One of the enduring mysteries – and complaints – about the switch from primary to secondary school is why and how the curious minded, sparky, fearless and imaginative learners of Year 6 are so often transformed into passive, anxious students by Years 9 or 10.
So marked is this tendency that British educational guru Sir Ken Robinson famously asked whether schools were actively “killing creativity”. And it is a global phenomenon, seen from Singapore to Sweden, from China to Canada.
In some ways, the mystery is that this should be a mystery – the answer is clear to most secondary school teachers, after all. The sad fact is that the daily experience of students in secondary school is simply more closely managed, more sedentary, more fractured and more overtly pressurised than that of the primary learner.
Almost from the outset, secondary students are encouraged to understand that the work they are doing is set for them by others, is part of an imposing and extensive structure – the dimensions of which they cannot hope to grasp, and, perhaps most importantly, will be examined. There will be successes and failures, and they will be made public. Daily, weekly, yearly – ‘high stakes’, very public.
On reflection, if one was deliberately designing a set of circumstances by which to intimidate and discourage the majority of young learners, it is hard to see how this scenario could be improved upon!
However, contained within the terms of the problem are clues to its solution.
At ICHK we have created a through-train of creativity that addresses the factors above and that serves to ensure that our secondary students do not lose touch with their imaginations and powers of innovation. The antidote to the stifling of creativity is to build real choice, real agency, and genuine occasions to exercise them both, into the timetable and the curriculum.
The creativity through-train at ICHK Secondary picks up on and runs with the energy, spirit of enterprise and choice-making of the PYP, especially as exemplified by the Year 6 exhibition. From Year 7 through to the IB diploma in Years 12 and 13, we have designed a school experience that provides students with the opportunity to take control and command of their own time, decide between scaffolded options what they would like to learn, following guided pathways with scope for individual interest, collaborate with others on joint projects, and see their own creative ideas through from inception to execution. All of this is monitored and supported by experienced teaching staff.
Through a combination of Free Learning, Deep Learning, Enrichment & Flow and a diverse Activities programme, we have crafted a strand of schooling that takes best advantage of all the ingredients at our disposal – dedicated, skilled and thoughtful teachers; well-designed and clearly signposted learning experiences; opportunities for students to self-govern and self-direct, individually or in groups and teams; access to human and material resources not readily available outside of a school setting – and blends them into a recipe for on-going, purposeful, collaborative creativity.