Reinventing design teaching in an era of exponential growth



Design Education Strategy


  • decolonisation, design education, academic literacies, education technology

Students across the globe are demanding a change in education.  In South Africa, the call is for ‘decolonisation’ of higher education.  Initially, the call was for free higher education, but students then demanded a significant overhaul of higher education; from the removal of symbols celebrating white supremacy, to a change in the selection criteria and policies to promote applicants on more indicators than academic aptitude alone.

Student protests against the governance and structure of higher education have been familiar occurrences in other parts of the world as well.  In 2015, students in the Netherlands protested for a "new university", that include democratisation of governance, financial transparency and better conditions for temporary staff.  In Brazil, student protests against neoliberal educational reforms, lead to the occupation of more than 1000 schools and universities in 2016.  In the past five years, similar protests resonated from Chile (2010-13) and Canada (2010-13).

Given that education hasn't changed much in decades, we should not be surprised by the reaction from students.  We live in an era where people are surrounded by millions of everything, where anything and everything is available, anywhere, all the time, with all possibilities and combinations and at affordable prices.  Technology is a reality in everyday life. Yet, we educate our youth for jobs that do not yet exist, where they will have to face challenges that we are not even aware of yet.  We are trying to solve 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century education model. As educators, we should consider how we want to reinvent higher education during a time when billions of people have access to universal knowledge - more than ever before in the history of humankind.

At a glance, the demands made by students across the globe are similar in that they are concerned about the governance of higher education, access to higher education, including the cost thereof, and the cultural relevance of education at their institutions.  By means of comparative research methodology, this paper will establish common themes in the demands relating to education that were made during student protests that took place over the period of five years, across the globe. Reflecting on these themes, the paper will propose an approach to design education that promote cultural values that motivate our discipline to be optimistic and to persevere in this era of exponential technological growth.

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