2010. Vol.1, No.3, 166-169
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ce.2010.13026
Creativity and Education
School of Education, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.
Received July 9th, 2010; revised September 1st, 2010; accepted September 21st, 2010.
This paper starts with a brief background of the link between creativity and education, including the beginning
of the most recent interest in the two. There is a short summary of the reasons for this renewed interest. This is
followed by a discussion into the dissatisfactions over current education and its changing role in the light of in-
creasing importance being accorded to creativity. Lastly, evidence in educational policy documents from around
the world is presented to show the steps being taken for implementation of creativity in education.
Keywords: Creativity, Primary Education, Policy, Curriculum, Developing Countries
The Link between Creativity and Education
Although the interest in creativity goes back to Plato’s age
(Cropley, 2004) and is found in the Greek, Judaic, Christian
and Muslim traditions, (Craft, 2001) renewed policy interest
came about with the launch of satellite, “Sputnik 1”, by the
Soviet Union in 1957. The purported failure of the engineers
from Europe, USA and other Western countries was attributed
to their lack of creativity which led to the National Defense
Education Act (USA) to accept the concept as important for
“prosperity…survival of society” (Esquivel, 1995). Since this
there have been several “waves of creativity in education”
(Wi lson, 2005). The latest interest, however, began in the late
90’s (Je ffrey, 2005) and has since been growing (Tur ner-Bi s s et ,
2007) throughout the world, including countries such as the
USA and UK (S hal l c r oss, 1981; Feldman et al, 2006). Policy-
makers have shown more sustained enthusiasm than previously
(Craft, 2006), which has added to its popularity as a topic of
debate (Dickhut, 2003) moving it from the “fringes of educa-
tion…to being seen as a core aspect of educating” (Craft ,
Fostering creativity in education is intended to address many
concerns. As a summary, this includes dealing with ambiguous
problems, coping with the fast changing world and facing an
uncertain future ( Parkhurst, 1999). Perhaps the most dominant
current argument for policy is the economic one. The role of
creativity in the economy is being seen as crucial (Burnard,
2006) to assist nations for attaining higher employment, eco-
nomic achievement (Davies, 2002) and to cope with increased
competition. It is for this reason that creativity cannot be “ig-
nored or suppressed through schooling” (Pool e, 1980) or its
development be left to “chance and mythology” (NESTA,
2002). It is predominantly for this reason that there is a call for
its inclusion in education as a “fundamental life skill” (Craft,
1999) which needs to be developed to prepare future genera-
tions (Parkhurst, 1999) so that they can “survive as well as
thrive in the twenty-first century” (Parkhurst, 2006). Develop-
ing children’s creativity during their years in education is the
start of building “human capital” upon which, according to
Adam Smith and successive commentators, depends the
“wealth of nations” (Wal berg, 1988).
Changing role of Educ ation
Formal education “represents both a right and need” (Ca rno y,
2004) but it has time and time again been criticized for turning
out “conform i sts ” and “ster eotypes” rather than “freely creative
and original thinkers” (Rogers, 1970). The role of education
institutions has been questioned (Craft , 1999) and blamed for
“spoon feeding” (Parnes, 1970) and “killing” crea t i vity (Kaila,
2005). The increased pressures to gear education towards the
“3 R’s” and meeting the requirements of national curriculum,
inspections and monitoring has led to the feeling, for some, that
cr e ativity in teaching and learning has ceased to exist and this
will prevent governments from achieving a “cre ative society”
(Gr a i nge r , 2004). One of the reasons why education systems
have been regarded as barriers to developing and “releasing
creative potential in the economy” is that the teaching focuses
on “knowledge acquisition” (Da vie s , 2002). Knowledge, as an
outcome of education is said to be no longer sufficient (Scof f-
ham, 2003; Gui lford, 1975). This is because it is difficult to
know what knowledge will be needed in the future (Par ne s ,
If nations are to respond to “economic needs” (Craft, 2005)
they need to produce an “educated workforce.” Inevitably, this
requires a rise in the level of educational achievement (Jeffrey,
2006). But what are being considered as criteria of educational
achievement are said to be changing (Wil son , 2005) and being
“re conceptualized…[to] encompass creativity” (Craft, 2001). In
the light of this, education systems are being required to un-
dergo “a major overhaul in resources, attitude and understand-
ing” so that creativity can be valued (T urne r-Bisset, 2007). As
a response to such calls there has been a shift in educational
policy around the world and efforts are being made to combine
creativity and knowledge (Dickhut, 2003). Creativity is being
made the focus of “curri culum and pedagogy” (Wi lson , 2005)
and an “official agenda” for improving schools (B urnard,
Schools are being seen as places for the encouragement of
creativity because they can do this in a “more efficient” manner
and can develop it “not merely in elites but in masses of stu-
dents” (Wal berg, 1988). In fact it is being said that creativity
needs to be “fostered by the education system(s) from the early
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years onward” (Craft , 1999) and that elementary and secondary
education may be more important than university education for
“national prosperity and welfare” (Wa lbe r g, 1988). Primary
education is being seen as:
...a critical stage in children’s development – it shapes them
for life. As well as giving them the essential tools for learning,
primary education is about children experiencing the joy of
discovery, solving problems, being creative in writing, art,
music, developing their self-confidence as learners and matur-
ing socially and emotionally (DCSF, 2003).
The Inclusion of Creativity Within Edu cat i on
The inclusion of creativity into educational policy documents
is evidence of the fact that the focus on creativity is not merely
a matter of paying “lip service” to the concept (Csikszentmi-
halyi, 1996; Hus s ain, 2004) but rather action is being taken.
O’Donnell and Micklethwaite (O’Donnell, 1999) reviewed the
curriculum documents of 16 (developed) countries, (American,
European and East Asian), identifying the place of arts and
creativity in education. They found that creativity was included
at various educational levels, at least from early years through
primary education for most countries and beyond, up to higher
education, for some.
In Canada “creative thinking” is outlined as one of the
common essential learning(s) (p.8). In Kentucky, USA, one of
the learning goals is to enable students to “use creative thinking
skills to develop or invent novel, constructive ideas or prod-
ucts” (p.57). In Korea the National Curriculum defines an edu-
cated person as “healthy, independent, creative and moral”
(p.33). In Sweden the Government’s National Development
Plan for Pre-School, School and Adult Education (1997) stated
that education should provide “the conditions for developing
creative skills” (p.52). In France schools in lower secondary are
expected to develop in children the “taste for creation.” (p.14).
In Germany, the emphasis of primary education is placed on
developing “children’s creative abilities” (p.20). In Netherlands
one of the principles on which primary education is based is
“creative development” (O’Donnell & Micklethwaite 1999,
p.38). In Florida (USA) one of the goals of restructuring the
schools was to provide students opportunities “to learn and
apply strategies for creative…thinking” (T reffinger, 1996). The
second educational goal for young people in Australia is to:
…become successful learners, confident and creative indi-
viduals, and active and informed citizens (ACARA, 2009).
In Japan the school curriculum has included development of
creativity since the Second World War. The Japanese National
Council on Educational Reform (NCER) has outlined the de-
velopment of creativity as the most important objective of edu-
cation for 21st century (O’Donne ll, 1999). In Singapore the aim
of new initiatives, launched by the Ministry if Education, was
to foster, “enquiring minds, the ability to think critically and
creatively” (O’Donnell , 19990). These initiatives included the
“Thinking Schools, Learning Nation” (TSLN) program (Tan ,
2006) designed to develop thinking skills and creativity in stu-
dents. This was in response to leading industrialists and entre-
preneurs indicating that staff in Singapore was more “con-
for m ing ” than ‘independent” and “not curious enough” (Tan ,
2006). The Singapore Ministry of Education website states that
they expect of their young to “be creative and imaginative”
(MOE, 2009). According to Singapore’s primary curriculum
creativity is amongst the eight core skills and values (INCA,
In China creativity has become an important component of
education since 2001 and its development has become a “prior-
ity” (Vong , 2008). In Hong Kong the education policy proposal
includes creativity as “higher order thinking skills”. There are
educational reforms being carried in preschool, primary and
secondary education in which development of creativity is be-
ing given a “top priority” (Fryer, 2003). In Turkish education
the concept of creativity is being discussed more and more,
however attempts to enhance it through education are limited
(Or al, 2008). In Ireland a strategy paper was developed called
“Unlocking Creativity” for developing creativity and education
(Robinson , 2001). In the Cultural Policy Statement by the Scot-
tish Executive the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport
spelt out his “visi on ” regarding creativity, in that:
Our devolved government should have the courage and the
faith to back human imagination, our innate creativity, as the
most potent force for individual change and social vision. I
believe we should make the development of our creative drive
the next major enterprise for our society...I believe this has the
potential to be a new civic exercise on a par with health, hous-
ing and education – the commitment to providing and valuing
creative expression for all.
The Policy Statement goes on to say tha t :
The creativity of Scots – from the classroom to the board-
room – is the edge we need in a competitive world. Our duty as
an Executive is to create the conditions that allow that creativ-
ity to flourish – whether in arts, sciences, commerce or industry.
Creativity is as valuable in retail, education, health, government
and business as in culture. The cultural sector should become
the national dynamo of the creative impulse that can serve all
these areas (Scottish Executive, 2004).
Scotland is one of four home countries in the UK. In the
1990’s a number of policy documents and statements emerged
for UK home countries which included creativity (Craft , 2001).
In 1997 the White Paper, Excellence in Schools, referred to
preparing people for the 21st century by recognizing their “di f-
ferent talents”. This was built upon by another report by the
National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Educa-
tion (NACCCE, 1999) which spoke of equipping young child-
ren with skills required by employees (Craft, 2005). The
NACCCE report acknowledged the UK government’s views
that creativity “was relevant to schools” (Jeffrey, 2005). This
increased interest in the topic, bringing it back “on the agenda
in a big way” (Brundrett, 2007). These mentioned documents
provided the “foundation” for the recent policy discussions
(Cr aft, 2005) in which the British Government responded to
“debates about creative...education to meet the economic,
technological and social challenges of the 21st century” (Love-
l e ss , 2002).
Another document which called for creativity in primary
education was the National Primary Strategy for primary
schools, Excellence and Enjoyment, (Hayes, 2004). The Office
for Standards in Education (Ofsted) published this report in
2003 and in this they identified creativity as “a significant fac-
tor in educational experience” (Jeffrey, 2005). This document,
it is said, added a “conv i c t ion” that it is time for “a new, more
creative approach to curriculum planning and a greater empha-
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sis on creativity for learning” (NCSL, 2004). There were also
literature reviews on creativity supported by the Qualification
and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and reports on the national
Curriculum as well as a “criteria” for ensuring creativity was
included in every subject (Jeffrey, 2005; Turne r-Bisset , 2007).
A website was established under the name of “Creativity: Find
it! Promote it!” to enable teachers to find and promote creativi-
ty in the classroom (Burnard, 2006).
Creativity has become a focus in the curriculum as evident in
its inclusion in the Foundation Stage Curriculum and National
Curriculum for schools in England (Talboys, 2004; Cra ft,
2003). On the website for the National Curriculum, Key Stage
1 and 2, there is a section on creativity which includes informa-
• What is creativity?
• Wh y is creativity important?
• How you can spot creativity?
• How can teachers promote creativity?
• How can heads and managers promote creativity?
In the National Curriculum itself Aim One is that the school
Enable pupils to think creatively and critically, to solve
problems and to make a difference for the better. It should give
them the opportunity to become creative, innovative, and en-
terprising (QCDA, 2009).
The National Curriculum outlines six “key skills” and
a mong st these is “thinking skills”. Included in this is “creative
thinking” which it is said “enable pupils to generate and extend
ideas, to suggest hypotheses, to apply imagination, and to look
for alternative innovative outcomes” (QCDA, 1999). This is
regarded as one of the skills which are “universal” and “em-
bedded in the subjects of the National Curriculum and are es-
sential to effective learning.” As an example of inclusion of
creativity in the subjects it is stated in the science curriculum
Science stimulates and excites pupils’ curiosity about phe-
nomenon and events around in the world around them. It satis-
fies this curiosity with knowledge. Because science links direct
practical experience with ideas, it can engage learners at many
levels. Scientific method is about developing and evaluating
explanations, through experimental evidence and modeling.
This is a spur to critical and creative thought (QCDA, 1999).
There has also been investment in staff development and
creating teaching resources. The UK government has moved
beyond policy level work to initiate projects to provide and
enhance “creative experiences” (Loveless, 2002) to learners by
establishing projects under the “Creative Partnerships” schemes
(Hayes, 2004). In this the schools are provided with opportuni-
ties to work with organizations such as dance studios and film
makers through partnerships (Jeffrey, 2005). These efforts and
“massive investments” have brought creativity to the forefront
(Fel dma n, 2006).
It appears from what has been documented in the literature
that the recent upsurge in creativity and education has taken
place in European, American, Australian and East Asian coun-
tries, as reflected in their policy documents. This is further
evidenced by the fact that some have stated that creativity has
come to be seen as “key to economic competitiveness in ad-
vanced economies” (highlighted by researcher) (NESTA, 2002)
implying that this is not so the case in less advanced economies.
In referring to Tony Blair, (the former British Prime Minister),
who it is reported “couples creativity in education to the future
needs of the national economy” Gibson says that in this “the
assumption…is that the production of a new, adaptive work
force...is the sole way forward if Western economies, (hi g-
hlighted by researcher), are to remain buoyant in future global
contexts” (Gi bson, 2005). Does this then mean that developing
or non-western countries do not want to economically compete,
do not need a new type of labor force, do not face any of the
problems indicated, all of which, as it has already been argued,
require creativity. In this Oral is of the view that:
For many developing countries, creativity remains neglected,
whereas in developed countries, educational philosophy and
goals rely on student’s enhancement of creativity and self-ac-
tualization…For developing countries, integration of creative
thinking skills in…education is a crucial need for shaping their
future orientations and actualizing reforms in political, eco-
nomic and cultural areas (Oral, 2006).
Sinl arat, speaking of Asian countries, is of the view that the
Asians are “consumers ” of Western products. This has resulted
in loss of “se l f-identity” “sel f -independence” and “prosperity”.
He goes onto say that in order to overcome the dependency
there is a need for Asians to become “creative and productive
persons” and in this “education that yields creativity and prod-
uctivity is essential for Asia”. It is suggested that rather than
taking what UNESCO states should be taught:
Learning how to learn
Learning how to do
Learning how to work together
Learning how to be
The following characteristics must be produced in people:
Learning how to learn critically
Learning how to do creatively
Learning how to work constructively
Learning how to be wise
It is said that:
Educational process primarily needs to set a target on new
thinking and creativity for it to make education have the real
effect on the society...Asia must adapt itself to be free, must
have the advanced and creative way of life and must be able to
give a push in the direction of globalization. These will happen
when Asian education and society develop into truly creative
and productive society and when Asia resists adopting ideas
and copying knowledge from other countries as is the present
case (Sinlarat, 2002).
To say for certain what Asian countries are doing regarding
creativity and education and what they may need to do there is
need for further research. Only by taking this approach will it
be possible to say for sure that creativity is actually a “world-
wide phenomenon” (B oyd, 2009) and the need for it in educa-
tion is being recognized globally to solve the current problems
This paper has outlined the various arguments given in lite-
rature for the need to couple creativity and education. Also
included has been the evidence from policy documents from
various countries to indicate that practical steps are being taken
to make creativity part of the educational agenda.
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