17 Oct 2016 19:13 IST

Why the education system needs an overhaul by design

Fusing design into learning can create innovations across products, processes and systems

Learning and education are deep-rooted in India’s rich tradition, which goes back thousands of years. Liberation through education is how education is defined in our literature. The ancient education system emphasised on the overall development of an individual, not just learning for their survival.

Among other disciplines, Indian education always held art and craft as a unified and important aspect of learning. Sanskrit defines design approach with kala (arts); that is, implementing deeper thinking using design concepts to achieve practical results.

The Indian lota, game design (snakes and ladders), and the Indian cots are some of the examples where design-led approach, merged creativity and innovation, really helped our community. Temples are a stellar example of this.

The early dated implementation of thinking-based design, which can be attributed to design thinking approach of today, is visible with designs of our ancient temples. These structures had a natural light source, with right aesthetics to keep the structure pleasant, irrespective of the weather. The steps of the temples, even on hills, are designed in such a way that anyone can climb them, irrespective of their age.

The architectural harmony, the rhythm and a sense of proportion were the hallmark of these architectures.

For temples in South India, the power and purity of the structure radiate from its exact proportions and measures as specialised. Brick walls, small windows and reduced light maintain cool and dry conditions for better thermal comfort in an otherwise hot and humid climate of the region.

Gaps between conventional and progressive education

The adequate development of any society across the world is not possible without the right education. For India, our early education system stressed upon achieving mental growth through liberal learning principles.

During the middle-era, modern education explored new realms of the learning process that offered diverse knowledge about scientific and democratic wisdom. But somewhere in the process, the fundamentals of our education system got derailed across all stages, right from the preliminary level to secondary and college education.

It focused mostly on storing knowledge, and fairly discouraged creative thinking. It even restricted an individual’s capability of developing a problem-solving attitude. Today, education in India mostly enables youth to acquire objective knowledge that helps them earn a degree, and ultimately, find a job.

Tech advancements

With the advent of technology, the learning model has transformed into a more computational, and less practice-based, learning. Hence, it is the need of the hour to focus on a synthesis-based approach that fuses design to create innovations across products, processes, and systems.

A pedagogical shift is required to develop the focus on vocational skills as per an individual’s ability, through practical training. This training will have more impact during the early phases of life for formative minds.

To create a near ideal structure for education, an amalgamation of ancient practices encompassing liberal thinking with the advancement of science and technology, will work best.

This is with a culture that truly nourishes an individual’s passion and interest by preparing them to serve the larger society and ecosystem effectively. With the right mix of information, communication and technology, it is certainly possible to bring together both culture and systems to charter an ideal education footprint that can create better professionals for the future.

The way forward

A greater emphasis on combining technological advancement with basics of design will certainly help bring this transformation.

Design thinking is a user-centric approach that incorporates principles of liberal education and helps explore hidden opportunities. As a unified and innovative system, it offers a different level of engagement with individuals that empowers them with a sense of social responsibility.

It promotes ‘thinking by doing’ approach as opposed to the traditional strategy of rigorous analysis and critical thinking alone. The ‘learning by doing’ method encourages individuals to apply a creative, considerate and critical thinking strategy.

Innovative educators of today are embracing ‘design thinking’ as the future approach to solving problems, and bridging knowledge gaps. Modern day educators are optimistic that design thinking will bring about a societal change, by helping policy makers visualise new policies and reform existing ones by making them human-centric, cohesive, and by incorporating multiple stakeholder requirements.

It will help address a variety of factors, including greater complexity, diversity and a sense of uncertainty in the world. It can develop the sense of dealing with issues and harbouring intellectual and practical dexterity. The innovative approach of design thinking can help nurture competence across all walks of lives.

Further, its design-oriented attitude will help individuals break their restrictive mindset and harvest more mature organisations of the future. It promises to be a powerful tool for student empowerment that will inspire intrinsic motivation, entrepreneurial mindset and commitment towards creating a positive difference in the world.

Only then we can take pride in creating new thinkers and innovators who can build a better India.