UK shows China how to teach design and technology

Posted on 20 May 2016 by Jonny Williamson

The D&T Association recently hosted a delegation from Shanghai, China, looking to learn about design and technology education in the curriculum.

Delegates included representatives from the Ministry of Education in the Minhang District, and is one of several delegations from China and the Far East to be hosted by the D&T Association.

All have been keen to see first-hand what a blueprint to effectively teach design and technology from primary age up to A-level – with particular emphasis on high tech and engineering – might look like.

Richard Green MA, Chief Executive of the Design & Technology Association
Richard Green, chief executive, Design & Technology Association.

Chief executive of the Design and Technology Association, Richard Green MA commented:  “We are always pleased to welcome delegates from overseas and demonstrate the high standards of work that effective teaching in D&T produces.

“It is somewhat ironic that, as China, South Korea and other South East Asian countries visit the UK to learn how D&T is taught in schools here, the unintended consequences of our Department for Education’s focus on Ebacc, along with the poor bursaries offered to trainee teachers of D&T compared to other subjects, mean that the subject is becoming marginalised in many schools.”

Until 2004, design and technology was a compulsory GCSE subject, but the loss of statutory status and current accountability measures have resulted in a 50% fall in D&T GCSE entries between 2003 and 2014.

Politicians, particularly in the Department of Business, Skills and Innovation, however, at the same time are demanding more great British design to bolster British manufacturing and, in turn, balance the economy.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education’s (DfE) policies created uncertainty about the future of the subject during the recent national curriculum review which has discouraged potential secondary D&T teachers from applying for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses.

Come September, there will be at least 2,000 fewer teachers in the system than are needed – a vacancy in two in three secondary schools.

Designed and Made in Britain…?

Elite industry names from the “Best of British”, including Dyson, JCB, Williams F1, Brompton and a host of other household names, are supporting the D&T Association’s ongoing “Designed and Made in Britain …?” campaign, which highlights the importance of the design and technology in a 21st Century curriculum.

All are at the pinnacle of their respective industries and are crying out for the next generation of school leavers who will be capable of problem-solving and delivering innovative skills.

Green concluded:  “Our Chinese visitors recognise that their curricula lack the design and creative problem solving, linked to technical knowledge and practical making skills, which D&T provides. They undoubtedly observe our strategies and look to replicate them back home.

“While D&T teachers, pupils, parents and employers worry about the low priority given to D&T by the DfE, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills [BIS] should worry about the ambitions of the Chinese delegations. One visitor remarked: “We want the back of an iPhone to say not just ‘Assembled in China’ but ‘Designed in China’ as well.

“Britain’s Design IP is worth many millions of pounds to the British economy and yet we are teaching other nations how to train their future engineers and product designers as our schools and students are being discouraged from studying D&T.

“It is a huge compliment that educationalists from overseas admire our teaching and wish us to provide them with a roadmap for D&T education. I welcome all the Chinese delegates; but, equally, I would welcome it if the DfE and BIS compared notes so that D&T teachers can play a role in inspiring some of the 3 million apprentices sought during this parliament and the engineers who will design and manufacture the homes and artefacts we shall live in and engage with in the future.”