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Design Schools for Children, Professor Cui Yunhuo Talks About Design Thinking


Design schools, this is not only a groundbreaking field, but also a leading topic! Recently, Professor Cui Yunhuo, the Director of ICI was invited to preface to President Chen Ping's new book Design Schools, New Driving Force for the Innovation of Schools. Professor Cui shares what he sees as core qualities that school administrators should possess.

Professor Cui Yunhuo

Director of Institute of Curriculum and Instruction (ICI), East China Normal University

The “Toyota Model” has received widespread attention around the world, the more it is in the midst of an economic crisis, the more it is sought after. An important factor in Toyota’s success is the establishment of a correct “process”. “Only the right process can bring the right effect!” Referring to the reasons for Toyota's success, Toyota President Cho Fujio said: “It is a system formed by the combination of all the elements, which must be implemented in a consistent manner every day, not just a whirlwind.” The “system” formed by this collection of elements is a running “process” of the company, and the so-called change is the continuous revision, improvement and “continuous improvement” of the original process. This process of assembling the elements to build a “process” is a process of “design".

On the face of it, Toyota’s success is “design of process or system”, in fact, the theory behind it is a very universal “design thinking”. Design thinking, as an academic concept, is widely accepted and disseminated. It benefits from the book “Design thinking” published by Peter Rowe, dean of the School of Design at Harvard University in 1987. The book provides a practical basis for problem-solving procedures for designers and urban planners; As a treasure book in the business field, it benefited from The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (also known as D. School), founded by David Kelly in 2005.

D. School aims to develop composite, people-oriented and innovative designers, and researchers are made up of interdisciplinary cross-industry personnel. They come from the School of Engineering, the School of Art, the School of Management, the School of Medicine, the School of Media, the School of computer Science, the Academy of Social Sciences, the School of Science, and so on. D. School's teaching method is also different from other institutions, does not provide degree education, the college does not have its own students in the conventional sense, the courses are open to all graduate students at Stanford University, emphasizing cross-departmental cooperation. Its purpose is to deepen the depth of professional degree education with the breadth of design thinking.

In just a few decades, design thinking has been widely used in various fields of society, such as health care, sustainable development, education, urban planning, new products, service development and economic development. Design thinking has rapidly become an important theory in global business strategy, affecting many enterprises, including Apple, SAP, Siemens, P&G and so on.

However, some people may question whether design thinking is a bit unworthy of its name. The answer is obviously No! Design thinking aims at the continuous improvement of people’s quality of life and carries out creative design and practice according to the ways and methods of culture. It advocates a people-oriented problem-solving methodology, that is, from the needs of people, multi-angle to seek innovative solutions, and create more possibilities. Some people sum up this method as “3P”: human (People), process (Process), environmental (Place), that is, the purpose of design is to be human, for users, not for products; Design is a professional process, not overnight, not a single blow, but the need for continuous testing, adjustment and improvement, iterative development; the result of the design is a more pleasant environment, encounter and situation.

In this way, not only the business field and enterprise management need design thinking, but also the education field and school management need “people-oriented” design thinking.

Six years ago, Chen Ping, an art teacher, stepped into the post of school leader and became the “object of training for people’s educators in Jiangsu Province”. It was fate that I was hired by the Department of Education of Jiangsu Province and became his guidance professor. I remember once, he told me that he was particularly interested in the design of schools. Isn't that normal, I guess? An art teacher does not care about the beauty of the school environment, does not care about the school visual recognition system (SVIS), who cares? I really didn't care much at the time. Last month, however, when he sent me his six-year-old manuscript, Design Schools, New Driving Force for the Innovation of Schools, I was very surprised because it was beyond my knowledge, and it was so unexpected that this book was completely beyond my knowledge. He said that the design school is far from SIS, VIS and the like, but has been promoted to use “design thinking” to change and manage the schools, and regard design as the methodology of school innovation. This has made me interested in topics that I am not familiar with: taking the initiative to deal with some foreign language names, copyright names, and organization names in the book (some of which I do not understand, so I consulted six friends), and took the initiative to find relevant literature. Consciously learn a little bit of design thinking.

I fully agree with Chen Ping that school reform needs design thinking, people-oriented, empathy, demand, multiple perspectives, iterative change, and the pursuit of better. In view of the current situation in primary and secondary schools in our country, we very much need to put children in the center of the school, uphold the position of children, and study, understand, and gain insight into the learning and development needs of children. Design school environment, rules and regulations, curriculum teaching and cultural atmosphere for children. As to whether Chen Ping is the first person to advocate this, I have not made any textual research, but I firmly believe that the headmaster should be the designer of the school, and the design thinking must be one of the core qualities of the school administrator.

Design schools, this is not only a groundbreaking field, but also a leading topic!

Congratulations on Chen Ping's book Design Schools, New Driving Force for the Innovation of Schools, and we are looking forward to more people to be interested in the “design” of schools!

Cui Yunhuo

ICI, East China Normal University

June 18, 2019