A sound academic footing is essential but this has to be relevant in a fast moving world. Many careers that abound today did not even exist when the modern school leaver started school. It can prove almost impossible for teachers to keep pace with commercial and technical developments in order to incorporate relevant facts and applications into their teaching.
Many children are therefore ill equipped for the rate of change they will meet in the employment market. Not only will this affect their job prospects but they may feel their career interests have been poorly serviced. More importantly the opportunities that commerce and the UK at large needs to thrive may not be realised.
This situation is not unique to the UK. Many countries forecast a strategic shortfall in indigenous design and development. And the corrective action need to start at a surprisingly early stage in the schooling process.
The much-heralded excellent schooling processes in Singapore has identified that pre-schoolers should spend more time learning about good design. The Educational authority has launched a Design Masterplan Committee (DMC) as part of the strategy of the government to induce a greater home-grown design capability. Currently this sector accounts for $2.3 billion of the Singapore’s GDP and a key factor in their UNESCO Creative City of Design award.
Pre-school and foundation schoolchildren in Singapore will spend more time with hands-on sessions in craftwork. This will be coupled with exploring their environment in an overall plan to develop an appreciation of the creative elements of design. The programme is comprehensive but not intended at this stage to establish designers, more to create an environment where the thought process of young schoolchildren is nurtured.
The DMC does not stop with pre-schoolers. The programme is designed to influence schoolchildren throughout their academic career and beyond. It also reviews opportunities for mature individuals to look at processes in a different light. Civil servants, for example, are being targeted to use design principles to make the public understand government policies more readily.
Whether Britain stays or leaves the EU the historic excellence in design capability of the UK needs to be further developed to maintain an economic foothold in global market. Many countries may have a lower cost manufacturing capability, now is the time for our design strength to shine through. Whether the Department for Education has the foresight to see this point in comprehensive way is yet to emerge.