The Creative Mind

 The fixation with academic excellence in Indian families is alarming to say the least. I have been subjected to a countless conversations on how well the children (I’m talking about 3 to 7 year olds here) are doing academically. “Is your child reading yet?” “Can he do 2 digit additions?” “What can be done better?” “Kumon, anyone??” 

Now here’s my point. I have not met a single kid (and mind you I know a lot of them), that is not smart academically. These days almost every kid is a genius, knows more than their grade level, gets straight As, is the apple of the teacher’s eyes. So, in theory, if every kid is an exceptional kid, it means no kid is truly exceptional. 

Now, I’m not undermining the importance of academics. That is given. But the way I look at academics is like a basic, a necessity, a minimum. Kind of like food, shelter and clothing. Each parent must strive to provide the best. There is no arguing that the kid needs to be fed, but it doesn’t have to be steak everyday, PB&J is just fine once in a while.

 In this competitive world that we are in, what sets apart a person from the rest can be summed up in one word, ‘Creativity’. This is true for every field and not just the arts (which is a common misconception). Every problem has a solution these days; the world is looking for the most creative solutions, new inventions!!! 

I have heard arguments that Indians and Chinese, who are more academically focused, are so successful in western worlds. It is true. We, the highly educated Asian folks are in demand as worker bees to work on the inventions and creations of the western world. But how many inventions of the last century can be credited to Indians? I can’t think of any.

 And, I’m no child-expert , but creativity is something that should be instilled right from the formative years. Think ‘out of the box’ thinking. Let the imagination soar. Make impossibilities possible, even if in make-believe. Something my kids’ Montessori teacher always says, and has stuck with me is “Learning doesn’t happen just from books.” 

I’ll even go out on a limb here and suggest that this obsessive take on academic excellence is in some ways stifling the creativity in kids these days. We teach and keep reinforcing over and over that there is just one right answer. But my dear friends, take note that in real life, there isn’t just one right answer. 

I’m sure there are others who beg to differ. But whether you agree or not, I’d love to hear your take on this subject.

March 15,2010: After a few months of dwelling on this concept and doing research on the subject, I have written a blog titled ‘The Pursuit of Creativity’ which includes perspectives from experts on the subject. Hope you find it useful.

Last 5 posts by Neelam Kamdar Bhamani


  1. Khushi

    Great post. I am going through this myself as I go through school admissions. I would love to focus on creativity. To do that I tend to focus on arts. Do you think we focus so much on academics as its a beast we understnad. But creativity…how do we teach that to kids…Its a question not quite in our comfort zone

  2. Anonymous

    The american way is to think of more creativity. But Indians and chinese go for academics and it is being proved they do better in studies and college etc. Its the discipline and focus in life they learn from this and that stays with them for long. I dont support coaching classes from a young age but the focus on studies is very important

  3. sarmila

    the way of teaching here is so good that you don’t have to go to the tutorials unless you prepare for the ACT or SAT, but the aim should always be in the studies.

  4. Anonymous

    Nikki – Very good post. My son is in the preschool and I notice how the parents tend to compare the progress of their kids and how it revlovs mostly around academic skills. As you mentioned, the kids of mostly professional Indian parents in U.S. are going to do well academically. However, its the ability to think outside the box and risk taking that would truly set them apart.

  5. Tana

    I simply LOVE your post. I think you will love Daniel Pink’s notions of “Conceptual Age” if you haven’t read about them already. The Knowledge economy is one in which Indians and Chinese have excelled, but he argues that the upcoming economy is going to be held by conceptual (creative) thinkers.
    I don’t think it’s an “either/or” approach here, but including creativity and conceptual thinking is a must in overall childhood development.
    I was raised with the traditonal Indian schooling, and on top of that was born to hardcore academics residing in universities. Luckily, my mother also spotted my talents in music, art and writing at an early age. Today, developing (and intersecting) those modalities is helping me become a more completely expressed adult.

  6. Indrani

    Nikki, I couldn’t agree with you more. Indian parents push their child/children for excellence in academics, a bit too much at times. Result: the suicide rates in India just before the Board exams are going up and up. Its very rare that a parent supports his/her child’s interests other than academics. But we all forget that academics is not the be all and end all. After all Tendulkar and A.R. Rehman are probably the most popular Indians worldwide yet, both of them barely completed their school education. I guess its important to excel in any ONE field be it academics, painting, sports, music, dance, writing or any field which is soul gratifying and ensures sustenance.

  7. nikki

    All: Thanks for your feedback and your perspectives.
    Anonymous #1 and Sarmila: Academic achivement IS important, it’s the obsession with excellence that’s the issue. This obsession from parents sometimes takes away the ‘love of learning’ from the kids. Kids learn the best when they do it at their pace with gentle encouragement and support. And, the other issue, is the lack of balance between academic pursuit and the pursuit of ‘other aspects’ of a kids development.
    Khushi: You are right, one cannot teach creativity, but exposure to it will do the job.
    Tana: No, I haven’t read Daniel Pink’s work, but sounds interesting, will definitely look into it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  8. shvetal

    i totally agree with u although when my daughter was young i was in the same rat race . but i have realised now children now need to b more creative and most important street smart. they have a mind of their own but unfortunately to survive competition one cannot rule out academics

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