Schoolchildren should be encouraged to come up with new ideas rather than simply regurgitate what they have been told, says world-renowned WA burns specialist Fiona Wood.
Professor Wood, a mother of six, told a Perth business function yesterday more could be done to promote innovation from a young age, such as teaching children to develop ideas in the same way they were told to eat their Wheaties. "We've got innovative personalities, risk takers, decision makers in all sorts of areas and we have to unleash them," she said. "But, actually, on a practical level, how?
"I think it needs rewarding. I think the whole concept of rewarding new ideas, of rewarding someone who will turn up and in a school environment actually provide something that's different, that's not rote-learnt, that's not actually regurgitating what they've been told.
"If somebody goes to a cross-country school event and comes back with a gold medal around their neck it's an assembly and it's a big ticket item.
"We should be thinking about rewarding a whole range of difference. If you can run fast or you can think fast, what does it matter? What matters is that you're different and different is good."
Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia panel on how WA could become an innovation leader, Professor Wood said without ideas "we're dead in the water".
"Celebrate ideas is where I'm coming from," she said. "Maybe we should make ideas part of, you know, 'Eat your Wheaties and write your five ideas of the day'."
The sentiments were echoed by panel member Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi, who was "a bit sad" to attend a recent school event where the audience was so well behaved they lacked spontaneity.
"The initiative's got to be grown from school-age children because I think that's part of the problem in Australia," she said.
"A thousand kids in this assembly hall and they were so quiet I found it a bit sad that there wasn't a bit more spontaneity."
Ms Scaffidi said 1000 children in a hall like that in the US would be much more spontaneous.
"In Australia we are actually curbing or restricting that spontaneity because I think it then flows through into the workplace and curtails people in having a go," she said.
Professor Wood said teachers needed to be valued more highly and she spoke about the benefits of identifying talented children.