Redesigning education to empower next generation of Singaporeans for a post-pandemic world

Design Education Summit 2021 brings together educators, professionals and experts to redesign teaching and learning

Close to 300 delegates attended the inaugural Design Education Summit on Nov 1-2, 2018. PHOTO: DESIGNSINGAPORE COUNCIL

When Ms Kim Saxe, director of Innovation Labs at The Nueva School in California, set up a pilot programme called Introduction to Enterpreneurship for her students, she was stunned at the response she received. "We actually had to turn away students," she recalls. "Clearly, we had hit a chord with today's youth."

As part of the course, students have to identify needs, create solutions, collaborate, write a business plan, build a business model, create financials and pitch their venture. The results have included soccer shoes that simulate barefoot running and anti-procrastination homework solutions for students, just to name a few.

"We thought we would prepare the students for their futures as knowledge workers," says Ms Saxe, who is also a keynote speaker at this year's summit. "Students are supported as they wade into the real world, but not given the answers. In the end, they learn that they have the tools to deal with uncertainty and to translate ideas into real outcomes."

Indeed, as we emerge from a year of unprecedented changes into an increasingly complex and uncertain world, it is becoming clear that this approach might just be the best way to equip our youth to deal with the disruptions brought about by the fourth industrial revolution, a revolution accelerated by the Covid crisis.

Ms Saxe believes design thinking can truly transform people's lives and thus, the world.

But can these skills be taught in school? How can teachers build awareness and nurture design mindsets in the young?

Ms Saxe has been a pioneer in the field of design thinking, design engineering, and entrepreneurship in education and has been a proponent of translating the mindsets and methodologies of design thinking into compelling and broadening experiences for younger students for more than 20 years. Traditionally, design has been relegated to the realm of aesthetics, thought of as a skill to make things look good. But when fully understood, design actually refers to a way of creative thinking, to problem-solve and come up with solutions, a skill set that is crucial in any industry today.

Long-time educator and Stanford lecturer Kim Saxe is a keynote speaker at this year's summit. PHOTO: KIM SAXE

The long-time educator and Stanford lecturer will be sharing her experience on redesigning learning for students as she delivers her education keynote speech at the second edition of the DesignSingapore Council's Design Education Summit.

Organised in partnership with the SUTD-MIT International Design Centre, the Feb 4, 2021, summit is the only summit of its kind in Singapore, and a key platform for educators and industry professionals - both at home and abroad - to exchange ideas about design education. Participants will be exposed to the latest cutting-edge trends in design education, and new teaching tools to instil curiosity, creative thinking and encourage problem-solving.

The summit, which saw close to 300 participants in its inaugural edition in 2018, is also aimed at sharing with delegates evolving global design, the latest innovation trends and the value of design.

Equipping every classroom with design skill sets

Anyone who has an interest in design-led creative thinking can attend the summit. Apart from design professionals, parents who want to nurture creativity in their children, as well as those in the education industry - teachers, trainers, lecturers at all levels, from pre-school all the way to institutes of higher learning (IHLs) and universities - are welcome to take part in the summit.

"We believe that a design mindset and its associated skills are so powerful and needful for the 21st century," says Mr Mark Wee, Executive Director of DesignSingapore Council.

"The summit seeks to illustrate to educators on what a design mindset entails, and where and how it is being cultivated in schools both locally and globally, to shape cultures of creativity and innovation in students that is so critical to adapting to today's volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world."

The summit will also provide a platform for industry networking, to foster collective learning and grow opportunities for co-development among the various stakeholders, like the government, educational institutes and the private sector, so that they can cultivate a workforce that is prepared to take on the challenges of the future.

A full-day virtual event that will run from 9am to 6pm, the summit consists of keynote speeches, short presentations, panel discussions, webinars, workshops, and question and answer sessions. An impressive line-up of speakers, moderators and panellists has been assembled from all over the world as well as close to home, providing the rare opportunity to learn from the best in the field.

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Design mindset and sensibilities from young

Keynote speaker Pann Lim (Co-founder and Creative Director of Kinetic Singapore and believes that design is pervasive and not just about how the aesthetics of a logo or advertisement look. "It's so often designing how we communicate with the clients and also our collaborators," he says.

The Design Education Summit is a key initiative under the DesignSingapore Council's Design Industry Manpower Plan, an overarching talent development strategy that cuts across the learning continuum, starting from building awareness and nurturing mindsets in the young, all the way to skills development and deepening abilities in the workforce.

A champion for design education, the DesignSingapore Council has also convened the first-ever national-level committee to look into transforming design higher education in Singapore. The committee aims to influence and shape the quality of design education and to embed design into tertiary education in the IHLs. The goal is to develop a resilient and design-trained workforce that can help Singapore's economy stay competitive through human-centred innovation in the face of global disruption and economic uncertainty.

The Methodist Girls' School (MGS) Stay Creative! project aims to foster the spirit of innovation, joy of learning and sense of togetherness. It attracted 282 submissions from 196 students and seven staff, and is one of the featured Stories on the Transformation of Education through Design on the Design Education Summit 2021 website. This is a submission where the Secondary 3 Art and Art Elective Programme students expressed their artistic responses to the Covid-19 pandemic by each using a dominant colour to create a piece of work, before putting them together into a collage. PHOTO: METHODIST GIRLS' SCHOOL

The national-level committee - known as the Design Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) - was formed in April 2020. Headed by Mr Low Cheaw Hwei, who is the Head of Design APAC at Philips ASEAN Pacific, the committee consists of nine industry leaders and 14 academics from the IHLs, who have been appointed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Mr Low will also be a panellist on the "Role of Design in a VUCA world and how educational institutions could respond and prepare students for the future" panel discussion at this year's Design Education Summit.

Says Minister of State for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ms Low Yen Ling: "As the first-of-its-kind design industry and education collaboration, the DEAC will play a vital role in ensuring an agile workforce equipped with the ability to understand changing user behaviour, and capable of innovating and solving complex problems. These valuable skill sets are key in enabling businesses to become more resilient and competitive, especially amid the current global uncertainty."

Says Mr Wee: "A design mindset and its many associated skills are increasingly needed across industries, and even more so in a post-pandemic world. With the increasing power of technology, distinctive human skills such as empathy, storytelling, and meaning-making will be more regarded than ever. As Daniel Pink makes the case for in his bestselling book, A Whole New Mind, the future may well be ruled by right-brainers."

Click here for more information on the Design Education Summit 2021.

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