Education and Creativity

SONY DSCThe debate surrounding the national examinations over the last few months has led us to misjudge the meaning of education. The meaning of education, which has so far been reduced to schooling, has now been further downgraded to academic achievement, more specifically, the performance of students in the national examinations.

It is clearly stated in the 2003 Education Law that the function of national education is to develop Indonesia’s future generation to become well-adjusted, healthy, smart, creative, and independent individuals, in addition to being faithful, democratic and responsible citizens.

The point that I would like to highlight here is creativity, since this is the most important aspect of education and one that has almost been forgotten by many. It is clear that the debate over national examinations for Indonesian schools misinterprets the meaning of an “”educated person””.

Within the current educational system, children, under the guidance or even pressure of teachers, are expected to achieve certain measurable academic standards that will be assessed at the end of the day. This system is certainly rational within the context of accountability and quality control. This, unfortunately, can mislead educational practitioners to limit their goals to only guiding their students to achieve high academic standards without paying attention to other aspects of the students’ lives.

Kieran Egan (1988), a professor of education at the Simon Fraser University in Canada, emphasized the importance of imagination in education, realizing how our current society, especially our education system, pays very little attention to this important aspect of education. According to Egan, every society has its own oral cultures that are built upon imagination. This is what he calls bonnes a penser, which are things that keep society thinking about various issues.

Imagining is an ability to think and illustrate something extraordinary. It is an invaluable gift that leads human beings to invent their civilization. It is also an important means of education that can encourage students to combine their experiences and intellectual capacities to dream within their consciousness. This is what makes imagination different from fantasy. Hence, allowing children to use their imagination through education will help them develop their own creativity.

In a rapidly changing and competitive world, creativity is a very important asset of an educated human being that allows him/her to survive and achieve a better life. Particularly, it is something that Indonesia, in its present situation, needs in order for this country to have a better future.

Our cultural heritage shows that imagination had its place in our past generations. We can easily see how they productively used their imaginations through folktales, folk songs, nursery rhymes, architecture, and literature. Those works reflected how our people creatively responded to various events in their lives based on their own knowledge and experiences.

It is unfortunate, therefore, to see that our current education system pays very little attention to the use of imagination in today’s classrooms. There is very little room for them to use their imaginations and develop their creativity. It seems that the use of imagination is something that is now confined to pre-school education.

This, then, explains why the interest in reading among Indonesian people is low despite the fact that our level of education has increased. It is because students are only expected to read textbooks and are rarely introduced to literary works that could let their imaginations soar.

Therefore, setting aside the controversial issue of the national examinations, the education authorities at the central level should take whatever action is necessary to ensure that our schools do not only teach our children to become academic high-achievers but also creative and imaginative individuals. And this will not take place until our schools’ curricula allow and encourage teachers to creatively and imaginatively manage their classrooms.

The writer is a lecturer in the School of Education at UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta and a PhD student in the School of Education at McGill University, Montreal – Canada. He can be reached at

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