Sir Ken Robinson says we need a new Paradigm

Stop  factory-style standardisation, encourage divergent thinking


 Sir Ken Robinson says that education reforms throughout the world are problematic as the systems of education are largely the product of the enlightenment,  and therefore  the needs of a classical academic education . Two reasons countries want to reform education are – to meet the economic challenges of the 21st Century.  And secondly   cultural, that is retaining a sense of distinctive cultural identity at a time of rapid change and   globalisation.  But in the process we are alienating and boring  our  children, because  reforms are informed by the past rather, than looking to the future. They are conceived, in fact, for the requirements of a very different age.   So the result is that education systems are organised still like a factory system. They are modelled in the interests of industrialism and cast in the image of industrialism, motivated by a production line mentality and standardisation, with standardised tests, curriculum etc.  The most important data  in this system is a child’s  date of birth,  so their date of manufacture. Put children through in age groups, in batches, by date of manufacture and standardise everything. Yet children learn at different paces and  in different ways. But we educate them  regardless, in  these  batches. Divergent thinking in children  is essential. But we just don’t support it in schools. Education doesn’t support divergent thinking, it prefers conformity.    Divergent thinking is the capacity to think laterally, to find multiple answers to questions .Teachers encourage the idea that there is just one right answer. Creativity is the capacity to think original ideas that have value and that comes as a product of divergent thinking. He claims, perhaps most controversially, that ADHT is a fictitious epidemic.  Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in history, besieged by stimuli that distract them but we penalise them for being distracted-we want them to conform instead, to keep them bored , so we  anesthetise them rather than release and harness  their energy.  He talks of aesthetic experience where your senses are alive. Instead, children are being medicated as routinely as we used to remove children’s tonsils. ADHT, he points out, has risen in line with standardised testing. We should wake up our children to what is inside them.

His conclusion is that we have to break the mould and completely re-think and reshape  education reform.  To paraphrase ,education systems knock the creativity out of children and he used the example of a paper  clip to illustrate this. A longitudinal study found that the younger children are, the more likely they  are  to come up with creative ideas about possible uses for a  paper clip, so, over time, divergent thinking is  educated out of them by the system that   demands  standardisation and conformity.  We need to go in the opposite direction to standardisation and encourage  instead divergent thinking, not thinking in linear or convergent ways. We have to get over academic, non -academic, vocational versus academic split which are all a myth.  We must recognise too that most great learning, happens in groups, through collaboration, not in an atomised way .And we must change the culture and mindset  in our education institutions.

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in over 150 countries.



  1. The problem with the paperclip experiment is that children can come up with creative uses but they may not be logical or even doable. As children age, they begin to think with more logic and so therefore understand that a paper clip used as a hair clip is not the smartest use because your hair gets stuck in it. If children never developed logical thinking, we would have tons of adults sticking m & m’s up their noses. So really, the creativity quotient is really not a logical argument for what is wrong with education or how to fix it.

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