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V&A Dundee is ‘about learning to its core’

Director of new V&A Dundee calls for more 'design thinking' in schools and for pupils to be set problem-solving tasks

School pupils should learn 'design thinking' and be challenged to solve problems, says the director of the V&A Dundee

Director of new V&A Dundee calls for more 'design thinking' in schools and for pupils to be set problem-solving tasks

Not all skills that are valuable can honed via the subjects on offer in a traditional classroom setting, says the director of the V&A Dundee, which will finally open its doors to the public on Saturday.

Speaking to Tes Scotland today, Philip Long, said he wanted the V&A Dundee – the first design museum in Scotland – to highlight the importance of art and design in schools. There was “great improvement” that could be made in this regard, he said.

Mr Long would like to see more “design thinking” taking place in schools, with pupils challenged to solve problems and work together in teams. And he wants V&A Dundee – which has had its learning manager, Joanna Mawdsley, in post for the past four years – to support schools to do that.

Mr Long said: “The V&A Dundee is about learning to its core. Great museums should be about that – lots of ways of getting involved in learning; learning through looking and touching and more direct engagements through design learning projects.”

Learning 'in different environments'

He added: “Curriculum education does not necessarily suit all styles of learning and the diversity of young people we have in school. Other ways of learning – working together in teams, in different environments on different projects, can be really powerful.”

The sentiments expressed by Mr Long chime with arguments put forward by US academic Professor Yong Zhao, who is based at the school of education at the University of Kansas. He argues that pupils should not follow a prescribed curriculum but should be encouraged to identify problems that need solving, so that they develop the ability to “invent their own jobs”.

One project that Mr Long said he would be keen to see replicated was run by the museum in Angus and Dundee. It involved pupils at the beginning of secondary being challenged to think about ways to improve their schools.

Mr Long said: “We brought them into teams and matched them with a designer. They used design thinking to help them think hard about what would make their school a more inspirational and a safer place, where they felt valued and able to fulfil their potential.

"Many of the pupils said they had not worked like that before; the results were amazing. We would like to see some of these creative techniques being explored more in schools, and we would like to help with that.”

The V&A Dundee's construction and fit-out took three-and-a-half years to complete. The building was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and stands at the centre of the £1 billion transformation of the Dundee waterfront.

At the heart of the museum, the Scottish Design Galleries feature 300 exhibits drawn from the V&A’s rich collections of Scottish design, as well as from museums and private collections across Scotland and the world.

Welcoming media from around the world to today’s press preview, Mr Long was at pains to stress that the V&A Dundee was not simply an “outstation” of the V&A in London, and that the two museums would be working in partnership.

He said his ambition for the museum was that it should be “a place of inspiration, of discovery and of learning”.

The V&A Dundee opens this weekend.

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