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How We Kill Creativity In New Zealand Schools

Our education system effectively stifles children’s natural curiosity about the world, according to a new report from the University of Auckland.

The Centre for Arts and Social Transformation at the University’s Faculty of Education and Social Work has released its first report on the state of creativity in New Zealand schools, Replanting Creativity During Post-Normal Times.

Based on four years of work, the quantitative study is a world first, measuring 11 dimensions of what makes a creative environment in primary and secondary schools. Across all school levels, children have declining opportunities to play with ideas, the report concludes.

As children progress through school there are fewer chances for collaboration, for working outside or across discipline boundaries and for taking risks and problem solving. The end result is that schooling fails to create the kind of citizens we so urgently need to succeed in the post-normal world we live in, the report says.

Professor Peter O’Connor, who led the research, believes the results confirm the suspicion that decades of neglect of the arts in New Zealand schools has stripped life and colour from our schools.

“The arts and creativity have disappeared from schools as part of deliberate government policies for decades and this has serious implications for the future of work, democratic citizenship and for student well-being.”

He sees this as a systemic failing brought about by decades of focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of everything else schools could and should do.

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“Teachers proved their hunger for the arts to return to New Zealand schools earlier this year when they engaged by the tens of thousands with the arts resources developed to support children during Covid-19,” he says.

The Centre for Arts and Social Transformation is is presenting a public lecture arguing for the place of the arts in schools on Tuesday 4 November at Old Government House, at the University of Auckland’s City Campus.

The Te Rito Toi: The Twice Born Seed lecture is supported by: the NZ Principals’ Federation, NZEI, PPTA, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, Creative New Zealand, Arts Access Aotearoa, Taumata Toi a Iwi, the Sir John Kirwan Foundation, the Chartwell Trust, Dance Subject Association of New Zealand, Drama New Zealand, Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa and The Big Idea.

The full report can now be accessed at:


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