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Peter Cochrane's Blog: Educational priesthood's credo is killing innovation

Children are kept on the straight and narrow and away from creativity...

School classroom

The output from schools tends to be a zombified version of what went in - unthinking, unenthusiastic, lacking in creativity and problem-solving skillsPhoto: Shutterstock

Written in Bangkok and dispatched to silicon.com via a domestic wi-fi hotspot at 3.5Mbps later the same day.

It was obvious to me as a child that the education system was broken. Since that time things have not improved. In fact, they are now universally broken.

As far as I can see, the education experience of young people everywhere is rooted in a previous century when the primary need was for a more capable workforce to power the industrial revolution.

Indeed, the whole education process appears to be industrial and resembles a sausage machine. The uneducated go in at one end and come out at the other fit for purpose - or at least they used to.

The industrial revolution has long gone but education and teaching has not moved on. The output tends to be a zombified version of what went in - unthinking, unenthusiastic, lacking in creativity and problem-solving skills but stuffed full of algorithms for solving education problems in support of education facts and figures.

In short, the education system is seriously broken and unfit for purpose. Industries of the past were about process, about constrained problem-solving in a slow-moving world. But that time is long gone, and today's companies have to deal with fast-moving technology and competition, and that demands creativity and unbounded thinking.

What went wrong? Teaching mutated to a form of priesthood. Children go to school, graduate through college and university, and go back into teaching. They have been taught, or indoctrinated, into the process of education - the one true path, the way of righteousness - in a manner that mirrors the induction into the priesthood of some belief system.

This process of incestuous decline has yet to hit the bottom of the slope but it's getting there fast. In recent weeks I have been working with a young man who is every bit as bright as I was but who has had the benefit of years of Kumon maths coaching.

So at 12 years old, his mental arithmetic skills are honed and as good as mine. But when presented with the problem of...

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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