An assessment of the contribution of design education to the knowledge economy in South Africa



Design Education Strategy


  • globalisation, value of design, design knowledge

The Education White Paper (SA, 1997) identifies that the knowledge economy is dependent on knowledge workers that can contribute to the economical development of the country. The White Paper further motivates that it is the role of higher education to provide education and training to develop the skills and innovations that are necessary for national economical development and successful participation in the world economy.

It is the purpose of reformed South African higher education policies to provide guidance, rebuild the nation and drive transformation that is needed in a post-apartheid society and economy. State policies such as the White Paper fulfil an important function in providing guidance and strategic vision to higher education in ensuring alignment to national goals and objectives. State policies and developmental plans assist in identifying the critical performance areas that should be placed on the higher education agenda in order to contribute to the national economic growth and development.

This paper uses the vision for economic growth as presented in the Education White Paper 3 (SA 1997:1.12), as a backdrop to assess the contributions that are made by design education in present higher education undergraduate programme offerings. The paper investigates the following research question: What are the contributions that are made currently by higher education design education towards the development of the South African knowledge economy?

The research question is investigated through using the following methodology:

Firstly, through conducting a literature survey and policy analysis the paper aims to identify and present the proposed role of higher education in relation to economic development as communicated within the Education White Paper 3. Focus is placed on the training and development needs that are required for the development of a knowledge economy within South Africa.

Secondly, the research design follows a qualitative research approach in order to document and assess the perspective and practises of lecturers within higher education. A case study approach is adopted in examining design departments within a single higher education faculty, which is the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture.

The assessment process is concluded with a discussion of the research findings.

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