Watch this recording of Ken Robinson on his favourite topic: "Do schools kill creativity?"
I think he makes some good arguments and asks some searching questions including "what is education for?" His suggestion that our education system is designed to produce university professors makes a lot of sense. He suggests that formal learning does not teach creativity, in fact it tends to stifle it.
Applying this idea to language learning helps me to understand why I felt something was missing from my recent Open University courses. The grammar and other "facts" about Spanish was there in bucket loads but the opportunity to get creative and have fun with using the language was almost entirely absent.
I remember at school learning French, the old fashioned way. To me French consisted of lists of verb conjugations that had to be memorised and then regurgitated for exams. I don’t recall ever playing or having fun with the language. At the age of 16 when I first went to France I was tongue-tied, unable to have even a basic conversation. It was only 10 years later, as an adult that I went back to studying French and starting learning how to communicate.
In academic study mistakes are discouraged and punished by poor marks, this discourages the student from taking risks and makes the study a chore instead of a delight. Making mistakes and laughing about them should be part of the fun of learning. My reason for learning a language is to have fun using it, not to write learned essays with every comment carefully referenced and scanned with anti-plagiarism software.