How we can save a failing educational system

Our current educational system is an outdated model based on a ‘one size fits all’ method that doesn’t factor in individual and emotional growth or development.

We currently live in a world that is changing faster than ever before in history. No one can predict what  the world or the job market will look like in 5 years. Companies are changing , job descriptions are being amended   and more and more people are getting made redundant.

Most major companies have realised this and have  now incorporated creativity, adaptability and other soft skills such as emotional intelligence screenings into their recruitment policies. Some of the most essential skills going into the future will be creativity and adaptability. This begs the question why are we not educating and developing these skills in our children? We are in fact doing the opposite.

In all government funded educational systems across the globe the main subjects are Maths, Science and languages.

At the bottom of the list of priorities are arts and creative subjects; the very subjects that will develop the part of our brain that helps us be creative and adaptable. Our educational system has devalued the very subjects that will help our students and society to flourish and be able to thrive in  the future.

A study of pre-school children aged 4-5  showed that children have a naturally high creative ability. The children were given a creativity test and 95% scored in the category of a genius. Every 4 years they re-tested the children and every time the number of children scoring high on the creativity test dropped significantly.

This clearly indicates that we are educating our children out of creativity. “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso


So how does this happen?

Firstly, as neuro plasticity (Neuro science) has demonstrated, we grow the parts of our brain that we use the most and what we don’t use, we lose (just like your muscle tissue). Since creativity is not a skill that is taught much or valued in the educational system, the ability is  slowly getting lost.

I have also experienced this with other companies I have owned, where I hired top graduates with fantastic degrees, but when asked to solve a task in a new way without clear instructions they would struggle. They had simply lost the creative ability to come up with a new solution to a problem. This is the result of a school system that is more focused on conformatism and standardised test scores than on developing our children’s minds to use their unique human capacity for creativity and innovation. It is not only holding back our children and our society but also their future prospects to fit within a fast changing job market.

All great innovation in human history has come from imagination and creativity and yet we do not value or stimulate these parts of a child’s brain in our schools because of a one dimensional education system that define and value intelligence as Maths, Science and Languages.

In school we learn there is only one way to do things. Your job is not to question or to come up with new or better ways. And don’t ask the person next to you or look in the back of the book because that is cheating. Well, in the real work we call it a collaboration and being smart. I am not advocating cheating I am saying we should encourage our children to question what they learn and try new and better ways of doing things because this is how we develop their independent and creative thinking and ensure the foundation of democracy will live on.

We need to create an environment that encourages exploration rather than the fear of failure that we are currently advocating in the school system. When children learn to explore, they become more creative, more engaged in learning  and find it easier to recover from setbacks; all skills that would improve learning as well as being essential skills throughout life.

The job of education is not simply to fill  young minds with knowledge. It is also to facilitate functional human beings that can flourish and contribute to society in beneficial ways both for the individual and their community.

The idea that we judge children on their grades is absurd because grades alone are a very poor predictor of future potential and achievement (link to evidence). Yet we use this to decide who can access better universities. We will address this more in the article on “The mindset of high achievers”. Research has now shown us that  grades only evaluate a very narrow part of human intelligence and is a very poor predictor of future potential. So why are we still stuck in this system and with these tests?

Why are so many students disengaged, dropping out, feeling depressed and getting addicted to,  smoking, alcohol and drugs. Why do we have such high unemployment levels and crime rates? Why do we read so many horror stories in the news? We will address this more in the “Why learning self-management is essential to a successful life”.

As a child we spend 7 – 8 hours in school 5 days per week. That is a huge chunk of the day. Schools have a very big influence on our learning and also on who we turn out to be as adults. If the school is  to educate the individual to flourish, do well and function well and contribute to society, then why do we have so many of the issues mentioned above?

Many leading researchers and myself believe it is because we are not educating the full capacity of human intelligence and have become too focused on one side of the brain, rather than concentrating on a more holistic educational system that develops the full mind and human potential.

Good grades are irrelevant  if we do not have the psychological tools to function well as individuals and to function well with others in a social context. As I just discussed with one of my employees who is also a trained doctor “you can get the higher grade when studying as a doctor and you can know the more theory, but if you can’t relate and communicate well with your patients then you are unlikely to become a good doctor”. He agreed, as so many others do who have been through this education system.

We need a complete education that focuses on educating the full mind and the full potential of our children. This includes subjects such as Maths, Science and Languages but also a strong focus on arts, creativity, independent thinking and  developing our individual strengths and talents, character  and psychological skills to develop resilience, flourish and to get along well with others.

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