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Innovation and Creativity – crucial elements for the future of education and training

Photo: M. Tancic

The conference entitled 'Promoting Innovation and Creativity – Schools' Response to the Challenges of Future Societies' concluded today at Brdo pri Kranju. It was attended by over 150 experts from Europe and Slovenia who are engaged in the field of education, research, the economy and planning of research and education policies. The central topic under discussion was the increasingly important role of innovation and creativity in education as a response to the key challenges of current social processes in Europe, such as globalisation, demographic trends and migration, ever-increasing cultural diversity, fundamental questions of energy consumption and production as well as associated climate change issues. At the conference, the Minister of Education and Sport of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Milan Zver, pointed out: "Europe's only logical response to these challenges is to develop into the most creative area in the world and to be capable of raising and educating individuals and developing and encouraging the talents of each one. Education plays the key role in this process."

In the 'triangle of knowledge', schools and universities are crucial for the development of creativity and innovation, which are in turn the driving force that gives added value to products and services and thus increases their competitiveness on the global market. Nevertheless, the most important question remains open. How should knowledge, creativity and innovation be applied in order to provide a quality future for future generations?

The participants at the conference also discussed the key levers within education that could substantially improve its quality throughout. "And this is what really counts," said conference chairman Mirko Zorman, adding, "Only quality of education which incorporates creativity and innovation as two important dimensions can contribute to a successful search for responses to the challenges we all have to face in today's society."

On the final day of the conference, participants attended three different workshops:

  • The first 'Competences and skills for creativity and innovation' was chaired by Dr Michael Young from the Institute of Education at the University of London, the author of many articles and books, including The Curriculum of the Future.  The discussion at the workshop focused on the individual and social dimensions of creativity. In the individual dimension, the stress is on the individual while in the social and/or collective dimension, the stress is on circumstances – innovative curriculum and innovative teaching methods.
  • The second workshop 'Empowerment of schools as a prerequisite for creativity and innovativeness' was chaired by Professor David Hopkins of the Institute of Education, University of London.Previous experience in introducing school system reforms has shown that such reforms are no guarantee of successful learning for all pupils or of excellent schools. Professor Hopkins therefore proposes 'systemic reforms' based on personalised learning, expert teaching, rational (intelligent) accountability, networking and collaboration. These levers may be successfully linked by systemic management in the context of individual schools. System managers can thus empower schools and teachers to develop the best working methods in class enabling each pupil to develop his or her abilities. This does not, of course, entail entirely eliminating the significance of state regulation. Quite the contrary, it is necessary in the initial phase of reforms. It must, however, be balanced against the school's own responsibility for effecting improvements.
  • The third workshop 'Partnership and networking for creativity and innovation' was chaired by Jadran Lenarčič and Janez Justin. The discussion focused primarily on the fact that a suitable climate must be established in both the narrow and the broader environment in order to stimulate innovation and creativity. It takes courage to think differently, to accept risks and also failures. One major finding of the discussion was that pupils do not like imaginary models but want to learn by solving real problems. The key message of the workshop was that minor corrections are not enough; schools need to be altered radically.

At the end of the conference the Minister stressed that all the participants in the session had come to the common conclusion that the creation of human capital, creativity and innovation are key elements in development. "We must be aware that education is by far the most profitable social investment for it may yield new dynamics of knowledge, innovation, employment and build social, economic and value-related foundations for society and for individuals," said the Minister, adding, "Of course, we don't think this conference has saved the world, but we will be happy if, some years hence, we find that successive Presidencies have continued the process started with this conference and have successfully pursued a course in the direction indicated here in Brdo." After the conference, he gave his concluding thought, "However, the first step is always important and we are convinced that stimulating creativity is a step in the right direction."

In the margins of the conference, the Minister met the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Jan Figel', and they together assessed the success and achievements of the first half of the Slovenian Presidency. "Although the Slovenian Presidency has only reached its half-way point, I think a great deal has been achieved in the field of education, youth and sport," said the European Commissioner, "In particular, placing innovation and creativity at the top of the agenda has meant a radical step forward in the field of education and training."

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Date: 11.04.2008