- Published: Tuesday, 31 March 2015 15:09
DT stands not for Diphtheria and Tetanus or Delirium Tremens but for Design and Technology.
I was intrigued to read recently that DT is apparently in national decline and threatened by the current wave of curriculum reform http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-30484428. Numbers of students opting for the subject at GCSE and the number of people training to teach the subject are both dropping fast. At Birkdale the subject is in robust health, is compulsory for Year 7 and Year 8 and is a popular choice in Year 9, at GCSE and at A level. It teaches problem-solving in a very practical way as well as skills in time management, because of the significant coursework projects, and develops creativity as students must put their own spin on some product. The design element sets it apart from previous craft skill courses, such as woodwork or metalwork, and 3D printing and laser cutters have brought the curriculum very much up to date.
Two weeks ago the school hosted a visiting delegation of Chinese educationalists interested in developing Design and Technology in Chinese schools http://www1.birkdaleschool.org.uk/news/templates/?a=511&z=19 . It was fascinating talking to the delegates, in halting English peppered with the very occasional phrase in Mandarin from me (a souvenir of the Mandarin classes which now take place at Birkdale), about design. They told me that education in China is very ‘risk averse’, with students unwilling to develop their own ideas in case they were ‘wrong’ or indeed merely deviated from the accepted syllabus. The delegates also said that the back of an [Apple] iPhone says ‘designed in California, assembled in China’ – what they want is for it to say ‘designed and made in China’. They are determined to strengthen the teaching of ‘creativity’ in Chinese education which they see as crucial for future success. Given the furore over the International PISA tests, which place China (or Shanghai at least) well above the UK in Mathematics, and the associated clamour for the UK to learn about teaching Mathematics from China, the symmetry of the situation was most pleasing!
It seems to me that creativity is crucially important for all children to develop whatever their future career. Coming up with new ideas and developing them, or at least new ways to tackle problems, in Mathematics and Science is just as important as producing original work in Art or Music; becoming more creative allows people to innovate rather than repeating the accepted principles. The notorious educationalist Ken Robinson speaks capably on this subject and also makes the point that creativity has a social dimension: we are inspired by and learn from other peoples’ ideas. http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?language=en
I am a regular visitor after school to the DT workshops witnessing the completion of a wide range of products: my twice weekly visits give me a stop motion animation view of each piece of work as the end of term deadlines loom. Whilst the projects are usually completed to an excellent standard, stress levels inevitably rise as plans derail, equipment breaks and aspirations prove unrealistic; the whole experience is an invaluable preparation for life.