Inventive Educational Potential from Impoverished Areas

As a society, we're quick to notice the poor education standards of impoverished areas around the world. It's not difficult to recognize the struggles that children in these regions have to go through to attain a proper education to prepare them for promising careers. However, from these same humble roots is the potential for a surge of innovation.

Whereas students in the West are learning to think in context of the classes they take, kids abroad are learning to think in terms of their apparent practicality: to make a stable living and support their families. In his TED talk, Charles Leadbeater goes into detail on some of his interactions with individuals from struggling areas around the world including Thailand, Mexico, and India. In these regions, not only education but lifestyles are tremendously different for kids growing up because of the importance placed on survival, an emphasis that is absent almost entirely from Western societies. Conversely, the focus of kids in the US, UK, and Canada is exams, homework, and career.

Stemming from these social differences exists another discrepancy between these two types of education systems. Western cultures subscribe to the 'push' method of education: children are pushed to attend school by parents, friends, and family. As a result, an implicit dichotomy emerges between professional life and school life. Kids in these Western academies are having trouble applying the concepts learned in the classroom to real life pursuits because of the nature of the 'push'. And although in recent years, measures have been taken to expose the overlaps between profession and institutional education, the existent 'push' factor still contributes to a slight yet present barrier.

Leadbeater argues that the most effective way to motivate kids in underprivileged areas is to advocate 'pull' factors instead. This type of method is one by which children are enticed by education, see value in it, and most importantly, are able to connect education to real professional value. Traditional curriculums are often ineffective because of the adherence to a static methodology, one that does not mesh with the lifestyles of these underprivileged children.

He argues instead, that the way to pull children to schools is by presenting shorter, tangible incentives. In Western education, these incentives are evident only in the long-run: job placement and career success. For kids who are on a constant battle to survive, incentives must be more rapid, relevant, and measurable.

One mechanism for presentation, one that Leadbeater touches but does not dwell on, is using arts as a vehicle of communication in the classroom. Reading passages out of books and answering questions is dry for the typical Western student and even more so for the restless, inexperienced underprivileged child. This method of presentation has no real value in struggling areas because it does not resonate with the lifestyles of these children. Conversely, art is a medium of communication that is fundamentally more interactive and expressive. It is a two-way process: students are not only taking information in; they are also able to come up with something new. This creative process is essential; by providing children a medium through which to express themselves and simultaneously absorb information, these children can realize the application of education in real life.

Taking this point further, by stimulating the creative nerve of these children, innovation can extend beyond anything we've imagined. Western students are pushed into a system in which information is presented at a young age. These kids go through this system for the next several years and eventually emerge into the workforce. Instead, the children in struggling areas already have a taste of desperation; they appreciate the importance of nimbleness and adaptation. They utilize creativity from an early age by innovating on the streets to provide for themselves and often their siblings and parents. Whereas Western students learn to fit into a system, their counterparts halfway across the world learn to exist despite the system. This is innovation at its finest. If properly cultivated, these children truly have the potential to accomplish wonders. This is all the more reason for why we need to construct educational systems that are effective in these regions of the world.