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Breaking away From the One Size Fits All Model

Efforts must be directed toward integrating creative approaches into new educational frameworks to nurture the next generation of innovative thinkers, argues Arshad Awan.
Published 08 Mar, 2024 11:55am

Creativity should not be limited to artistic manifestations exclusively within creative domains. On the contrary, it should be acknowledged as an essential cornerstone of a resilient structure in academia. Unfortunately, in Pakistani society, the profound importance of creativity in education, frequently denoted as ‘creative education’, is grossly disregarded, resulting in people with uncreative minds highlighting wrong answers instead of wrong questions.

Historically, the education system in Pakistan followed a ‘one size fits all model’, characterised by teachers imparting knowledge in a linear, top-down teaching curriculum. Students were evaluated solely on their ability to provide correct answers on exam papers, with penalties for incorrect responses. This rigid structure had no space for creativity, as students were primarily taught how to respond to exam questions accurately. This approach stifled the creative potential of every student within this educational system. A system traditionally centred on rote memorisation and standardised testing that created an environment where students are more adept at memorising facts than cultivating critical thinking skills. This emphasis on memorisation over critical thinking has resulted in a system that places a premium on the ability to recall information, rather than encouraging the development of creative and analytical abilities.

As a result, Pakistan’s educational landscape produces graduates who excel in regurgitating information but struggle with real-world problem-solving or situations that demand creative thinking. Furthermore, an examination-centric system places high value on grades leading students to focus on memorising information rather than understanding and applying knowledge creatively. This emphasis on grades creates an environment where the primary goal becomes achieving high exam scores, often at the expense of deeper comprehension and critical thinking.

In all honesty, educational institutions have stifled students’ creativity for years, expecting them to demonstrate it only when prompted. All provinces of Pakistan’s curriculum boards are more concerned with standardising tests that demand precise responses and do not allow room for creativity. Typically, students prioritise obtaining answers over delving into the complexities of the concepts or analysing ‘what happens if’ inquiries. Pakistan’s education reform system mandates compulsory education for all until a certain age and employs a language medium resembling universalism. The progress made in the development of pedagogical approaches remains relatively stagnant.

The importance of educational creativity cannot be overstated. In a rapidly evolving world, where change is constant, fostering creativity is essential to prepare students for the challenges they will encounter in their lives and careers.

Creativity in education involves thinking outside the box, problem-solving, and approaching tasks with innovation. Creative individuals are better equipped to adapt to new situations, navigate uncertainties, and find novel solutions to complex problems. These skills are vital in a globalised world where traditional job roles are evolving, and interdisciplinary thinking is valued.

When students are encouraged to think creatively, they become active participants in their education. They are more likely to be engaged, curious and motivated to explore subjects in-depth. Creative teaching methods like project-based learning foster collaboration and critical thinking, and create a dynamic and stimulating learning environment.

Creativity is also a key driver of economic and social progress. Innovations that shape industries and societies often stem from creative thinking. By nurturing creativity in education, we are laying the foundation for future entrepreneurs, inventors, and leaders who can contribute ground-breaking ideas and solutions to address the complex challenges of the 21st century.

It is a known fact that creative individuals are more likely to excel in their chosen fields. In a holistic sense, creativity contributes to personal development. It fosters self-expression, builds confidence, and encourages a lifelong love for learning. Students are encouraged to be creative and become critical thinkers, unafraid to take risks, learn from failures, and persevere in facing challenges.

The importance of creativity in education extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. It is a fundamental skill that empowers individuals to thrive in a dynamic world, contribute meaningfully to society, and lead fulfilling lives. As educators, policymakers, and society at large recognise the value of creativity, efforts should be directed toward integrating creative approaches into educational frameworks to nurture the next generation of innovative thinkers and problem solvers.

The question of whether a creative-boosting educational system can flourish in Pakistan is a nuanced one, influenced by factors spanning cultural, policy, educational and societal dimensions. The answer is not easy. While challenges exist, the potential for a creative-boosting educational system to flourish in Pakistan is not insurmountable. It requires a concerted effort from policymakers, educators, communities, and global collaborators. The ongoing dialogue around the importance of creativity in education is a positive step towards creating an environment where such a system can thrive, preparing students for the demands of an ever-evolving world.

There is a need to shift the educational paradigm towards valuing creativity as a crucial aspect of learning. This requires comprehensive reforms in curriculum design, teacher training and assessment methods. Overcoming the resistance to change within the existing system and convincing stakeholders of the benefits of a more creative approach are formidable challenges and involve creating awareness about the importance of creativity in education and garnering support from educators, parents, policymakers, and the broader community. A holistic transformation is essential to break away from the traditional model and cultivate an environment where students are encouraged to think critically, explore diverse perspectives, and apply their knowledge innovatively.

In summary, challenging the entrenched focus on rote memorisation and standardised testing is a crucial aspect that needs to be addressed to bring about creative changes in the educational system in Pakistan. It requires a collective effort to reshape cultural attitudes, implement policy reforms, and prioritise creativity in teaching and learning.

Arshad Awan is an author, brand strategist and educationist.