Does school stifle creativity?


Too much school?

As a teacher and writer I am very interested in the intersection between school and creativity. Surely we all want creative children who can think outside the box? Who are creative and critical thinkers?

But is this what they learn in school at present?

I think the education system actually turns children off learning. One reason this happens is because of the way we model the school day around the working day.

Mini Workplace

School has become a mini-workplace where you clock-in and clock-out, five days a week. But quantity of learning does not equate to quality learning.

Less Formal

Actually less time spent on formal learning and more time off exploring their own interests would be of more benefit. But our culture fears the idea of young people, especially teenagers, having too much time to themselves. The devil makes work for idle hands, we are told. And also having children in school all week suits the workplace. Schools look after children while parents are busy at work.


But by accepting this logic we turn children off learning. As a teacher I know I could achieve just as much learning with my students in a shorter day, or shorter week. If school was four days a week I would build that into how I structured my lessons. If school finished at one o’clock I’d make that work too. There is too much wasted time and repetition in the school day. But the system is afraid to admit this. And the end result of forcing children to stay in school and repeat the same things over and over is that they lose interest in learning.

Forced to learn

No one likes being forced to do anything. The only reason we do things we don’t like is due to some extrinsic motivation: money, necessity, love. But the things we do for intrinsic reasons we devote our entire lives to. Think of passions and hobbies. There’s no need to coerce or punish a person to get them to follow their passions.

A different model

This provides a model for how we should approach education into the future. Beyond the necessary skills that are required to negotiate the modern world, children, I think, should be allowed time to explore learning. We need them to feel excited about things. Excited about life. We can’t force them to learn what we as educators think they should learn. We can guide, introduce and suggest ideas to them but we need to allow space for their interest and passions to ignite within them. This will eventually lead to better learning, more quality rather than quantity.

This however, cannot happen without a rethink of how we structure the school system. We need to give young people a little more time to themselves so that they can explore. This means a shorter school day, and a shorter school week. And less homework too.

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