Thursday, 14 November 2013

Should Innovation be a compulsory subject in school?

It’s funny really. Whenever I broach this question with school heads or school education strategists; and especially with on the ground teachers and parent guilds; the retort or initial question they ask is ‘What sort of Innovation?’ And often with a strained look on their face. 

I usually answer such innocent retorts with a provocation: ‘Innovation!’

Again, the torn look usually turns into a sarcastic smile, with another retort: ‘There’s loads of kinds of innovation going on. What kind?’

And I say again ‘Innovation!’

And this is me not trying to be awkward, but frank.

Basically Innovation is a discipline in its own right. Just as Science is. Just as English is. Just as ICT is. Just Mathematics is. But like any of these subject, it has core-disciplines which are structured and can be taught as a subject.

Take Biology at Junior high school level. It is very general describing the foundation principles. Now jump forward to senior high school and then the differentiated subjects emerges: Cellular Function and Structure, DNA/RNA, Homeostasis, Plant/Animal Characteristics, Genes and Successive Generations Heredity models, Ecosystems, Biological Evolution. A good basic content to make up a clear subject.

And so it is with Innovation. It has fundamental principles and it has advanced principles that can be taught at different levels and stages.

It is just that most teachers (and I mean most) don’t have a clue about what I am talking about. Because to most, the term Innovation is either some esoteric subject for men in white coats or a superficial issue that is applied in the likes of graphic or fashion design. But for most, it is not a subject in its own right and therefore cannot be taught.

And so ontology: that is, often people are so oblivious and blind to a subject or issue concerning them, that they are just totally unaware of how important it is! In other words: not only do they not know that they don’t know! It is that they don’t know that they don’t know that they don’t know!! A classic teleological system!

And that is the whole key to the problem of answering the question: ‘Should Innovation be a compulsory subject in schools?’

Get the adult public at-large to understand the foundation principles and its significance in today’s world, and the discipline of Innovation as school subject may just well get on the education and ministerial agenda.

In view of this, The Business Panel on Future EU Innovation Policy, part of the EU Innovation Policy Unit, said in their 2012 document: Reinventing Europe Through Innovation:

Europe is running the danger of becoming more risk-averse at exactly the moment when [the EU] needs to be more innovative, more experimental, more daring. Reinventing Europe means moving from a knowledge society to an innovation society....
....Current European innovation policy fails to change people’s mentality. NOT innovating is dangerous. This could include making the teaching of innovation compulsory…. Whether people dare to participate in innovation or not has a lot to do with culture and the way the social environment reacts. Will innovative behaviour be ridiculed or admired....’

So ‘Should Innovation be a compulsory subject in schools?’

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