Everyone remembers a great teacher they had — someone who made learning fun or challenging, someone who really cared.
Fewer people remember great schools.
Sir Ken Robinson — a 30-year veteran of the education industry who has taught in classrooms, worked alongside governments, and researched educational theory worldwide — finds this troubling.
In April, Robinson released a new book called “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education.” It’s a follow-up to his 2006 TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?,” which has since become the the most-viewed talk of all-time.
In “Creative Schools,” Robinson outlines eight core competencies that all great schools bestow to their students.
Parents, here are the eight traits you should keep an eye out for:
The ability to ask questions and explore how the world works.
Kids are naturally curious. Too often, schools drain them of this curiosity with ineffective education.
“Knowing how to nurture and guide students’ curiosity is the gift of all great teachers,” Robinson writes. “They do that by encouraging students to investigate and inquire for themselves, by posing questions rather than only giving answers, and by challenging them to push their thinking deeper by looking further.”
The ability to generate new ideas and to apply them in practice.
Original thinking is critical not just for personal fulfillment, Robinson says, but for “all cultural progress.” It’s our creativity that has produced humanity’s greatest artistic and architectural works. But it’s also our creativity that has dreamed up dirty, gas-guzzling cars.
“As the challenges that face students become more complex,” Robinson writes, “it’s essential that schools help them all to develop their unique capacities for creative thought and action.”
The ability to analyse information and ideas to form reasoned arguments and judgments.
We’re living in the Information Age. That means there’s more of a need than ever for young generations to stay sceptical — “to separate fact from opinion, sense from nonsense, and honesty from deception,” Robinson explains.
In his view, every discipline taught in school should be infused with an appreciation for criticism. Kids should learn that not everything they’re told is true, but to still respect reasons when they’re valid.
The ability to express thoughts and feelings clearly and confidently in a range of media and forms.
Living in the modern era, kids can’t escape being hyperconnected to others. All throughout their lives they will need fluency with reading, writing, and numbers.
“We also think in sounds and images, in movements and gesture,” Robinson says, “which gives rise to our capacities for music, visual arts, dance, and theatre in all their variations.”
Together, these tools help kids get their ideas out into the world, so that they stand a fair shot at reaching their full potential.
The ability to work constructively with others.
“They can learn to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to support agreed solutions,” Robinson writes.
In doing so, kids strengthen their sense of teamwork and realise where they lack certain skills, which they can later hone.
The ability to empathise with others and act accordingly.
Robinson says that compassion is empathy in practice. It’s the habit of thinking about other people’s motivations and goals in guiding their behaviour.
Kids who cultivate compassion learn not to bully or act impulsively. Over time, they can put that restraint to use in higher education and in wider society.
Robinson says that “in schools, as elsewhere, compassion has to be practiced, not preached.”
The ability to connect with the inner life of feeling and develop a sense of personal harmony and balance.
Schools enjoy the unique power to shape how students feel about both the outside world and their own lives. Too often, the emphasis on standardised testing squashes kids’ inner peace — replacing it with anxiety and stress.
Schools can be forces of good, Robinson says. Institutions that practice meditation and promote mindfulness are just two examples he provides.
The ability to engage constructively with society and to participate in the processes that sustain it.
Ultimately, schools must prepare kids for the real world. That means giving them the skills to be an active participant in a democracy, attuned to the needs of others.
Citizenship, Robinson says, “is about championing the need for equal rights, the value of dissent, and the need to balance personal freedoms with the rights of others to live in peace.”
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