Focus on innovation rather than rote-learning2

Focus on innovation rather than rote-learning

The future will always be defined by creativity and innovation. We should stress on an education system that nurtures these in our children, and not move backwards by implementing a system that produces young people unable to think critically.

We need an academic evolution with a creative focus that will empower our young with the skills to use the tools of this new era of digital functions and global connectivity. What is needed is a profound reform that places higher value on creativity to encourage students’ personal development rather than emphasis on classroom disciplines.

We must become an innovation-based nation

That the business world will be defined by those with the power of creativity and ingenuity is clearly evident. The rise of innovation to the top of the agenda of many countries today has resulted in a profound shift in the nature of global competition. As it is, the most advanced countries in the world today are also the most innovative. Such countries as Japan, Switzerland, the US, Sweden and Finland (the highest ranking innovative countries according to the Economist Intelligence Unit report 2009) are prosperous because their economic, social and political conditions favour innovation. Hence they have highly skilled labour forces whose minds excel in creating and innovating.

We have to be farsighted to remain competitive, and we certainly would be put at a disadvantage if we maintained an education system based on rote learning, where students were not trained to think critically and not encouraged to develop independent thinking.

It is crucial that steps be taken to re-design the education system and to create an ecosystem that builds innovation, because we are already lagging behind in terms of creativity and innovation, and it will get worse when real global competition happens on the ground level. If we do not fix the problem at the school level, we may lose more ground because the global environment will become even more competitive as new technologies are introduced and as new rulings come into practice such as the full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Agreement (which is expected to bring an influx of competition).

As it is, it takes a whole generation or two to change mindsets – so we do have our work cut out for us.

All recently made giant footprints are creativity-driven

To move forward, we only need to look at the success stories around us. Look at the history of Google and Yahoo – 21st century’s hallmarks of creativity and innovation. As of 2008, Google has an index of 1,000,000,000,000 websites. And to think the organisation was created in a garage by two 25-year-old students whose original purpose was to organise the world’s information and make it accessible to everyone!

There’s also the revolution started by Facebook. Every month Facebook receives some 4,000,000,000 hits and uploads of more than 700,000,000 photos. And how did Facebook begin? It was created by a 20-year-old student from his dormitory in 2004.

Yahoo likewise has revolutionized industries and changed our lives; it receives an astounding 1,000,000,000,000 hits a month by people across the world searching for something on the web.

Then there’s Twitter, which has completely removed the ability of authorities to block news and black out views.

The fearless going where no one has ever gone

All these phenomenal footprints have one thing in common: they were created by young people who were barely out of school – young people who epitomize creativity and innovation. Young people who were totally unconventional in their thinking and who were fearless in going where no one had gone before. They all displayed that creative spark that got them started although some of them didn’t even finish tertiary education. What that says is there are many paths to success and not necessarily only through conventional textbook learning.

Creativity and innovation now drive the economy. Economic advantage no longer depends on natural resources, raw materials, trade of goods and services or giant factories.

At the cutting edge of this shift is the creative sector of the economy – science and technology, software, health and education, digital media and design, innovation, culture and entertainment, and the knowledge-based professions.

Because these industries rely primarily on talent, advanced economies around the world have stepped up their efforts to attract the best thinkers and designers, the brightest scholars and top entrepreneurs. Since the best brains would go to where they could do their best work, it is natural for the advanced nations with their better facilities and higher incomes to attract the best brains.

Time to re-invent our education system?

Many of these talented from the poorest countries who are sent to the advanced nations to further their education do not return home, and are lost to the rich countries. The result is widening disparity in technology and creativity driven capital and resources between the poorest and riches countries.

Time is not on our side as changes are taking place at a fast pace because of globalisation. We need to review and if necessary re-invent the Malaysian education system.

The patterns of exam-oriented teaching in Chinese schools do not necessarily run parallel with the development of creative-thinking that encourages intellectual freedom and free exchange of ideas. Chinese schools are rooted deeply in the millennia-old civil service exam that demands memorizing facts and regurgitating them. While the level of discipline and diligence that is called for is admirable, the skills the typical Chinese school student is equipped with may not provide him with out-of-the-box thinking ability.

Employers seek people who can add value to their organisations; they hire the right person and not a piece of paper qualification. As it is, it has been reported that some local graduates are unemployable or unmarketable. We should pay attention to this and get to the root of the problem.

It has to be said also that in building an innovative learning environment, focus should be placed towards making lessons interesting so that children would enjoy the process and not look upon it as a chore. This would make for a happy learning environment, and when one is happy, one tends to thrive. Every school, every teacher should be dedicated to making this a reality.

2010: Year of Creativity and Innovation

The government recently announced next year to be Malaysia’s Year of Creativity and Innovation. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak also set up the National Innovation Council of which he is chairman. All these efforts underline the government’s commitment to focus on innovation as the next driver for the Malaysian economy.

Certainly, it makes sense for this push for innovation to begin at the school level. The foundation years are the most crucial in shaping the right mindset for the globalised future.

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About Tan Sri Lim

Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, does not fit into any ordinary mould that would describe most entrepreneurs.

His journey has been closely linked with the economic and social development of Malaysia.

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The contents of this blog are the sole creative and intellectual property of Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the exception being contents sourced from external parties for which we have rightfully attributed to the original owners whenever possible. The opinions expressed by Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing and those providing comments are theirs alone. Any wish to reproduce the contents of this blog must be properly attributed to and credited to the original author.


John Peter
2010 February 27

That’s an informative and amazing

Jayles Yeoh
2010 June 7

If only many can embrace creativity & innovation in the way you have moved the nation to accept it, am sure we would have healed the world; from having to endure the trouble times we are facing now. Malaysia should have more of such creative thinkers like you to take us to the next level of embracing creativity & innovation.


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