Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Every country on earth, at the moment, is reforming public education. There are two reasons for it. The first of them is economic. People are trying to work out how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of 21st century, How do we do that? Given that we can't anticipate what the economy would look like at the end of next week, as the recent turmoil is demonstrating. How do we do that? The second one though is cultural. Every country on earth is trying to figure out how do we educate our children so that they have a sense of cultural identity so that we can pass on the cultural genes of our communities while being a part of the process of globalisation. How do we square that circle? The problem is they are trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past. On the way they are alienating millions of kids who don't see any purpose in going to school. When we went to school, we were kept there with a story which was if you worked hard and did well and got a college degree, you would have a job. Our kids don't believe that. And they are right not to, by the way. You are better having a degree than not. But it's not a guarantee anymore. And particularly not if the route to it marginalises most things you think are important about yourself. Some people say we have to raise standards as if this is a breakthrough. Like really? Yes, we should. Why would you lower them? I haven't come across an argument that persuades me alluringly. But raise them? Of course, we should raise them. The problem is that the current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age. It was conceived in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment. And in the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution. Before the middle of the 19th century, there were no systems of public education. Not really. You could get educated by the Jesuits if you had the money. But public education paid for from taxation, compulsory to everybody, and free at the point of delivery. That was a revolutionary idea. And many people objected to it. They said It's not possible for many street kids, working class children to benefit from public education. They are incapable of learning to read and write Why are we spending time on this? So they are all sort of built into it. A whole series of assumptions about social structure and capacity It was driven by the economic imperative of the time. But running right through it, was an intellectual model of the mind. which was essentially the Enlightenment view of intelligence. That real intelligence consists in capacity of certain type of deductive reasoning, and the knowledge of the classics originally what we come to think of as academic ability. And this is deep in the gene pool of public education There are two types of people. Academic and non-academic. Smart people and non-smart people. And the consequence of that is that many brilliant people think they are not. Because they are being judged against this particular view of the mind. So we have twin pillars Economic and intellectual And my view is that this model has caused chaos in many people's lives It's been great for some. There have been people who have benefitted wonderfully from it. But most people have not. Intead they suffered this. This is the modern epidemic. And it's as misplaced and it's as fictitious. This is the plague of ADHD. Now this is a map of instances of ADHD in America. Or the prescription for ADHD. Don't mistake me. I don't mean to say that there is no such thing as Attention Deficit Disorder. I am not qualified to say that there is such a thing. I know that a great majority of psychologists and pediatricians think that there is such a thing. But it's still a matter of debate. What I do know for a fact is that it's not an epidemic. These kids are being medicated as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out. And on the same whimsical basis and for the same reason, medical fashion. Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the Earth. They are being beseiged with information and calls for their attention from every platform. computers, from iPhones, from advertising hoardings, from hundreds of television channels. And we are penalising them now, for getting distracted. From what? Boring stuff. At school, for the most part. It seems to me that it's not a coincidence totally. that the incidence of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of standardised testing. Now these kids are being given Ritilin and Adderall and all manner of things, often quite dangerous drugs. to get them focussed and calm them down. But according to this, Attention Deficit Disorder increases as you travel east across the country. People start losing interest in Oklahoma, they can hardly think straight in Arkansas, and by the time they get to Washington they've lost it completely. And there are separate reasons for that, I believe. It's a fictitious epidemic. If you think of it, the arts, and I don't say this exclusively of the arts. I think it's also true of science. and of maths. But let me I say about the arts particularly because they are victims of this mentality currently. Particularly. The arts, especially address the idea of aesthetic experience. An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak. When you are present in the current moment, When you are resonating with the excitement of this thing that you are experiencing. When you are fully alive. An anaesthetic is when you shut your senses off. And deaden yourself to what's happening. And a lot of these drugs are that. We are getting our children through education by anaesthetising them. And I think we should be doing the exact opposite. We shouldn't be putting them to sleep. We should be waking them up. to what they have inside of themselves. But the model we have is this. I believe we have a system of education that is modeled on the interests of Industrialism and in the image of it. I will give you a couple of examples. Schools are still pretty much organized on factory lines. So ringing bells, separate facilities, specialised inter-separate subjects. We still educate children by batches. We put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are. It's like the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture. Well I know kids who are much better than other kids at the same age and different disciplines. Or different times of the day. Or better in smaller groups than in large groups. Or sometimes they want to be on their own. If you are interested in the model of learning, you don't start from this production line mentality. It's essentially about conformity and increasingly it's about that. as you look at the growth of standardised testing and standardised curricula, and it's about standardisation. I believe we got to go in the exact opposite direction. That's what I mean by changing the paradigm. There is a great study done recently, of divergent thinking, published couple of years ago, Divergent thinking isn't the same thing as creativity. I define creativity as the process of having original ideas, that have value. Divergent thinking isn't a synonym. But it's an essential capacity for creativity. It's the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question. Lots of possible ways of interpreting a question. To think what Edward de Bono would call "laterally", to think not just in linear or convergent ways. To see multiple answers not one. I mean, there are tests for this. One kind of cod example would be People might be asked to say, How many uses can you think of for a paper clip? Routine questions. Most people might come up with 10 or 15. People who are good at this might come up with 200. And they do that by saying well, could the paper clip be 200 ft tall and made out of foam rubber? Does it have to be paper clip as we know it, Jim? Now there are tests for this. They gave them to 1,500 people in a book called Break Point & Beyond, and on the protocol of the test, if you scored above a certain level, you would be considered genius at divergent thinking. OK? So my question to you is, what percentage of the people tested of the 1500 scored genius level for divergent thinking? And you need to know one more thing about them. These were kindergarden children. So what do you think? What percentage genius level? 80%? Thank you. 80%. OK. 98%. Now the thing about this was that it was a longitudinal study. So they retested the same children 5 years later. Age of 8 to 10. What do you think? 50%? They retested them again 5 years later. Ages 13 to 15. You can see a trend here, can't you? Now, this tells an interesting story. Because you could've imagined it going the other way, couldn't you? You start off not being very good, but you get better as you get older.