Right side of the brain school report card?
Accountancy firm Ernst and Young in 2015 removed degree classification from the entry criteria for its hiring programmes. They found “no evidence” that success at university was correlated with achievement at the workplace.
Laszlo Bock, Google’s former Senior Vice-President of People Operations for the last decade, has said that while good grades don’t hurt, they’re “worthless as a criteria for hiring.” He said that hirers should be “less concerned about grades and transcripts and more interested in how you think.?
Both companies, and many more who have followed their lead, are saying loud and clear to educators “your education model of an academic life of tests for your students has really little value for the true tests of life!” Yet we still live in a world where our education systems continue to be “left-brain” focused.
The left-brain is about facts. The left brain is calculating and definitive. Teachers can easily test the progress of the left brain. Just look at a student’s report card i.e. the means by which educators communicate and measure the success of a student. Now ask this question: Is this metric a true measure of a student’s ability to succeed at life and work? Also, ponder the result of educators measuring and reporting on the right-brain development of their students. Would it reveal a situation of massive underdevelopment of the right hemisphere of student’s brains that we have now cleverly called 21st century skills?
There was a very important research study conducted in this area at NASA more than 45 years ago. Dr George Land developed a creativity assessment for NASA to unlock the secret of innovation, as NASA needed a tool to hire the most creative engineers and scientists. As part of the test, NASA decided to administer it to four- to five-year olds as well, just as a comparison to the adults being tested.
Interestingly, 98 per cent of the four- to five-year olds measured at genius level on the creative-thinking scale. Of the 300,000 adults tested, with an average age of 31, only two per cent scored at genius level for creative thinking.
The children were then followed and re-tested and the following were the results: At the age of 10, shockingly only 30 per cent of the same kids actually scored at genius level for creative thinking i.e. a decline from 98 per cent at genius level to only 30 per cent five years later. Moreover, at the age of 15 it was discovered only 12 per cent of these same kids scored at genius level for creative thinking.
The knee-jerk reaction to this information was: “Is the right side of the brain dying as we age?” Land concluded that “non-creative behaviour is learned.”
The right hemisphere of our brain is responsible for processing emotions, problem solving, critical thinking, spatial orientation, intuition, creating a whole picture out of smaller parts, creativity, and processing visually oriented learning. It’s sad that right-brain activity had been the key ingredient in Albert Einstein’s success, a man whose name we think of as epitomising intelligence. It was Albert Einstein himself who said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” What he meant was that knowledge is finite. Imagination is infinite. Knowledge is what has been already developed. Imagination is about our dreams; it has no limit and its possibilities are infinite.
We all recognise that our educational institutions revolve around self-contained silos of existing information that systematically shut down the right hemisphere of the brain. The era of lecture, drill, testing, and regurgitating facts has expired. Our current job markets are driven by right-brain thought.
It is now time for our educators to heed the wisdom of management guru Peter Drucker, who said: “What gets measured gets improved.” The reality is that many educators and parents have not started to take seriously the right-brained development of youths unless there is some measurement/badge of success attached to it. However, tools such as University of Penn and GRIT author Angela Duckworth’s Character Growth Card, while still imperfect in their current form, could be used as foundational tools to capture different perspectives of a student’s character and right-brain development.
This article originally was written by our editor and appeared in the Khaleej Times.