M. Mahruf C. Shohel & Dev Raj Acharya

Education is a lifelong process and vital to ensuring a better quality of life for all children and a better world for all people. Therefore, education has long been understood as contributing the development of human potential as well as economic growth (Dewey, 1899). Although primary education has been accepted as a human right by the UN Convention (Article 28) for almost half a century and it is well known that quality primary education is vital for the development of any nation, it is still far from being universally available in most developing countries (Colclough and Lewin, 1993). Education provides a better health to increased wealth for millions of children, youth and adults specially who are disadvantaged. It is evident that many countries have scaled up their socioeconomic development ladder with the firm investments in education (UNESCO, 2009).

Creativity and Education

Creativity plays an important role to explore students’ intelligence and helps them to develop their talents. Fostering creativity to the young children means to be able to explore ideas and the procedures, by which these ideas are understood, employed, evaluated and developed (Shaheen, 2010). It is a complex concept which can influence children’s performance in many ways. Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking process has shed more light on the development of creativity among the children (Thompson, 2008). It examines the cognitive domain and categorizes six levels of thinking which is arranged from Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) as shown below.

1-blooms-taxonomy

Critical thinking means logical and rational thinking which includes various skills e.g. compare and contrast, sequencing, organizing, cause and effect, networking, planning, predicting, and evaluating. It can create something new or original. Higher Order thinking Skills (HOTS) is concentrated at the top three levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: analysis, evaluation, and creation. Creativity is not governed by rules, and there could be occasions when things happen in a different order, or as a result of moments of motivation. However, it can provide empowerment, flexibility, self-discipline and increased involvement in the community (Anderson, 1994). This means, being creative can have an impact on self-confidence, well being and a sense of control. This can impact positively on culture, economy, environment, relationships, communities, and health.

Creativity provides us eight competencies that schools should facilitate, all of which begin with the letter C: curiosity, creativity, criticism, communication, collaboration, compassion, composure, citizenship. It is therefore a product of good organisation, excellent motivation, some real knowledge or craft and critical higher level thinking skills. Every school should aim for its students to be creative in every subject (Emerson, undated).

Bangladeshi Context

Since 1960’s, non-formal education has comprised a wide spectrum of educational and training activities organised outside the formal education system. Later in early 1980’s, voluntary organisations (third sector) in Bangladesh developed supplementary and some cases complementary non-formal primary schools (Shohel, 2005). Innovative and creative learning methods of these schools are designed to foster the development of practical skills, including matter of literacy, health, sanitation’s to be applied in real life situations (Shohel, 2004). These schools created the opportunity of the second-chance of education for the disadvantaged children who have not enrolled at formal schools or who have dropped out from the formal schools. One of the main objectives of non-formal primary schools is to prepare children to enter or re-enter into the main stream formal education system by providing basic education.

Bangladeshi formal education system inherited from British colonial role which does not fit with the need of an independent nation in the context of globalization and technological revolution. Creative schools are based on innovation in education to promote new ways of working, with innovative and tailored programs of creative learning designed to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Their aim is to inspire, motivate and develop learners’ skills across the curriculum. They also support young people to challenge themselves in new ways, to gain in confidence and to take on a more active and creative role in learning.

In the context of Bangladesh, the government has been successful in increasing enrollment dramatically by creating and providing free and universal access to primary education. The management and supervision, community participation, pupils’ attendance, teacher quality and classroom culture are very weak in the formal education system in Bangladesh (Shohel, 2012). It is obvious that problem remains the same as many children drop out before completing their primary school cycle. There are many reasons behind this and the situation is very complex in terms of social, economic and cultural issues linked to the extreme childhood poverty. The other reasons include difficulties of getting to the schools in some areas and the opportunity cost of schooling to the families (Shohel, 2010). The costs associated with lunch, uniform, exam fees, learning materials and private tutoring have also huge impact on promoting creativity among school children in Bangladesh.

There are many national and international NGOs working in education sector and run different types of innovative schools for disadvantaged children in Bangladesh. One of the innovations in schooling is using boat as place of learning which is called ‘floating school’. This idea was developed and implemented by Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a Bangladeshi NGO (see http://www.shidhulai.org). However, it is an innovative way of promoting creative education in Bangladesh (The New York Times, 2013). Each floating school enrolls and teaches 90 students age between six and nine years, and almost two-thirds of the children are girls. These floating schools work in the remote river basin where access to education is hard, particularly during the monsoon season. Because of have rain fall from late June to October one third of the country goes underwater. As a result during this period access to basic services very difficult including access to schools. This is one of the main reasons for children dropping out from school in rural Bangladesh. For providing better access to education, this kind of innovative inventions such as this floating school better option for many of these children without which they would find access to education and learning quite impossible.

Students of class one on the boat school, pose for a photograph, after the end of their classes. The floating boat school moves from one area to another and goes to the children for giving education as the children don't go to the traditional school because of lack of communication during flooding, Billdohor, Natore.Billdohor, Natore.
Students of class one on the boat school, pose for a photograph, after the end of their classes. The floating boat school moves from one area to another and goes to the children for giving education as the children don’t go to the traditional school because of lack of communication during flooding, Billdohor, Natore.Billdohor, Natore.

Critical thinking means logical and rational thinking which includes various skills e.g. compare and contrast, sequencing, organizing, cause and effect, networking, planning, predicting, and evaluating. It can create something new or original. Higher Order thinking Skills (HOTS) is concentrated at the top three levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: analysis, evaluation, and creation. Creativity is not governed by rules, and there could be occasions when things happen in a different order, or as a result of moments of motivation. However, it can provide empowerment, flexibility, self-discipline and increased involvement in the community (Anderson, 1994). This means, being creative can have an impact on self-confidence, well being and a sense of control. This can impact positively on culture, economy, environment, relationships, communities, and health.

Creativity provides us eigh competencies that schools should facilitate, all of which begin with the letter C: curiosity, creativity, criticism, communication, collaboration, compassion, composure, citizenship. It is therefore a product of good organisation, excellent motivation, some real knowledge or craft and critical higher level thinking skills. Every school should aim for its students to be creative in every subject (Emerson, undated).

Bangladeshi Context

Since 1960s, non-formal education has comprised a wide spectrum of educational and training activities organised outside the formal education system. Later in early 1980’s, voluntary organisations (third sector) in Bangladesh developed supplementary and some cases complementary non-formal primary schools (Shohel, 2005). Innovative and creative learning methods of these schools are designed to foster the development of practical skills, including matter of literacy, health, sanitation to be applied in real life situations (Shohel, 2004). These schools created the opportunity of the second-chance of education for the disadvantaged children who have not enrolled at formal schools or who have dropped out from the formal schools. One of the main objectives of non-formal primary schools is to prepare children to enter or re-enter into the main stream formal education system by providing basic education.

Bangladeshi formal education system inherited from British colonial role which does not fit with the need of an independent nation in the context of globalization and technological revolution. Creative schools are based on innovation in education to promote new ways of working, with innovative and tailored programs of creative learning designed to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Their aim is to inspire, motivate and develop learners’ skills across the curriculum. They also support young people to challenge themselves in new ways, to gain in confidence and to take on a more active and creative role in learning.

In the context of Bangladesh, the government has been successful in increasing enrollment dramatically by creating and providing free and universal access to primary education. The management and supervision, community participation, pupils’ attendance, teacher quality and classroom culture are very weak in the formal education system in Bangladesh (Shohel, 2012). It is obvious that problem remains the same as many children drop out before completing their primary school cycle. There are many reasons behind this and the situation is very complex in terms of social, economic and cultural issues linked to the extreme childhood poverty. The other reasons include difficulties of getting to the schools in some areas and the opportunity cost of schooling to the families (Shohel, 2010). The costs associated with lunch, uniform, exam fees, learning materials and private tutoring have also huge impact on promoting creativity among school children in Bangladesh.

Three girls smile while standing in front of the open deck holding their books at the boat school, Shanto Nagar, Singara, Natore. 03 November 2012. Photo: Abir Abdullah/SSS
Three girls smile while standing in front of the open deck holding their books at the boat school, Shanto Nagar, Singara, Natore. 03 November 2012. Photo: Abir Abdullah/SSS

There are many national and international NGOs working in education sector and run different types of innovative schools for disadvantaged children in Bangladesh. One of the innovations in schooling is using boat as place of learning which is called ‘floating school’. This idea was developed and implemented by Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a Bangladeshi NGO (see http://www.shidhulai.org). However, it is an innovative way of promoting creative education in Bangladesh (The New York Times, 2013). Each floating school enrolls and teaches 90 students age between six and nine years, and almost two-thirds of the children are girls. These floating schools work in the remote river basin where access to education is hard, particularly during the monsoon season. Because of have rain fall from late June to October one third of the country goes underwater. As a result during this period access to basic services very difficult including access to schools. This is one of the main reasons for children dropping out from school in rural Bangladesh. For providing better access to education, this kind of innovative inventions such as this floating school better option for many of these children without which they would find access to education and learning quite impossible.

In a further creative and innovative step, the boat is solar powered which allows the school to have its own power supply for internet linked computers, and making learning more interactive by using technology. The common assumption is that technology makes learning easier for children even from disadvantaged backgrounds and provides enjoyable learning experience. Being solar powered also enables the boat to have solar lanterns to have light when it is dark and children also can do their homework even in the evening.

The latest EFA global monitoring report (UNESCO, 2014) confirms that innovation and creativity in the use of technology can improve learning by enriching teachers’ curriculum delivery and encouraging flexibility in students’ learning. This depends on teachers having the right training to be able to use creativity in technology effectively in their work. Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha provides refresher training every month for its teachers to ensure quality of teaching and learning.  There is also a mechanism to involve parents in their children schooling. The teachers on the boat have to share the feedback they receive from the parents with their trainers on a regular basis.

4-classroom-inside-a-floating-school_bangladesh

Classroom inside a floating school @ Manos Antoninis

 

Along with technological innovations and creative pedagogic, these floating schools are making a significant difference in the recourse-constrained remote areas of Bangladesh to provide basic education for disadvantaged children. Many other NGOs are running different innovative schools to provide non-formal primary education in the areas where they operate.  These types of creative schools are getting attentions and the Government has established the Bureau of Non-formal Education (BNFE) (see http://www.bnfe.gov.bd) for ensuring the commitment of Education for All (EFA) and monitoring NGOs education programs.

Nepalese Context

Nepal has made significant progress in expanding the access to education, which formally began in 1853 (Thapa, 2011). A recent report on educational policy describes that Nepal has a total of 7,665,000 pupils enrolled in primary and secondary education, and of them about 4,577,000 (60%) are enrolled in primary education (EPDC, 2014). However, the report clearly highlights that 20% of Nepalese children of official primary school ages are still out of school as shown below.

 The figure clearly shows the proportion of children out of school by different characteristics; for example 19% of boys of primary school age are out of school compared to 21% of girls of the same age. Nepalese Government has recognized education as both basic human right and a development tool (MoES, 2007) which indicates the importance of basic education to all Nepalese children.

Children and young people have the highest quality of learning experiences. They should be supported with a clear focus on expected outcomes to explore their intelligence. However, the question is whether the teaching learning practice in Nepal is innovative and effective in exploring and improving children’s educational outcome. A study conducted among primary school children in Western Nepal found that 44% children could not read a single word of grade three textbook, only 38% of them read at a rate of 40 words per minute (EQUIP2, 2008). The report further elaborated that the majority of non-native Nepali speaker children were unable to read the text compared to only 36% of native Nepali speakers. In addition, the classroom observation of grade 1, 2, and 3 revealed that, on average, 40% of students were off task and not engaged in teaching learning during a lesson. This finding shows that there is a clear link between the teaching learning practices in our schools and children’s educational outcome in relation to the creativity and development.

Some studies have clearly highlighted that the low income in the family is a strong predictor of low educational performance among children (Hichs, 2007 and Coley, 2013). These children complete less schooling and earn less than others, and are more likely to have poorer health. The economic development of Nepal has lagged behind that many of other South Asian countries. A recent report shows that in terms of per capita GDP, Nepal is now where Sri Lanka was in 1960, Pakistan was in 1970, and India and Bhutan were in 1980 (ILO, 2009). This tedious economic outcome has occurred despite some very significant improvements during the 1990s and 2000s. A recent Nepalese study (Thapa, 2013) conducted to explore the extent and causes of educational deprivation identified that there is a negative relationship between literacy rate and household’s income (poverty). This means as the literacy rate increases the income poverty decreases. This finding shows the importance of education to improve socio-economic condition of many people in Nepal. The education empowers people by attacking on their ignorance and creates a positive attitude which makes them more productive in relation to their earning capacity.

In Nepal, teaching is largely influenced by examination-driven process and students are not encouraged to use their own knowledge and skills to answer the problem. They are even not encouraged to access and use their own knowledge to create and develop new ideas around them. Apart from this, there are many disadvantaged children who have not received any kind of educational support either from government or community. In many cases, disadvantaged children are provided with the basic education by the NGOs outside the main stream education. These children could have come from various background e.g. street children, sex workers’ children, trafficked children, orphan children and lost children.

An educational report looking at the disadvantaged children missing out on education has clearly mentioned that many of the Nepalese children from marginalised ethnic families are drifting out of education (IRIN, 2010). Another recent report has also highlighted that there are around 5000 street children all over Nepal of which approximately 1200-1500 lives in Kathmandu (CWIN, 2016). Many of them are living, sleeping and working under the open sky and working as transport helpers (Khalasis), beggars, rag pickers, newspaper sellers, dish washers in restaurants and construction labourers. They are vulnerable to many forms of exploitation and abuses such as alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

5-schoolgirls-crossing-river_nepal
Schoolgirls crossing Trishuli River via Rope Bridge

@ The Telegraph

Nepal is a mountainous country and it is popular for adventure holiday for many tourists. However, for some children going to school is a dangerous work as they have to use the cable to pull over the rivers to reach to the schools (The Telegraph, 2016). On the other hand, the April 2015 Nepal earthquake destroyed more than 30,000 classrooms and many schools of which majority are still closed (Action Aid, 2015). In such a case, going back to school isn’t as straightforward for many children when people are trying to get out of this crisis.

A study looking at the critical development constraints in Nepal have stressed that the government should ensure the growth process to generate sufficient productive employment opportunities for every segment of society (ILO, 2009). The study further highlighted that it is important to develop short, medium and long term plan to help all kind of people to access basic education. Expanding such access especially among excluded groups and in the remote areas, and increasing the proportion of female and other so-called untouchable people (Dalit) are extremely important in the development of children’s education.

The present world is changing rapidly in terms of social and economic growth. The Nepalese school children should be prepared for a balanced future life and work in such a changing uncertain economic and social environment. They require excellent teaching support and higher order skills toolkit which is well developed, and they should be able to think creatively and innovatively. The Education Scotland (2013) report has clearly highlighted the four main creativity skills necessary for excellence in teaching learning. These are: curiosity; open mindedness; imagination; and problem solving. A curious student makes the use of previous knowledge and research to the issue/agenda to deal with. This helps students to formulate the research question. In the second skill the students use lateral and divergent thinking and are able to hypothesize the issue. They explore multiple viewpoints and are flexible well with the future uncertainty. The third skill is being able to harness imagination by which the students explore, synthesize and refine multiple options. They continue to generate new ideas and make new invention. The fourth skill is the ability to identify and solve problems, crafting solutions, demonstrating discipline and being persistence. The students also become able to evaluate the impact and success of solutions and make further plan for improvements.

6-earthquake_nepal

Nepal Earthquake and Shattered School Building @ Action Aid

 

There are very few studies conducted to look at the creativity aspects of education in Nepal. A recent news article published in Republica journal (My Republica, 2013) has discussed teacher’s viewpoint in terms of creativity in Nepalese school. It states that the children are still being taught with the same teaching technique which was used 75 years ago and as a result the education has lost its effectiveness today.

The teachers further argued that the education system has to be thoroughly revised if it aims to produce the much-needed skilled manpower for the country. Some other teachers stressed that the classroom structure and the teaching techniques embraced by Nepalese education system are flawed; hence education in the country has not been able to improve. They further added that it is very important for the teachers to know their students closely and they should adopt interactive teaching techniques in the classroom so that the Nepalese education system could foster the creativity among the pupils.

Nonetheless, there are some non-governmental organisations taking initiatives to improve children’s educational outcome in Nepal. To name some of them are Centre for Education Innovations (CEI), Nepal Teacher Training Innovations (NTTI) and Open Learning Exchange Nepal (OLE). They are currently working to promote participatory and innovative teaching techniques (digital) that could improve the learning outcomes of children (especially disadvantaged) and help foster the creativity. As part of their strategy for sustainability, they work alongside existing government structures and create local capacity. So, they organise relevant trainings and workshops to the school teachers that could help them to be more comfortable and confident with the new teaching techniques.

 Conclusion

Access to education and learning is most important stepping stone for children with disadvantaged backgrounds for a better future. After the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline by 2015, still many children are outside main stream education systems across the globe. In the South Asian context access to basic education for all children is a major concern. However, alongside with the Governments’ initiatives, non-government organisations are making a difference by providing creative education through different innovative ways. These case studies mentioned above are just examples of how creative innovation in education could change life of many disadvantaged children who otherwise would not have chance to go to schools for learning.

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In Search of Creativity: A compilation of international studies Copyright © 2016 by M. Mahruf C. Shohel & Dev Raj Acharya. All Rights Reserved.

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