“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.” ― Sir Ken Robinson

“Creativity at the Heart of Education” was the theme of this year’s World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). The summit’s motto was “Imagine, Create, and Learn”. All around, at the cafeteria, in rooms and auditoriums, one could hear conversations about how playful, exploratory, and experiential pedagogy should be in order to help create empowered young adults.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser explained during the opening plenary that “the goal of the WISE Prize is to raise the status of education in the global agenda. Our WISE Prize for Education Laureates stand as examples of what is possible. By celebrating their achievements, we aim to inspire millions more social entrepreneurs, advocates and education innovators who deliver solutions to one child, one village, and one town at a time.” Established by the Qatar Foundation in 2009, WISE is one of the largest global education conferences. More than 1,600 delegates from over 100 countries stayed for three days at the massive Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha. Innovation and creativity in education were in all discussions.
Those two words are not only buzz words but part of a new educational narrative related to the importance of accessible information and networked connections, a new innovation economy and the need for students to be able to solve problems, to be engaged as lifelong learners, and to work together. Harvard academic Dr. Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: The making of young people who will change the world, said at the summit that teaching creativity is not an option but an essential component of education. Indeed, if in the past we have revered people with knowledge but what matters nowadays is not what you know, but what you do with what you know. The educational paradigm for the industrial age is now obsolete as we are living in a post-industrial world. Guy Claxton talked about the importance of the habits of minds and of learning agility. Students need to have expertise and flexibility, he calls it flexpertise.

Policy makers, educators, NGOs and Ed-tech start-ups leaders were all expressing the simple idea that creativity and exploration should be at the centre of the learning process. Experimentation and playful hands on learning are essential and we feel more and more that schools are moving away from the culture of memorization and intensive testing – some may call this “industrial” – to a concept of knowledge as a tool to become creative problem solvers, team players and engaged lifelong learners.
Innovators need to make connections, to adapt, to go beyond what happens at the boundaries of disciplines, and this is exactly the definition of creativity. Innovation demands that students take risks at times and if meeting with failure; it is as a matter of fact an important element of success in the learning process. Education design has, as a consequence, evolved by a great deal in the past few years. And in order to train innovative and creative students, educators need classrooms incorporating three key elements: light, space and technology. All together they offer a modern class space to learn, play and evolve. Classroom furniture must be adaptable to accommodate evolving technology and different teaching styles while keeping the students comfortable. Furniture needs to accommodate areas where students can work collaboratively or alternatively on their own. Versatile spaces are therefore now required to train a versatile individual.
A the end of the Summit, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser awarded the WISE prize to Ann Cotton, founder of Camfed (Campaign for Female Education), an organization that works on eradicating poverty in rural Africa by providing girls and young women with more access to education. Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, chairman of WISE said that “Ann Cotton has dedicated her life to improving the education of girls and the empowerment of young women in sub-Saharan Africa”. Creativity was surely presented as the most important skill of the 21st century, a way to (re)-motivate learners, to personalize learning, and to boost teacher training. These are just a few of the innovative and forward thinking themes that were discussed at the WISE but will certainly challenge the way we think about education in the future.