Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Everyone is Born Creative, But.....

The idea that everyone is born creative is not new.

Recently an article in The Guardian reported that 'Everyone is born creative, but it is educated out of us'.

Just examine the current Primary School curriculum and it will be very obvious that there is very little focus on training creativity. By creativity, I am not referring to training the kids to be artists or to pursue the arts.

I am talking about nurturing creative thinking and encouraging creative imagination.

Creativity should not be limited to the Arts. But even in just the department of Arts, I am sure the schools can do a lot more.

Take the example of my boys' school. I must say I am very disappointed with the quality of art lessons the school delivered in the past 6 years, in both the weekly Art periods and during the CCA hours (M chose Art as CCA when he was in Primary 5).

Art lessons are given such low priority in this school, that the periods were often sacrificed and given to other subject teachers to catch up on the curriculum. During those weeks when the Art periods proceeded as planned, the kind of art work taught and done were also of appallingly poor quality. I am not referring to the quality of my sons' work, but rather, the lesson planning and execution.

I recalled with horror how the Primary One's art lessons included colouring a pre-printed fish?! Not even to teach the 7-year-old children to draw a fish or create its background! The instructions to kids were to bring along colour pencils and just do colouring!! Each year, there were only a maximum of 2 to 3 pieces of art work done which the kids brought back only in November. Though I did not expect masterpieces, but there was nothing to give the kids a sense of achievement either. If the kids had learnt some drawing or painting techniques, I could live with it. It was only in upper primary level that they got to dabble with pottery for a term, batik painting in another and that was it.

To me, the real big shame is how the school art teachers have managed to turn my boys, who both love to draw and paint and very curious about all art forms before they started Primary school, into two kids who dread school art periods.

I wonder what my Dolly's future art teacher would say if she were to produce a piece like this in Primary school.

My 4-year-old had drawn numerous mermaids in the last few months. But one day, she decided to draw one who was slightly on the heavy side. And why not? In fact, I love it that she did not think all mermaids must have hourglass figures. I love how she dared to imagine something differently.

From the feedback my boys gave, it is not just the art teachers who discouraged creativity. It is the same with Science teachers. You may either get ignored or told off if you give creative, imaginative or unexpected answers.

I get it that teachers have time constraints and need to finish the curriculum. I also get it that art teachers may have to get kids to colour a fixed shape or complete a batik painting piece in certain number of hours. I get it too that Science teachers have to teach concepts and no time to answer extra questions outside the syllabus, even if the child is curious enough to ask and the questions are a result of the child's reflection of the topics taught.

Still, it is disheartening to hear my Primary 4 boy tell me his Science teacher told the class they have to raise hands before they can ask any questions and it has been 9 months but his teacher has never ever picked him though he had questions to ask nearly every week. It is sad to see how my Primary 6 son who used to ask hundreds of questions a week at home as a preschooler, now tells me it is pointless to ask anything in school because the teachers don't answer them. He just shrugs with a resigned look and a quiet comment, "why bother?"

So what can I, as a parent, do?

I feel compelled to work doubly hard at home, to fuel their curiosity and provide them with stimuli to spark their creativity and imagination and to encourage them to keep questioning.

While academic excellence is always expected, since I strongly believe no one rises to low expectations, I work hard to ensure the fire I ignited in my kids when they were just wee tots and preschoolers doesn't get put out because of the six years of formal schooling.

Sometimes, I do regret not homeschooling them instead and wonder if I should just homeschool Dolly.

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