Test scores vs. creativity and entrepreneurship

Published by Lori Pickert on July 17, 2012 at 11:21 AM

[T]est scores are not measures of entrepreneurship or creativity. Not even scores on the intensely watched and universally worshiped Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, are good indicators of a nation's capacity for entrepreneurship and creativity.

In doing research for my book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, I found a significant negative relationship between PISA performance and indicators of entrepreneurship. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, or GEM, is an annual assessment of entrepreneurial activities, aspirations, and attitudes of individuals in more than 50 countries. Initiated in 1999, about the same time that PISA began, GEM has become the world's largest entrepreneurship study. Thirty-nine countries that participated in the 2011 GEM also participated in the 2009 PISA, and 23 out of the 54 countries in GEM are considered “innovation-driven” economies, which means developed countries.

More importantly, it seems that countries with higher PISA scores have fewer people confident in their entrepreneurial capabilities. Comparing the two sets of data shows clearly countries that score high on PISA do not have levels of entrepreneurship that match their stellar scores.

Moreover, what brings great test scores may hamper entrepreneurial qualities. Standardized testing and a focus on rote memorization, for example, are perhaps the biggest enemies of entrepreneurial capability. — Double-Think: The Creativity-Testing Conflict

The article goes on to say, “A narrow and uniform curriculum deprives children of opportunities to explore and experiment with their interest and passion, which is the foundation of entrepreneurship.”

What you need as an entrepreneur is not only the confidence in your own ideas but also the experience of managing projects and solving problems. When education is too much fill-in-the-blank and not enough creating something meaningful in the real world, students don’t only lose their ability to put their own ideas into action, they lose the desire.


Comment by Elizabeth on July 17, 2012 at 11:06 PM

Yup. This is exactly what I've been thinking a lot about recently. Traditional schooling trains people to be yes-men; a cog in the rusty wheel. So many people still believe that the best thing for their children is to put them through college which simply burdens them with debt and trains them for corporate America. I'm not saying I won't help my children go to college if the profession they choose calls for a specialization like medicine or becoming an architect. But I don't think you need college to become an entrepreneur. I don't think a person needs higher education ,student loan debt and 50 hour work weeks to have a good life.

I know my 10 year old daughter already has better habits than I do. Yesterday when deciding what project she wanted to work on during project time she chose her picture book and said aloud, "All other projects will have to be put aside to focus on this one. I don't want to be willy-nilly with my projects." And she worked on her project the whole live-long day. That's something I would've never said or done by choice at 10 years old.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 18, 2012 at 07:35 AM

elizabeth, i love that story about your 10yo daughter. that’s wonderful. :)

my 12yo son also has a tremendous work ethic. he set himself a schedule this summer because he wanted to accomplish some particular goals.

i feel the same way as you about college, and as an entrepreneur (i started a company straight out of college) i know i did not need my degree. all of my knowledge came from my work experience. i have anecdotally asked many, many people where they learned the most and they have all said “at work.” i find that fascinating. i think the reason children learn so much through project work is because it is real work.

Comment by Kate - An Every... on July 18, 2012 at 06:55 AM

When I was teaching high school, testing certainly drove the curriculum at the expense of creativity and entrepreneurship. By the time I got the students at age 13-17, their ability to create an original thought or creative concept was all but stifled; 'tell us what to do Miss' 'Will this be on the test Miss?' 'Do we need to know this Miss?' Original thought comes from creativity. Creativity comes from the freedom to create. If the environment expects the students to conform, to complete the tests, to learn in the same way, to write about the same topics, in the same genre, even the same word length for goodness sakes, how on earth can you expect creative thought and entrepreneurship to blossom?

Comment by Elizabeth on July 18, 2012 at 07:30 AM

"Tell us what to do Miss!" My classmates and I said that all the time and we were honor students! And sometimes that's the thought that runs through my head as I read Lori's blog. I keep thinking I need step by step instructions. "Just let me know what I need to know for the test" kind of mentality. In fact a few years ago when I first started reading her blog I got a bad case of analysis paralysis. I was afraid to do anything imperfectly: project-learning, sewing a quilt, cooking a recipe etc. The only way I was able to break through my paralysis was to just start "doing". I decided then that the only way this way of learning was going to make sense to me was to become a project learner myself. Slowly, I'm learning to let go of crippling perfectionism that was formed during my years of traditional schooling when it was all about making the grade.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 18, 2012 at 07:42 AM

elizabeth, i’m so glad you got past your analysis paralysis and started doing. :)

i’ve written before on the blog about how crippling perfectionism can be. (i don’t know if we ever get over it — we’re reformed perfectionists at best, probably. ;)

it’s funny how that mind-set of needing to make the grade can follow you right out of school and into your adult personal life. we need to learn early on how to deal with failure and enjoy things we aren’t immediately good at so we can have the big, sprawling, exciting lives we deserve.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 18, 2012 at 07:38 AM

we saw this same effect in *young* students that came to our before-/after-school and summer programs from more rigid learning situations. they would say, “just tell me what to do.” the kids who were coming out of the creative learning environment saw every activity as a starting point — they grabbed the ideas and ran. the kids coming from the rigid learning environments saw every activity as a burden, a task, an onus. they just wanted to know what they had to do to make it end as soon as possible. it didn’t make a difference how “fun” the activity was or how much freedom the kids had to do whatever they wanted with it — they just wanted to know how to swiftly get it over. depressing!

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