By Kevan Barber, Associate Insight & Creative Director
That title could apply to a million things right now, but my focus here is on creativity in British schools. Or rather, the lack of it.
Despite my creative title and job, I’ve never considered myself a very creative person, certainly not a born or natural creative. But recent work and research around our school trips initiative for Hyundai has got me rethinking that.
As part of that research and looking into the benefits of non-classroom time through trips, and trips that are focused on creativity, I watched Ken Robinson’s well-known 2006 TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity?”. In fact, it’s the most popular ever TED Talk.
In it, he talks about the hierarchy of subjects at schools – maths at the top (to Rishi’s delight), followed by languages, humanities and finally, arts.
That got me thinking about my own experiences. Design Technology was always my favourite subject (especially the design bit), but it was my B grade in GCSE maths that seemed to get the most attention (despite getting an A in DT). Taking Product Design as an A-level was seen as some kind of cop-out, a line I even had to peddle before dropping it after AS in favour of more academic subjects – History, Economics and English Lit.
Even in agencies, we’ve been known to devalue creativity by giving it away for free, or not having a line for it in those all-important timesheets.
So, on reflection, maybe I am (at least a bit) naturally creative, but schooling and university both knocked it out of me due to their focus on maths, formulaic coursework, and exams. And then, at work, Excel (plus plenty more of course) rears its head.
It's all pretty hard to change though, especially when Rishi’s pet project in the limited time he has left is forcing maths to 18. When did anyone reading this last use Pythagoras' theorem? It’s something to do with triangles, right? And one of those things people will claim you need to know because deep down it’s making you smarter.
There’s a big focus on schools, and governments, as there should be. But what about agencies and our clients? Most have got better with the minimum requirements to apply for a job, less about an A-C in Maths and English, plus a 2:1 degree, but there’s still a way to go.
The latest World Economic Forum list of skills needed in modern work ranks creativity at 5th. But it doesn’t stop there, innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking and ideation, also very creative skills, rank inside the top 10. Well up from lists a decade or so ago.
Without trying to solve everything and creatively fix education singlehandedly, I’ll look to wrap this piece up with a few things to think about:
Do your own job specs really highlight the creative skills needed to do a good job? Or are they still tagging along with the status quo that values grades and a safe pair of hands over creativity and innovation?
If you’re running a campaign to plug a gap in funding like school trips, always make sure teachers are involved. They have a tough job sticking to a curriculum, and anything that doesn’t help them deliver will just fall flat.
Sway the decision-makers, and that’s not just the current government, who struggle immensely with the idea of creative learning and jobs. Labour is backing more creativity in schools, providing potential opportunities for brands to get involved and take advantage, whenever that may be.
To finish, and to empower those next steps, keep this in mind from Ken’s TED Talk: “If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.”