Human Development

Why Problem Solving is not emphasized in schools

3 min read
problem solving

In a 2018 study conducted by Adobe, nearly all, 85%, of educators and policymakers in the United States, say they think creative problem solving is a very important skill for students to learn in school. Concurrently, 84% of educators and 68% of policymakers surveyed said that there is not enough emphasis on creative problem-solving in American education. Clearly, there is a consensus that problem-solving skills are needed but not enough is being done to empower learners.

Internationally excluding the US, 97% educators and 96% policymakers concur that it’s important for students to learn creative problem-solving skills in school. But approximately two-thirds — 69% of educators and 60% of policymakers — say that current curricula do not emphasize creative problem solving enough.

Other key findings of the Adobe U.S. survey include:

  • Both educators and policymakers and influencers said at a rate of 75% that professions requiring creative problem solving are less likely to be impacted by automation;
  • About nine in 10 of each group said that students who excel at creative problem solving will have higher paying job opportunities;
  • 90% of educators and 85% of policymakers and influencers said that creative problem-solving skills are demanded of those with senior level or higher paying jobs;
  • 87% of educators, comprising 84% of educators teaching students in grades 6-12 and 91% of higher education instructors surveyed, said that creative problem solving should be integrated across all areas of the curriculum, and 74% of policymakers and influencers agreed;
  • Only 22% of teachers surveyed and 28% of influencers and policymakers said that creative problem solving often plays a role in most curricula;
  • The five most commonly cited barriers to nurturing creative problem solving were lack of time to create (84%), outdated standardized testing requirements (81%), lack of access to software in student homes (79%), lack of training on new software for educators (78%) and lack of access to hardware in students homes (74%);
  • 47% of educators said they do not have access to the tools they need to nurture creative problem solving, with grade 6-12 teachers more likely to report a lack, at 54%, than higher ed teachers, at 40%;
  • 46% of teachers said they don’t have the knowledge or skills to nurture creative problem solving, with grade 6-12 teachers again more likely to report as much as 54%, versus 38% for higher ed teachers; and
  • National education policies are also seen as a barrier, with 80% of educators saying they mostly hurt their ability to nurture creative problem solving and 61% of policymakers and influencers agreeing.

These findings are aligned with the research around future skills done by the World Economic Forum (WEF), where creative problem solving is one of the top skills required in a technology-driven world of work.

Schools are now trying to incorporate problem-solving into their existing curricula and other initiatives by non-profits, corporates and edtech social entrepreneurs have been pushing for the promotion of creative problem solving to be adopted in schools.

An interesting initiative is one by MathsGee whereby they have come up with an interactive course entitled “An Introduction to Problem Solving Skills“. It is a course adapted from a creative commons course by  MIT. It is a good resource for educators and learners to teach and learn problem-solving.

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