From Date - Oct 28, 2020

Creative and Critical Thinking in Practice

According to the late Sir Ken Robinson education is meant to prepare us for a world we cannot predict. Throughout the history of the species life was pretty grim but for most it was very predictable. This state of affairs has changed dramatically in the space of the author's lifetime. So why did the International Baccalaureate Visual Arts programme decide to massively increase the importance of the written word at the expense of art practice. This seems somewhat ironic at a time when institutions such as Davos are screaming for applied creative and critical thinking. These being the very skill sets that have always been at the heart of the best art programmes and are the cornerstones of the practice at our most prestigious art universities.


The IB Visual Arts seemed to have followed the path of music. When I was a kid John Lennon, Keith Richards, Brian Ferry, Marc Bolan all went to art school and chose not to study music in a formal setting. My argument here is that the creative invariably is desperate to create, so why not assess them on that. You would not ask a ballerina to write a text about dancing so why ask the art student to write extensively about making art? The IBVA exam has become as much an exercise in curation as creation. Most art students do not want to be art critics. This is not why they study art nor is it where the jobs lie.

I have this theory that those who made the changes to the IBVA programme suffered from feeling that their area of knowledge lacked recognition because it was not deemed academic enough. They themselves lacked the foresight to see that at the very moment when they were giving up the creative and critical thinking and practice territory the rest of the knowledge areas were invading those very same hinterlands of education.

Here at e5-portfolio we meet primarily international students, many of whom are studying the IBVA programme. The vast majority of whom feel frustrated at having to justify their every movement and decision in an art room context. What is worse is they are fully aware that most of what they write will go pretty much unread by any teacher or examiner. Creativity according to Robinson is “The process of having original ideas that have value”. Value stems from how this idea impinges on the audience through practice. Artists come in many guises but they love to design and build stuff, communicate ideas and tell stories using a visual language. Behind all of these activities lie trillion dollar businesses such as architecture, design, fashion, video game design, film etc.
We argue that creative and critical skill sets are innate to the human species. These same skills are, however, progressively suppressed by schools and the examination systems which purport to foster them.

Written by Stephen Preece 
Geneva Switzerland

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Stephen Preece, e5-art portfolio Founder 

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