Creativity makes better learners

By Greg Whitby, 10 July 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

On 3 November 2006, Sir Ken Robinson delivered a famous TEDTalk called ‘Do schools kill creativity’. Robinson argued that, as adults, “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.” That talk has had almost 60 million YouTube views!

Education is big in the news at the moment. NAPLAN is set for a makeover, the first selective school in NSW in decades has been announced, the reading wars are back, and there is debate about what the schools of the future should look like. There is also lots of talk about the value of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). These are all important conversations, but so is how the creative and performing arts make students better learners.

There are many reasons why these subjects really matter: they reward creativity; they build confidence; they make students better problem-solvers; they build concentration and resilience; and they teach valuable non-verbal skills. The creative subjects provide pathways to learning, including with literacy and numeracy. And for so many young people music, art, dance and drama are sources of joy.

Dr Anita Collins, who featured recently on the popular ABC series Don’t Stop the Music, says that “musically trained children tend to acquire language quicker, learn how to read earlier and develop comprehension skills earlier.”

In a country obsessed with standardised tests, a prescriptive curriculum and  imagination-free policy from governments, the creative and performing arts have never mattered more.

Good teachers know creativity in general, and the creative subjects in particular, don’t get in the way of teaching English and Maths – they make it easier. Sir Ken Robinson puts it this way: “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

What do you think?

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


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