Book Review: Creative Schools – Ken Robinson

 Does Schools Kill Creativity?
As one of the most watched TED Talk in 2006, many people might want to dig deeper how Ken Robinson create a school that instill creativity. The ‘Creative Schools’ book has comprehensive elaboration on how Ken Robinson expose deepest problem of our education system and propose solution to transform education.
The Fall of Standard Reform System
By exposing the background, system, and impact of standardized system that have infected our education system all over the world, Robinson showed concrete evidence the fall of  standards movement.

Ideal Purpose of Education
There are several inspiring example of educators, principals, and schools who try to create alternative education to change the ‘testing’ system by providing alternative education that use project based learning approach. With the principle of equality of each subject,  many ‘change-makers’ promoted organic education which keep the balance of health, ecology, fairness, and care.   Robinson claimed the ideal purpose of education are to enable students to become economically responsible & independent (Economic), to appreciate their own culture (Culture), to show compassion and involvement (Social)  and engage with the world (Personal) (Robinson, 2015, p.42-52). The startling comparison between Finland and U.S education system amplified the root of problems in education system come from the wrong focus of education, role of teachers, principals, and policy-makers.

Voracious Appetite to Learn
By referring back to basic concept of his  ‘Element’ book with educational perspective, Robinson explained that  human are ‘natural born learner’ with different intelligence, talent, strength, and interest. Therefore, it is vey important to create education system that enable students finding their ‘element’, pursue their personal interest, adapt the individualized phase of learning, and respect of diverse intelligence. You will be surprised to know how many current schools around the world offering new ways of learning in totally different ways. I myself imagine how one day I could involve in this sort of system and initiate one !

What’s Worth Knowing?
Through a catalogue of  transforming schools, Robinson shows how what’s worth knowing that should be the basis of curriculum design. The 8 competencies that curriculum should facilitate : Curiosity, Creativity, Criticism, Communication, Collaboration, Compassion, Composure, and Citizenship (Robinson, 2015, p. 135-140). Robinson also provided sort of ideal curriculum structure that exhibit how each subject could accommodate these eight competencies (Math, Science, Humanities, Arts, PE, etc). Ensuring a balanced curriculum in our schools with strong focus on improving teaching is the key of education revolutionary (Hunt, 2015). These 8 principle really challenged me to look back in how I designed my lesson so that my students really know what’s worth knowing.

Great Teachers are the Heart of Great Schools. 

This book also encompass the the power of ‘expert’ teacher that should have four main roles: engage, enable, expect, and empower (MUST HAVE list for teachers!) with support of digital technology such as flipped classroom (Robinson, 2015, p. 104-110). Great teachers has three essential purpose for students: inspiration, confidence, and creativity.  This part is my favorite part of the book as it offer reflective story and practical example that enhance my perspective about the meaning of education. Sometimes, I focus too much on expecting students to do something great, yet ignoring my role to engage, enable, and empower them to achieve high standards.

Learning Principals
Principal has significant impacts in shaping school culture that determine school community growth. Robinson mentioned lifelong learning principals  should  maintain community, individuality, and possibility spirit through collaborative and personalization approach to maintain ‘climate of learning’.  As part of Asian culture, the strong community culture has created strong bonds among teachers in many different school. Yet, it often ‘kill’ the individuality of teachers and possibility of innovation.

This book offers inspiring vision and relevant road map for leading radical change in education. With practical example of many creative schools around the world, this book has opened my eyes to start simple transformative action that bring possibility of transformation. Especially in Indonesian context, I realize this book will bring alternative ways to boost our creative students to achieve their optimum potential  that often hindered by the high stake of  standardized test.

Yet, I fully realized the example exhibited mostly comes up from developed country in the world (especially U.S and U.K) and sometimes need to be adapted in different cultures and contexts. This significant transformative ideas might bring potential challenges and difficulties in many different countries with more rigid curriculum and PISA result oriented. With strong defense of the arts lesson, sometimes this book ignore the importance of academic learning which contribute to the heart of schooling in countries. In Indonesian context, I realize the emphasis of math and science testing has made this subject as first class, and the other subject as second and third class to learn. Bringing the balance of this lesson will bring influential impact that change how Indonesian people see diverse and creative profession as promising career future.

verall, I praised how Ken Robinson has successfully elaborate the promising future of education that facilitate well-round and integrated education system.Yet, I believe every person will implement the ideas of the book with so many different ways.  It’s a must read book for all educators and people who want to engage in changing education  ! For more information of Robinson’s book, visit his website here:
“Education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed.”
Ken Robinson



Steven is a life long learner and multi-award educational technology coach with international certifications from Google, Apple, National Geographic, TED Ed, Google Earth Education, EdTech Team, EduTECH Asia, Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative, US Embassy, Tech in Asia, and many international and local institutions.

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