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China turns to UK for lessons in design and technology

At a time when design and technology teachers fear for the future of their subject, one of the world’s education superpowers, China, has turned to the UK to learn how to teach the subject in its schools.

Just last week, David Baker, director of the charity Design Education, claimed in TES that the subject of D&T was “dying” because fewer students were choosing the subject and fewer people were training to teach it.

Despite D&T teachers' concerns over the subject's demise in the UK, however, the Chinese have asked for their help in training staff to teach it, as the country attempts to adopt a more creative approach to education in its schools. A delegation of UK teachers with the Design and Technology Association (DTA) flew out to China 10 days ago.

Richard Green, chief executive of the DTA, said the Chinese government believed its culture was too “risk averse”, something that it hoped to change through its schools.

“They perform very well in [international education] league tables, but what they are not good at is having the creativity to apply that knowledge,” Mr Green said. “They 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’.”

He added that the fact that China wanted to learn from the UK to help them achieve such a goal should act as a warning that the subject of D&T was essential to the future of this country.

“If they are looking at us to help them then we really need to be wide awake to what that means and we must stay ahead of the game. If we have a curriculum that is seen as world-leading we should be protecting it and developing it,” Mr Green said.

In TES last week, Mr Baker wrote that the number of students sitting a D&T GCSE this summer fell for the 10th year in a row to a little over 200,000. Similarly, the number of teachers in the subject has also plummeted, with the government attracting fewer than half the teachers it needs to teach the subject this year.

“This is no temporary blip – it is the decimation of an entire generation of one subject’s teachers,” Mr Baker writes.

Related stories: 

New cooking and nutrition GCSE provokes fears among D&T teachers - 25 September 2014

D&T rewrite represents major success for design sector July 8 2013

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