Don't Forget: Schools Should Aim to Foster Creativity

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), January 8, 2008 | Go to article overview

Don't Forget: Schools Should Aim to Foster Creativity


Byline: Sriram Khe For The Register-Guard

While we might have our own pet peeves about kindergarten through 12th-grade schooling here in the United States, I am more than convinced, after our recent travels, that the pluses in our system far outweigh the minuses.

Over the Christmas break, when we were in New Zealand, we had dinner with a family who emigrated from India five years ago.

One of the two daughters had just completed the equivalent to the 12th grade, and she was waiting anxiously for the exam results while planning her college possibilities. The second daughter is in the early phase of what would be considered as high school in America.

We asked the sisters how schooling in New Zealand compared with their experiences in India. The younger one jumped in with a confident statement: "It is so much easier here," saying that she thought that classes ought to be a little more challenging.

And then she added, "But it is so exciting here."

Her excitement about elementary and middle school in New Zealand was because of the number of different things that students did, but were never a part of schooling in India - such as carpentry, cooking, sewing, art, field trips, etc. She cherishes her exposure to learning opportunities in activities such as art and carpentry because of the stimulation and creativity they provide.

And with even more excitement, she described how there were no gender issues at all, with examples such as guys in the sewing classes. It appears that New Zealand's schools have more in common with those in the United States than those in India.

Meanwhile, back in India, my cousin's son, who is now in the make-it-or-break-it 12th grade, is one of the millions who go through the same system that I experienced a very long time ago - a system that focuses on the analytical abilities of the brain and rarely, if at all, on the creative aspects.

The daily schedule is packed with classes on a number of different subjects. The classes are mostly lectures followed by tests, and there is practically no place for "learning by doing," which is essential to foster creative thinking in students.

Over the past couple of years, perhaps the outsourcing of a few thousand jobs to India has led to an assumption that we need to compete with India's educational system, similar to how we compared ourselves to the Japanese in the 1980s. …

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