Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Design inside Education: Let us start early, for our schools in India

Image: School children visiting NID seen at the Gautam-Gira Square holding hands around the Big Tree at my suggestion.

Design inside Education: Let us start early, in all our schools in India
Yesterday we had a group of very young visitors, all from one school in Ahmedabad, The St Mary’s School, one of the better known schools of Ahmedabad. I saw all the students walking in single file, hands tucked firmly at the back lest they got into some kind of trouble, and being proper young school kids, while taking a tour of the National Institute of Design at our Paldi campus. I met them near my office and was struck by the strict discipline and wondered about the state of education in India. What would it be like to put design inside this education?

I recalled a lecture that I had delivered a few years ago at the conference titled Indian Crafts: The Future in a Globalising World, held at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India on 25th and 26th November 2005. The paper was based on the one I had penned for publication in the much delayed Volume Two of the Handmade in India. Volume One is printed and lying in a godown at the Office of the Development Commissioner of Handicrafts for the past 8 months, but that is another story. My paper was titled “Craftsmanship in Education: Towards a Creative India in the Knowledge Economy“ (161 kb word file) the full text version can be downloaded from this link here.

The issues that I had raised are captured in the three tables that I had presented at the conference and these represent my analysis of the education situation in India and we see that the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Education are bending over backwards to spread this kind of education to all our rural areas which have so far been spared the deleterious effects of such a formal education in our country. However the long arms of the planned education system are reaching out and they promise to snuff out the traditional systems of learning that has existed in our countryside for many centuries of active involvement of children and adolescents in the crafts and agricultural trades, now called child labour, and therefore looked down upon.

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

The NCERT ( The National Centre for Education Research and Training, New Delhi) has recently set up a National level committee to look at the introduction of Crafts as a subject of study in the school curriculum and the work has been progressing towards the implementation of their suggestions in the coming years in schools across India. When will design attract such attention and be brought into the school curriculum? We have the National Design Policy in place since the beginning of 2007 but there is no mention of school education in that agenda and that situation needs to change quickly. I wonder, when and how.

Image: Slide from the IDSA lecture on education the Design Way.

In my lecture at the IDSA 2006 in Austin, Texas I had stressed on the need to review education in the light of new findings about human motor skills and their association with learning as captured by the Homunculus as offered to us by Dr Wilder Penfield in the image above. We do need to find the Design Way and bring it into school education, sooner the better. The text summary paper (42 kb word file) and visual presentation (pdf 812 kb) titled “Giving Design back to the People: Towards a Post-mining Economy,”can be downloaded from here.

Image: Models created by a student group looking at the theme of Design inside Education in the DCC course.

While keeping these needs in mind, last year I had assigned the theme of “Putting Design Inside Education” as part of our Design Concepts and Concerns course for the Foundation students and for the Post Graduate students we had the theme of “Creative Industries of the Future”, both of which impinged upon sustained changes in the school level curriculum to include design learning and action at the very core of the educational processes in our schools across India. We need to make that happen, sooner than later, if we are to create leadership in a globalised economy and I do hope we are able to move towards a more design and innovation informed educational system across India, particularly for our rural children who I believe will be hugely disadvantaged by the current form of education if it is taken to the villages without some thought and revisions.

1 comment:

  1. You raise some interesting issues here....."Strict" environments, unfortunately, also tend to curb questioning. Questioning is integral to learning.

    Design in education is a great idea.....Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives lists knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation as learning objectives. The current system of education in schools deals mostly with the knowledge and comprehension levels. Design education on the other hand uses the higher level thinking skills of application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.


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