picture. If we were to code the answers , 1 and 0, and plot it on a graph, it'll look like a zig-zag wave lol.

1st statement is true > 2nd is true
2nd is true > 1st is false
1st is false > 2nd is false
2ns is false > 1st is true... so u get a wave.

I think creativity cannot be taught, but it can be nurtured. Like what Ken Robinsons said, we need to provide an 'agricultural model' to cultivate children's creativity. How practical is this in Singapore? I personally think that one first step for educators to encourage creativity will be to to cut down on the syllabus. This frees up time for students to go deeper into the knowledge and explore. Teenagers, even university students, are given too much to study with too little time, hence, we are forced to "cramp" information in our heads, which we later throw out of our system. What is the point?

Looking for a Car? said...

Creativity cant be measured...

Min Hau Ong said...

Hi Brad!

I appreciate what Ken Robinson had emphasized in his speech. His speech made me recalled my learning experience at my secondary school in Malaysia. I still remember that I spent most of my time in school for copying notes from the blackboard. The teachers did not have an interactive teaching with students. They always said: " Just remember and you will be able to answer in exams!" This might be one of the reasons I was not creative at all before I started my study life in NUS.

Hmm...In particular, one of the methods my secondary school Malay language teacher taught students was reading articles while students listened and copied. Yeah, this was the only way I learnt to write Malay essays. In fact, I did not think at all how to write an essay creatively. I just followed and followed.

I believe that we could have learnt how to think out of the box and write an essay or a story creatively.

Annie said...

I loved how you took a fond memory and made an entire story about creativity with it.....

xiaoshi said...

Hi Brad,

This post reminds me of our discussion we had during lesson, when we highlighted the pervasive problem of schools not focusing on arts and having an overemphasis on science.

Teachers try very hard, albeit unsuccessfully oftentimes, to inspire interest in students when it comes to play-acting, educational tours and even trips to the drama theatre. Like biology and mathematics, humanities subject must be real and applicable to students.

In my opinion, arts related "subjects" expand horizon, broaden knowledge, opens up new worlds of ideas and imagination, stimulates creativity, and fills up gaps in our knowledge. It also serves as an entertainment as it fires our imagination, transporting us to far-off lands to the world called "creativity". The study of humanities should not be a study of a subject, but the foray into a three dimensional platform for students to think out of the box.

Guo Cheng said...

ES2007S, unfortunately I didn't have the chance to take it.

It is really hard to define creativity. I believe creativity has a strong connection with interaction with people. Creativity can not be developed in isolated world.

weaboon said...

Creativity cannot be trained. It is just like curiosity, only executive. But both are driven by an inner hunger for something new and that ought to be addressed. However, creativity is expensive; it may take many failed tries before a "right" one. The education system that focusses on reproduction of knowledge bases on the foundation that it is the cheapest way to learn about them, but as a cost, it limits the development of creativity. Yet then, it is impossible to get any practical creativity with a sound foundation of good knowledge (albeit the knowledge need not necessary be in the fields of science or math). There should be a balance. To maintain the balance there are two forces to be present: recognition for good knowledge(which we already have clasped in place) and non-stigma for the attempts at creativity that does not yield practical benefits(yet).

Anonymous said...

If you want to download the TED video, refer to these tutorial:

Brad Blackstone said...

Thanks one and all for your comments.

Please see my next post and the accompanying video lecture as they address some of these very same issues.

Jake said...

Hi Brad!
To even start debating this, I feel that we first need to ask ourselves the question. What is creativity? To me, creativity is either a way of thinking unconventionally, or to be unencumbered by what the society agrees to be ‘standard answers’.
Thinking ‘out of the box’ has been shown to come easily to children, while adults often struggle to do so. Have we become stupider as we grow older? This seems unlikely and counterintuitive, so we conclude that the adults have been curtailed in their creativity, most likely through the ‘accepted’ education system. In Singapore, where competition for everything under the sun (food, jobs, space, etc) is high, education is perceived (quite rightly I would like to add) as the big money ticket to success in the big bad world. However, the education system here is one based on GRADES, which means lots of standard answers and creativity being curtailed in favor of points and marks. Who wants to get creative when all it gets you is a ‘fail’ grade?
Thus we see many people such as the example above, who were ‘geniuses’ in their childhood, yet grow up to be a mindless drone in a non-creative society. Thankfully, the government has realized this problem, and is now trying to actively engage in the creative youth through schemes and initiatives. Whether it is a case of too little too late or success is still too early to be seen.

Isaac said...

Educators often lament on how the route-learning style of schooling in Asia kills creativity and puts students at a disadvantage compared with their Western counterparts. I would, however, like to give voice to the other side of the coin.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said that he had worked with many such Asian-educated "route-learners" (mostly Japanese computer programmers)and never noticed them to be at any "disadvantage" compared to their American peers. Quite the contrary, he praised them for being some of the most brilliant minds he had ever had the priviledge of working with and said of them, "I have never met anyone who cound not do algebra that could write programmes".

Algebra, of course, is something which most Asian schools teach with the "route-learning" approach. So, to all the "creative" people ot there, I would like to point out that there is no such thing as a perfect system for education. All approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses. We should all thus try to be more open-minded and not hail our own style as being superior to that of others. After all, that is also a form of discrimination.

Bernard Lim said...

Hi Brad,

After 15 years of education, this is a topic that I can truly relate to. The existing education system does little to enhance creativity, neither does it kill creativity. To put it more accurately from my perspective, it inhibits creativity. It does not encourage us to question the knowledge and information we receive. In fact, it requires us to accept, memorize and reproduce the information in order to excel.

Recall any scenario when the lecturer asks a question and expects answers from the students. How many of them offered to answer? Quoting Sir Ken Robinson: "If u're not prepared to be wrong, you will never be able to come up with anything original." The education thus far has effectively prepared us to reproduce the right answers; too effective that nobody dares to express anything that could be wrong. Creativity is thus suppressed.

Do not misunderstand me; I am not suggesting that we have a poor education system. On the contrary, the education we go through has done well in providing us with solid foundations in the various fields of study. Creativity without sound knowledge will only result in nonsense and serves no purpose.

Creativity stems from the ability to challenge the current status and develop meaningful alternatives.

Creativity is what drives improvements. In the workplace, creativity can materialise in the form of cost savings, improved efficiency and work quality. Back when I was doing my internship, we were each tasked to come up with propositions to improve existing processes. Skeptical as to how useful the interns' ideas would really be to the firm, I approached the programme coordinator for answers. Her answer was that the company values fresh perspectives and creative solutions that the staff, who have learnt to accept the processes, could not provide. In the modern workforce flooded with university graduates, creativity was no longer stigmatised as it was in education ; creativity could make one stand out and excel in the workplace.