Often the educational system is criticized for using a methodology based on rigidity and on memorization of contents. Only in a few countries, such as Finland, is this model being questioned, and overcrowded classes and the impossibility of offering an adapted treatment to each child are still normal.

But children’s minds have too much potential to be channelled into the path of an education based on standardized tests and lessons in which teachers talk and students are silent. It does not make any sense that, in the vital stage in which we are more flexible psychologically, we should try to limit ourselves when it comes to developing those competencies through which we want to guide our vocation.

The Infant Brain

If we take a look at the brains of children of school starting age, we see that their number of neurons is not less than that of an adult brain . How can it be, then, that they master so little certain psychological skills that they become normal after coming of age? The answer to this has to do with the same phenomenon that makes children so quick to learn certain abilities: neuroplasticity.

This characteristic is the way in which the human brain (and its entire nervous system in general) adapts to the experiences that one goes through . During the first two decades of life, the evolution of the cognitive capacities we experience is explained by the fact that, during this time, neurons begin to massively interconnect with each other according to what we are experiencing.

If we are not born knowing how to speak, it is not because we lack neurons, but because these still have little relationship with each other. The same happens with many other skills.

In other words, the youngest ones are especially able to develop a potential that runs parallel to the way their nerve cells create a network of connections in the brain . If they do not know how to do many things, it is because they have the opportunity to learn all kinds of skills, instead of building on capacities that they have already mastered from the beginning and that would limit the ways in which they can express their creativity.

School as a place of opportunity

If the school is to be a place where the capacities of the youngest are enhanced, this project cannot do without the concept of creativity . It is not only that it is a beautiful, fashionable value and that we like the way it sounds; it is that children’s learning is fundamentally a creative process. Starting almost from scratch, raising doubts that most adults ignore, creating new mental routes that link very different forms of knowledge, etc.

Classrooms cannot be expected to be a place where academic content is transmitted as if it were data stored on a USB drive. It is necessary to connect with the mental world of the children , those psychological realms that they themselves have built and that do not have to be governed by the logic of adult thought, and make that learning meaningful within that framework of creativity. But that is not what is usually done.

The limitations of the educational model

There are a number of things that make creativity not very much of a consideration in school.

The first of these is that children’s creative thinking is uncomfortable if you only think about building students who get good grades . In many subjects, lateral thinking tends to go off the rails in exams.

To understand them would take a lot of time and effort to understand the mental schemes of each child, and in a society with overcrowded classes this is not possible. It is easier to show that test scores reflect the quality of education and to turn the page, even if those results are the consequence of memorizing content that is not understood and that therefore will be forgotten after a few days.

Those responsible are not the teachers , who do what they can with the resources at their disposal; it is the governments that undervalue education and those on which their power is based.

The second reason is that learning based on creativity is not very profitable if you want to educate to create future workers. Recently it has become very fashionable to demand that schools be places where young people learn about the world of work, but this has perverse consequences that are rarely questioned.

The labour market tends to reject creativity except in some very specific and well-paid positions. Most workers are paid to do very specific tasks and to do so by fitting well into the hierarchy of organizations, without questioning their superiors too much.Defending this idea only leads to limiting the options of the small ones to those that are more profitable.

At what point was it decided that education has value as preparation for the labour market?

Expanding the Potential of the Little Ones

Committing to an education that expands children’s creativity rather than limiting it to fit the adult world is a challenge that can be based not only on will and good will.

Material changes are needed in the functioning of public education, such as requiring uncrowded classrooms and revising the evaluation format.In Finland, they have already started to do so. When will our turn come?