Kindling/killing creativity of children: how to reform our school educational system
Recently, we announced the Ignite 09 awards on the eve of Oct 15, 2009, the birth Day of Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, celebrated as Children Creativity and Innovation day by the Honey Bee Network. Having received more than thousand ideas and innovations and traditional knowledge practices from various schools in 18 states and 82 districts, we also realized that the number of entries were still too small. May be parents still believe that best they can do for their children is to help them get more marks in the exams. Nothing else seems to matter much. If a child is very creative and innovative but not very good in academics, then her future is quite bleak in India. And this to my mind is the strongest indictment of our current educational policies and systems. Let me illustrate.
Sushant Pattnaik, orissa, has won a National Award for developing a working model of breath controlled navigation and communication system for physically challenged children. Merely by changing the pattern of breathing, a sensor activates and communicates the needs of the person and also helps move the wheel chair as per her wish. It is an extremely complex and innovative idea. While there are some patents abroad on breath tube based control systems but they are quite different from what sushant has done. He is not extraordinary in studies. Will he ever get access to the high quality mentors and labs of IITs? No, will he ever qualify for national science talent search? No. For that, he needs to be good in remembering the lessons and regurgitating them in exams. If he can not apply any of those concepts to real life problem, how does it matter. And then we claim that India wishes to be Innovative, what a joke!
There are many more examples of children who have been equally creative. Yathartha, class five, from Uttrakhand conceived of triangular wheels with castor wheels at each end for pulling a strawler on the stairs. Abhishek, class tenth, Advait Mission school, Bhaglapur, developed a working kitchen machine in which various ingredients of a dish can be mixed in the cooking vessel in the predetermined sequence and proportions. Anurag Rathore, from DAV school, Jullundhar conceived the idea of gait of a person as a password of cell phone since no two people walked alike. Honey Bee Creativity Club, Sri Sathya Sai Lok Seva Vidya Kendra, Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka sent as many as 200 entries for Ignite09. Pranshu Goyal from Agra gave an excellent idea of deducting a small amount at every recharge which could be invested on his behalf in mutual funds- a kind of tiny saving scheme. There are a large number of other ideas which are worthy of attention.
The issue is that educational system is completely indifferent to the ability of children to think out of box, conceive of new ideas and innovations, and develop a practice oriented outlook in life. I am sure some children will continue with their creative streak in spite of our educational system. Next week, I will share the way we can redesign the school education systems. Can we ensure that inspite of what government may or may not do, can teachers help children with a spark in their heart illuminate our world, like a lamp of diwali. Let there be light in every heart, hope in every mind.
Anil K Gupta