Expose young to good design early: Panel

Masterplan proposals include getting even pre-schoolers involved in hands-on activities

Pre-schoolers might soon get an early start in learning about good design, if recommendations by the Design Masterplan Committee (DMC) are adopted.

They could be spending more hands-on time with craftwork, exploring their environment with all their senses and using their imagination to fire up their creativity.

Plans for primary and secondary schoolchildren include design courses, an annual National Design Challenge and an exhibition that showcases how they use design to tackle real-life challenges.

Committee chairman Beh Swan Gin said it was crucial to get young children involved early as they would become part of a design-centric workforce for the future.

"Design is a powerful capability that can enable Singapore as a country and society to deal with future challenges," said Dr Beh, who is also chairman of the Singapore Economic Development Board.

He said the committee hopes that children can be taught the skills during enrichment lessons or that publishers can incorporate design thinking into their materials.

"We're not training them to be designers - that is the role of schools and will take place at tertiary levels," he said. "We're just talking about the appreciation of design and use of basic design tools."

The committee made 15 recommendations in its report, Design 2025, which was released yesterday.

The 16 committee members included civil servants, an academic and business owners such as fashion designer Priscilla Shunmugam and Mr Tim Kobe, chief executive of Eight Inc, a multi-discipline experience design studio.

Some recommendations are expected to be implemented in phases, but there is no specific timeline.

The ideas include training civil servants to use design to help the public digest policies more easily. Design can also be spread to the heartland through talks and exhibitions at malls and libraries.

At the opening of this year's Singapore Design Week and the launch of the Design 2025 Masterplan last night, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim supported the recommendation for a Design Promotion Unit.

This will be set up by the Government to provide "one-stop assistance for businesses that wish to scale up their use of design to achieve growth".

The masterplan comes at a time when the design industry here has come under the spotlight. The sector accounted for $2.13 billion of the country's gross domestic product in 2013.

Singapore was named as a Unesco Creative City of Design last December. It is one of only two South-east Asian cities that bear the title. The other is Bandung, Indonesia.

Parents such as Ms Adlena Wong, 33, who has a two-year-old daughter, welcomed the idea of introducing design early, but she is curious about how the committee will track whether the children have gained from the programmes.

The corporate communications manager said: "There are already so many things that our children have to do in school. Even if we put in place a design curriculum, what will the outcome be?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Expose young to good design early: Panel'. Print Edition | Subscribe