Hi Andrew et al,
I have qualifications in both Industrial Design and Education (TAS), and I see both sides of the argument here. What is happening at my school is the following;
Some students are dropping the subject (down from 40- 25 before the holidays started) because they cannot REALISE their design.
Some parents are not allowing their children to do the subject because the emphasis IS (as presented in the syllabus documents) on drawing and on block Maquettes. They see this as therefore being a ‘nowhere subject’ for the kids who cannot do anything else - not even make things.
Some students are joining the subject because it is a ‘bludge’ subject, and all they have to do is some drawings, and it is not as intensive as art.
When I arrived at the school, the department was in tatters for various reasons, and I was tasked with lifting the standard, and attracting students. I have done that through combining DESIGN with PRODUCTION, and I have had a great deal of success (from where we started). I now have students coming into my class and workshop during Lunch, after school, weekends, and holidays. These students form a diverse make-up, from pure aesthetic design to pure neanderthal making in the workshop.
What I have found interesting is that the two extremes are beginning to rub off on each other, and we are beginning to see some results at both ends.
"In class, I do not prescribe what students are making, for example, the first year 9 project, the brief is as follows:
-You are required to have in-ear earphones for each Design class so that you can listen to tutorials. Unfortunately, they break from being pulled in and out of pencil cases and from being constantly pulled in and out of plug sockets.
You are to solve this problem".
We then do a “learning block” where they learn how to laser cut, 3D print, understand polymers, and learn to make silicone molds into which they cast Polyurethane.
From there, we then go back to the Earphone Challenge, and see what they come up with.
We need to understand that these young people are straddling the divide between child and adult, and they do still want tangible achievement, and most of the people who take the subject over Visual Art do so because there is a practical component.
One big problem we face at an Independent school is that parents don’t want their children going for “applied subjects”, and essentially, the perception is growing that whilst ITD could be manipulated to being anywhere on the spectrum from Industrial Technology to Design, the new Design Syllabus cannot.
I have recently had a person working for me who was a qualified Industrial Designer (qualified in the last two years) who is converting to teaching, and one thing that did come as a big shock to me whilst working with him was the lack of practical ability, practical knowledge, and visual-spatial understanding that I was given when doing my training in the dark ages. This came coupled with no experience working with any materials other than foam and cardboard. In my experience, this knowledge is invaluable in overcoming intricate problems in the design process, and in knowing what is available for manufacturing - or what the limitations were. This came to the fore in something that was made for a project in the junior school that had to be re-made by one of my Year 10 students.
Finally, I would like to ask the question; when our parents are comparing what a similar type of student would be doing in the UK (DT), New Zealand (Design and Visual Communication), the IB (DT), and NSW, how do we justify the perceived difference in breadth and depth of learning.
I fear that one factor driving the government in this direction is cost and availability of suitably qualified teachers, and the second might be that you cannot put an academic value on divergent creativity.