Dezeen Magazine

Children "being sent mad" by UK education policy, says BBC arts editor

BBC arts editor Will Gompertz has attacked the education system in the UK, saying it is training children to behave like computers rather than designers.

Gompertz, the most senior arts journalist at BBC News, made the comments at the Designs of the Year awards dinner at the Design Museum in London on 25 January 2018.

"We're bringing up a generation of children who are being sent mad," said Gompertz, who hosted the ceremony.

"Kids being taught to learn by rote, regurgitate information, which Google can do," he said. "And they're not being taught to apply information at all. So we're bringing up a bunch of children who are behaving like computers, not a bunch of children who are behaving like designers."

Will Gompertz said children are being trained to think like computers rather than designers

Gompertz is the latest high-profile figure to express concern about education in the UK, where government policies are squeezing creative subjects off the curriculum in favour of academic topics.

Architect Amanda Levete described architectural education in the UK as "very weak" in 2016, while in 2014 Apple's chief designer Jonathan Ive called design education 'tragic". Bodies including the Creative Industries Federation have also warned of a skills crisis in the design sector as fewer young people study arts degrees.

"All schools should be arts schools"

"I really honestly think that all schools should be arts schools," Gompertz added. "And that's not just so people can have their arms covered in paint. I just think children want to have these spongy brains. They want to apply their knowledge; what you learn at art school is to apply your knowledge."

Gompertz described improving education as "the great design challenge" and called on the Design Museum to create an education category at next year's Designs of the Year awards.

"I would like a seventh category to be added next year, around education," he said. "Because that surely is our future."

"I really hope next year this subject of education is taken on," he continued. "Because although we live in this information age, education is the only area that hasn't been particularly touched by technology. Technology has changed hotels, it's changed taxis, it's changed music, it's changed publishing. But actually children have pretty much the same education today as they did 40 years ago."

Declining numbers of students taking arts subjects

Last year the number of students taking arts subjects at school fell to its lowest level in ten years. Critics blame the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc) curriculum, which they believe is discouraging schools from introducing school children to arts subjects.

"Because they're focused on exams, which are about the individual, they're having to deal with social media," said Gompertz. "The truth of the matter is nothing is created alone."

The overall winner at the 2018 Designs of the Year awards was David Adjaye's Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, USA.