Design in the School Curriculum

RSA Design & Society focuses sharply on this theme of design-and-resourcefulness and aims to help more people use design to change their world. It takes us naturally into education; that is, into an exploration of how more people can learn about the power of design, both in and out of formal education. Design education in school is a fundamental concern.

In theory, and especially if you ask designers, design has the potential to unlock a practical competence, a critical spirit and a creative, resourceful optimism in young people. Teaching them design should enhance their ability to learn, respond creatively to challenges, and actively participate in society’s evolution.
There is evidence, in the form of research literature and the anecdotal perceptions of designers and practitioners, that the teaching and learning of Design Technology does not always fulfil this potential. RSA Design and RSA Education jointly commissioned two pieces of work to begin to answer the question ‘What’s wrong with DT?’ John Miller’s essay, published here, analyses the reasons why DT has failed to break the bounds of its pre-National Curriculum antecedents in Art, Craft & Design and Home Economics, and has not become the place where students explore how to create a better world.
We asked Ian McGimpsey to answer the question in a different way, by reviewing the academic literature on DT since its establishment in the National Curriculum in 1988. His review, published here, suggests that DT has tried to be too many things to too many people, rather than focusing on its own worth and integrity as a subject area. By claiming to be an inter-disciplinary ‘necessity to all subjects’, and solution to Britain’s global competitiveness via an often tenuous relation to STEM, it has been preoccupied in over-justifying its place on the curriculum to the detriment of the subject itself.

The RSA has long considered itself to be at the heart of thought leadership on Design and Education, and we are passionate advocates for Design’s place in the curriculum. We intend that these documents stimulate debate on the philosophy and content of the DT curriculum, and look forward to responses.

link to Creative Gathering report PDF Download What's Wrong with DT? by John Miller (PDF)

Image link to Creative Gathering report PDFDownload A Review of Literature on Design Education in the National Curriculum report by Ian McGimpsey (PDF)