Once again this November we are dedicating an entire issue of Education Canada to educational innovation. In its pages, you will read about some truly exciting and creative new initiatives, and also grapple with how and why successful innovations do (or more often, don’t) become widely adopted, and the fears that hold us back from meaningful change.
But why is innovation and change needed in the first place? After all, Canada does very well on international measures of educational achievement. And there are certainly educators and policymakers who believe we need more standardization and traditional instruction, not “experiments” and “fads.”
There are many cogent and compelling big-picture arguments about why we need to change our game when it comes to educating children and youth. You’ll find many of them in this issue. But for me, a friend’s September Facebook post spoke just as eloquently about the need for innovation in our schools:
“My grandson, Logan’s, first day of school today: Junior Kindergarten. I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up and he told me, ‘A tiger.’ I hope formal education doesn’t beat the creativity out of him.”
No teacher aspires to “beat the creativity” out of children. As educators, we all want to nurture students’ curiosity and love of learning, to open young minds, not shut them down. But not all students blossom at school. For too many children, school is an experience in disempowerment and frustration that actually deters them from learning. Let’s be honest: we’ve all seen it happen.
On an individual level, it’s simply heartbreaking to see a child enter the system wide-eyed and eager to learn, and leave it discouraged, disinterested or having completely given up. On a sociological level, it’s a waste of human potential that we can’t afford. In a world that’s changing as fast as ours is, with challenges threatening our very survival, we need every creative, outside-the-box thinker we can get. We need citizens who know how to keep learning throughout their lives and can confidently create their own learning paths. We need problem-solvers who can cross disciplines and cultures with ease. We need some of the very people our education system is failing.
On p. 24, CEA President Ron Canuel points out that our current educational system has its roots in the Industrial Age, when consistent standards and uniform approaches – not innovation – were the priorities. As we transition into the Information Age, will education struggle to keep up – or lead the way?
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First published in Education Canada, November 2013