Pupils need to shift focus from making products that ‘end up in landfill’

Design and technology students should focus on designing solutions for global challenges rather than making products that often end up in landfill, one of the UK’s largest education companies has suggested.

Pearson, who heads the Edexcel Board of Examiners, is calling for a reform of the design and technology (D&T) curriculum to counter the decline in student take-up of the subject.

The company hopes a new curriculum will shift the focus from creating products that “could end up in landfills” and instead help students create sustainable solutions to key global problems such as climate change.

D&T students could look at challenges through the digital design of services, as well as physical prototyping of products, Pearson has suggested.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it is considering further steps to include sustainability and climate change in D&T and the curriculum.

It’s because a poll shows that nearly half (47%) of secondary school teachers and leaders believe modernizing D&T would benefit the curriculum.

A Teacher Tapp app survey of 2,295 secondary school teachers and leaders in England in January found that half would support moving to D&T to tackle global challenges such as climate change (51%) and prepare students for design in a digital future (49%).

Sharon Hague, Pearson’s senior vice-president of UK Schools, said: “Design and technology have provided young people with valuable skills for decades, despite the continued national decline in use of the subject alongside rising costs associated with current workshop infrastructure and a shrinking teacher base, it is no surprise that many people support change.”

She added: “While making will still be an important part of design education, our proposed new curriculum would also emphasize design for the planet, challenging learners to help create sustainable solutions for key global challenges. problems such as climate change and creating fewer products that can end up in landfills.

“This can be through physical prototyping of products and spaces, but also through the digital design of services, infographics, apps, websites, marketing campaigns, laws, social movements and more.”

Pearson’s call for a D&T curriculum change was supported by a number of organizations, including Google, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Design Council, and Let’s Go Zero.

Minnie Moll, managing director of the Design Council, said: “Studying design in school is a crucial talent pipeline. Our research shows that seven out of ten of the current 1.97 million people working in design have studied it at GCSE level.

“The decade-long decline in the number of students studying the subject poses a major and urgent risk to the future of the sector.

“We need to inspire the next generation of designers if the UK is to become a thriving green economy.”

Julie McCulloch, policy director at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Design and technology is a subject that has been neglected by governments for years, sidelined in measures of school achievement that favor traditional academic subjects.

“This has contributed to a worrying drop in the number of students taking a subject that is critical to learning about technology and innovation.

“It is a sensible idea to shift the focus from design and technology to sustainable solutions.

“This is an area that young people are showing great interest in and where future innovation should lie, both in terms of the UK economy and the well-being of the world.

“It is clearly still in its infancy to develop this new approach, but it is important to make explicit what is meant by ‘design solutions that address global problems’ and what exactly the subject entails.”

A spokesperson for DfE said: “Design and technology can teach young people essential practical skills while stimulating their creativity.

“We are considering further steps to incorporate sustainability and climate change into the course and wider curriculum to help equip students for a green future.”

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