RainDiversity, April 21 2021

Creativity training as a subject in school

By, Zaina Ibrahim

 In this gruesome process of impressing others, unfortunately, children forget to love their ideas hence forget to love themselves.

As a mother, I am ashamed that we send our children to school for their intrinsic motivation to be depleted immediately. Why do we still allow our current education system to gradually eliminate our children's spark? We perhaps have successfully increased the number of children attending the school physically, but did we manage to help their hearts and minds be present in the classroom?

Looking back, like me, most students think they go to school for the sake of their parents, for the sake of their family, for the sake of their teachers. It has always been meeting the expectations of others - how others should shape us apart from ourselves. Students sit in a classroom, paralysed and unmotivated because they lack room to freely engage with what excites their minds and most importantly what inspires their hearts.

In my experiences as a student both in Asian and Scandinavian countries, I found that our education system is a killer and an obstructer in reaching the maximum potential of oneself. Basically, teachers should be able to spark the power of curiosity and creativity in the students. Unfortunately, so far, our educational system is yet to grasp the very essence of teaching.

We know very well that everyone learns differently, yet our education system continues to teach and measure every student as if they are robots - all are the same. Grading systems in schools gradually kill the creativity of our children. We have made exams the most difficult thing to go through in the students’ life. The burden is on our children. They become depressed and some even stop going to school. The tragic part is some students go as far as taking their own lives due to pressures from taking the exam or from poor results in their examination.

In some cases, parents see their children as a one-way ticket out of the poverty cycle or some means of elevating the family’s status in the society. Children are very loyal to their parents and will do everything not to make their parents unhappy. In this gruesome process of impressing others, unfortunately, children forget to love their ideas hence forget to love themselves. I am one of them, and I am grateful that my grit saved me!

Prototyping creativity in the classroom

Most national education policies look great on paper, but messy on the ground. For a maximum impact, teachers should be trained and provided with new implementing tools to nurture students’ long-term commitment to learning at school.

In my own little way to find a solution, I founded RainDiversity. Anders, my associate, and I have used research-based creativity training developed by Christian Byrge and Søren Hansen from Aalborg University in Denmark to prototype the method in a class. I have had the privilege to learn and practice as a student directly from these two scholars who created and developed the unlimited knowledge application theory of creativity. Basically, it is all about knowledge sharing. Letting go of our existing patterns, whereby barriers of culture and mindset that hinders the collaboration are taken down eliminating the fear of being judged.

We have tested and facilitated creativity training in class, students get to learn to work together in a team in a fun way which some might call brain breaks. We applied different inclusive activities where students were constantly collaborating and waiting for their turn and built on each others’ ideas. The hierarchy in class was completely diminished as everybody starts playing through the problem-solving activities we provided, even the children with lower self-esteem were having fun.

What we did, was that we provided an atmosphere where it is alright to bring your ideas to the table. They can bring a problem that they have identified and a teacher can facilitate for them to find not one, but several solutions together with their classmates. The students love it as they can express themselves through their ideas. They get to know more about their classmates and see the positive side of them that they have never seen before.

Some students even independently suggested to us that creativity should be the first subject to start the day at school due to the energising and socialising effect it had. From what we have gathered from our recorded video interviews, creativity training boosts inclusion, increase intrinsic motivation and most importantly the openness to the diversity of ideas hence the acceptance of diverse identities.

Creativity as a subject - new ways

It should be a subject whereby assessment does not apply, evaluation can be made based on the people and the society that has been impacted by the students' ideas. During creativity sessions, students will learn problem development and provide several pathways of their own solutions.

Students will be internally motivated, they will know why they should wake up in the morning. Perhaps for the first time, they will be happy for those individual reasons. In short, the principles of play inside the creativity training can ignite curiosity, inspire and excite students. They will be empowered by the acknowledgement of their perspective, ideas and solutions.

Furthermore, it will create a positive impact on the students and the people around them because multiple scientific evidence also shows that creativity makes you happier. Therefore finding time each day for creativity is important for students well being. The inclusive core foundation and acceptance to diverse identities are elements of embodied creativity training that can also help directly fight bullying mentality at school. Town-hall meetings and workshops do not work efficiently enough to tackle the bullying issue that is rampantly happening in our school system. We need new ways, creative ways that consistently train and transform students’ mentality away from bullying and towards inclusion.

As a matter of fact, the skills that are needed in the future are something that cannot be memorised from books and tested - complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity and people management. Do we still want to rely on our current educational system to prepare our children in order to thrive in the age of multi-speed globalisation? The impact will generate sustainable competitive advantages for individuals, organisations as well as our nation.

Just like you may train to hone your ability in sports, language, singing or dancing, you may also train your creativity skills. Yes, creativity is a skill. The deliberate and constant practice of creativity is an effective way to build students' self-efficacy, find and explore students' fullest potential, develop a more inclusive and innovative mindset in the longest term, leading to more socially sustainable society. The practical method of creativity training is powerful because it is a proven method that targets the students' attitude, body and language directly. 

Most importantly, it will increase the students' passion for learning from a motivational perspective. Creativity training is an efficient bridge to unlock students' curiosity and playfulness. It is a set of tools that bring the students' knowledge together ranging from maths, science, geography, their hobbies, practical life experiences etc., for problem-solving in a playful way. 

Education reform is an urgent necessity. Parents, teachers, school leaders, civil society, the work providers, policymakers must stand together and act as a catalyst for change by empowering and inspiring our children.

Worldwide overwhelming reactions and support from our ongoing online #schoolmakesmehappy campaign

Engage and get to know the children of Instagram - The plight knows no boundaries

Watch the testimonials below from Karensminde school, Aalborg, Denmark.

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