I recently wrote an article for London Business Matters magazine, for Aprils edition. I’ve put it up here so it easy for everyone to read as it a subject I think requires some attention. Paul.
I run a design agency in the City, and at the very heart of everything we do is creativity. It’s why clients pick up the phone and ask us to solve their problems – creativity is the fuel that drives us forward. So when Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove wanted to push creative subjects to the sidelines in his proposed EBacc shake-up of GCSE education, it was only natural for the creative industries to start jumping up and down making a lot of noise. Fortunately with pressure from movements like #IncludeDesign and Bacc For the Future, Gove was forced to backtrack on some of his proposals.
I admire Gove. I really like some of the work he is doing and the fact that he has ambitious plans. I like that he is prepared to fail if it means shaking up the status quo but I don’t agree with the centre of his strategy that our children should learn the ‘basics’ and only once these have been mastered should they then progress onto such things as exploring. His rationalethat education should be a two stage process: firstly building up a reservoir of knowledge;then getting creative and imaginative with these basics.
I completely agree that our children should be able to read, write, spell, add, subtract, multiply, read Shakespeare, draw with Pythagoras, test Darwin’s theory and understand Einstein’s theory of relativity – but I do not agree these should be taught like a 1950sthrowback to basics whilst stopping the student from actually thinking. Students should be encouraged to test, explore and innovate as they learn the basics. We shouldn’t be afraid of letting them fail as they explore, and what drives this exploration? Creativity. The greatest minds in the world once thought the world was flat, but this status quo was challenged and disproven. Britain is only going to be the nation to discover the cure for cancer, developaffordable green energy technology or design the next iPhone if we encourage creativity.
Britain is not going to produce the next Prof Brian Cox, Sir James Dyson or Sir Jony Ive if our children are churned out with the just the ‘basics’. As an employer I want graduates to have had a well-rounded and balanced education. If they don’t have the basics nailed they are going to struggle to cope with a fast-paced, changeable and innovation-led business, but if they haven’t been encouraged to think creatively, to challenge the status quo then howshould we expect them to do it when employed. Creativity should be ingrained, coming naturally to a school-leaver or graduate.
Do the numbers stack up? There are a number of companies that place more than lip service to creativity by placing it at the heart of their business: Apple, Google, ARM, Dyson, andAmazon as well as London firms such as Huddle, OpenGamma, Hotels.com, Fianium, Foster+Partners – all truly innovative companies that encourage creativity and are generatingserious revenues. The government’s own Tech City is a prime example of the types of businesses that put creativity at their heart, at the last count some 40,000 businesses all crammed around a roundabout.
As one might expect from a designer I have a particular interest in keeping Design & Technology as a core subject within the curriculum. Gove and his team tried to kick D&T to the curb though, hopefully, the great work from Joe Macleod at #IncludeDesign has put a stop to that and the Government consultation ends in April so it’s all hands to the pump at the moment. I want to see a properly structured, relevant, rigorous and meaningful curriculum. Clearly creative skills are a fundamental element of D&T, but as with all important and core subjects the creative and problem-solving skills encouraged in D&T are used in Maths, English and Science. Bel Reed at the Design Council has developed five principles of design education which I fully support as they clearly demonstrate the transferable skills of D&T.http://blog.designcouncil.org.uk/2013/02/27/the-5-principles-of-design-education/
The best schools are the ones whose teachers are allowed to get on and teach. So my message to Michael Gove is: keep doing the many things you’re better than anybody else at doing but don’t get your prescription pad out to give the wrong medicine to the education system. Let teachers create an environment of exploration – a beautiful blend of knowledge and creativity. As Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.
Paul Mellor is design director at Mellor & Scott