Creativity and Education

As a mentor and coach, I have an active interest in how formal education and work I may do in the arts/music interact. I am also very fortunate in that my wife is a teacher, I have friends who work in colleges and teach, some teaching music and music technology. I have friends who work at universities, in theatre companies and theatre departments. I have friends who work solely in music, but see their part of their roles as producers and musicians as fostering creativity, and see their profession as a partially educational role. I have a rich and diverse bunch of viewpoints at my fingertips (or at my ear-drums at least), however a common thread is that formal education isn’t tailored to learners needs when it comes to creative endeavour.

Sir Ken Robinson has some fascinating and inciteful words and thoughts in this talk at the TED conference, for example, that really the only people who tend to shine in our academic systems, are academics. While this sounds fairly obvious, that every educational system in the world favours literacy, mathematics, science and the humanities above the arts only serves to further the status quo; that creative thinkers, dancers, musicians and artists are rewarded for prioritising subjects other than the ones they most engage with. Sir Ken argues that by instilling a fear of “getting something wrong” we educate children out of creative thinking. Sir Ken champions a view I share enthusiastically, that “Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status”.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.875098&w=425&h=350&]

See “Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity” at

It’s a video that’s appears many times across the internet, and is most described as “Everyone should watch this”. Here’s hoping that opinions like these continue to form a larger and larger part of of our educational programmes and that creativity is as valued a quality in our schools, colleges and universities as academic ability.


  1. Chris Marr says:

    Now then Mr H

    Apologies for any lack of coherence here, have just got back from yet another freshers’ night out and even typing so far as I have done has taken a while….

    From my point of view at the moment this speech strikes a particular chord – I’ve just started a degree that is A) heavily academic and B) partially creative. I’m encouraged to join in extra curricular stuff (and will be joining in creative stuff) but my degree itself is almost entirely going to be sitting, reading, discussing and writing non-creativley. For a degree in English Lit and Theatre Studies maybe this balance of creative/non-creative isn’t as balanced as it should be.

    After all, I can study literature written by other authors and plays by different playwrights, but I’m not learning how to write my own books or write my own plays. So then, like Sir Ken says, the skills I learn in the next three years are skills that can lead me into academia rather than a creative profession.

    Though there are different sides to look at I suppose. I can see how the government are under pressure to see through the school > university > job process so that graduates can find a career at the end of their degree. For this reason, courses in science and maths-related subjects (more vocational, less popular) are as heavily subsidised and advertised by the government as they are. I see it as a saturation of the creative professions that causes the government to do this, and will make job-finding difficult for me at the end of my degree. But why should I be encouraged into learning something I dislike and struggle to do?

    I don’t think I have any concrete answer to the issue, but it’s a multi-faceted problem that could be dealt with better than it is being done now. I do think that creativity should be more prominent throughout primary school and secondary school – it wasn’t for me (though not discouraged) so often became something I gave little thought to. In more recent years I’ve made the effort to be creative on my own part, but I can’t help but think that things would be very different (I would be more talented and more confident in my own ability) if creativity had been constantly encouraged from a young age.

    However, again to look at a different side, the quality of creative work is both variable and massively subjective. Whereas maths and science are concrete in terms of right / wrong (meaning a teacher can skim down the margin of a page ticking or crossing where appropriate – in a few minutes), creative work can in almost no sense be judged in the same way. Nonetheless, even literacy can be similarly subjective. Perhaps the matter here is one of time saving for busy teachers – a maths question (however complicated) has a number or a formula or etc. as its final outcome; an English essay (and indeed, even more so for a creative piece) is a time-consuming thing to mark. Besides, when any teacher of mine has ever given a grade or left comments on a creative piece of writing, I’ve been able to completely disagree with them in a way I would be unable to in a maths lesson, despite my younger years and relative lack of education.

    Whatever the wider context anyway, creativity should be more prominently encouraged in children. I think we’re already a generally very intelligent nation academically, but lag behind other countries in our confidence in our own creativity.

    Well this turned into a bit of an essay… I suppose the video got me excited. It has something hopeful about it and a feeling that a bit of a revolution is in order. Keep ’em coming.

    Hope to see you around sometime soon (had a look in the Library in Leeds the other day by the way [pub, that is] and it’s wicked!)

    Much love,

    Chris xxx

  2. Excellent points. To add to that, I believe that as regards the pressure the government is under to progress people from school, to university to jobs that the pressure is based on the principle that the “job market” (i.e. getting a job working for another company) is the only potential employment route.

    The work I do now was never mentioned to me in any of my careers lessons, and self-employment was never discussed. I was at a conference in Leeds the other week that posed the question:
    “How many graduates can the music industry take?”
    It’s the wrong question. Even before I left university I was part of the music industry. I played at least twice a week, I made records, I promoted. I’m not saying this as a badge of honour mind, just to say that I think the idea of you not being part of a profession before you leave university is flawed.

    As for how to measure creative output in an educational setting… I’m going to have to do some reading on that.

  3. Chris Marr says:

    Again, really good points. I’m going to spend the next three years producing as well as studying theatre, and if at the end of it if I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile and want to continue in creativity then the opportunity is there to be self-employed. Not something I’d ever really thought about. In one sense a less daunting prospect, without the same sense of competition to get started in the first place, but in another sense much more daunting…

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