Erwin Wagenhofer

Austria, Germany, 2013, 107 minutes

“We do have the power of imagination. I believe we system-atically destroy this capacity in our children routinely, unthinkingly.”

Ken Robinson

Ken Robinson is an educational scientist and his voice, following the images and sounds of an ultrasound, opens the film Alphabet. He states, supported by images of dry desert landscapes, the point of the film: we are on the wrong track when it comes to educating our children, as we destroy their capacity for creativity and divergent thinking, and only teach them to be productive economically. What follows is a series of interviews and observations that illustrate this point and show an alternative, based on the idea that eventually, humans will develop whatever talent they have in combination with what arouses their interest.

The film starts off in China, where educational scientist Yang Dongping contemplates the non-competitive society of the past, and our present, increasingly competitive one. Upward mobility is the new popular flavour. Early on in the film, one of the problems charted is the tendency to test and examine. The examination business has become a huge industry, including stock market businesses. According to Yang Dongping, exams kill off creative thinking, seeking only standard and pre-set answers. This idea is further personified in protagonist and German educational researcher Andreas Schleicher, who works for the Programme for International Student Assessment, (PISA).

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