EDUCATION FOR CREATIVITY
When Dr Paul Browning and his colleagues analysed how the world would look in 2028, one theme stood out among many. “The goal is to prepare our students with an education worth having, and we identified that artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the nature of employment,” says Dr Browning, Headmaster of St Paul’s School, a co-educational Anglican institution in the Bald Hills suburb of Brisbane. “But AI cannot replicate human creativity. The jobs of the future will still require skills that robots cannot copy.”
The school’s research was based on interviews with the likes of economists and futurists, and the message was clear. They concluded that a highly creative imagination and the skill to think quickly will be the keys to success in the future jobs market. In response, the school developed its Realms of Thinking programme, in which staff foster the pupils’ grasp of the basics while also growing their capacity to be innovative and to solve complex problems – to think like entrepreneurs, and even create their own business opportunities. “We believe you can achieve great exam results at the same time as nurturing a child’s creativity, and do this in an ethical way,” says Dr Browning.
Creativity was already part of the curriculum at this progressive school with 1,300 students from pre-preparatory to Year 12. Several years ago, a group of teachers were appointed Heads of Learning, to act as mentors and identify how creativity could be embedded into the curriculum.
As a result, pupils from the age of five have the opportunity to discuss concepts such as “change” and “sustainability” and to apply their creative thinking to solving difficult problems and learning how to work together to achieve their aims. “Fostering creativity means the school has to trust the students and effectively loosen control,” says Dr Browning, “empowering students to identify problems and apply ways of thinking that create innovative solutions. When control is loosened and students are empowered, real learning occurs. It is mind-blowing when this is done successfully.”
Recently, St Paul’s set up the Centre for Innovators and Entrepreneurs, enabling students to create their own businesses. Among the first of its kind in Australia, the centre supports start-ups from myriad sectors and has financial and corporate mentoring support from leading businesspeople. It has led to students developing original products, including a device that rolls up the excess tubing in medical intravenous lines. The students’ next step is to market this design with the support of investors. According to Dr Browning, this entrepreneurial approach offers pupils a “third pathway” of learning, alongside the traditional tertiary and vocational pathways.
SPREADING THE WORD
From next year, the aim is for other schools to replicate the Realms of Thinking approach in their own classrooms, through a certification scheme. Dr Browning and his colleagues intend to share their knowledge with schools across the world. The work of St Paul’s has already been recognised by the magazine The Educator, which ranked it among the top 40 most innovative schools nationwide.
Students at St Paul’s are curious about “why” rather than settling for “what” and are encouraged to think for themselves. “That’s the ultimate goal of an education worth having,” says Dr Browning. “Not every child is an entrepreneur. But every child can learn how to think like one, and creatively approach difficult problems. As an Anglican school, our belief is that every single person is creative.”