Should intellectual property be taught in schools?

Years after you’ve left the classroom it’s easy to wonder exactly why you spent valuable lesson time learning about Pythagoras’s theorem or the phases of the moon, though the former is admittedly on occasion useful when it comes to putting up shelves.

Alongside academic achievement that propels children on to higher education there is the belief that school should at least in part prepare kids for life as an adult. With this in mind, topics such as financial management have recently made their way onto the school curriculum. So, should we be teaching our children about intellectual property? One MP thinks so…

The campaign for school IP lessonsphones1

Last Autumn, Tory MP Mike Weatherley published this paper calling for IP education to be added to the curriculum. Mr Weatherley outlines his views that for children who spend much of their time online, IP has become an almost everyday issue that needs to be addressed. He wants to promote understanding of how to respect copyright and what it means to breach it by illegally downloading music, for example. Mr Weatherall sees this education as a responsibility shared between government and industry.

“Government and industry must have clear roles in supporting education professionals by developing and delivering online resources, toolkits and lesson plans with and for teachers so that IP finds its way into the curriculum via different subject areas,” he suggested.

Is IP relevant for children?ipad-605439_640

When we were small we might have occasionally been tempted to tape our favourite tunes when they played on the radio, now children come across a few more intellectual property obstacles.

Many of these are online and don’t necessarily relate to kids breaching copyright. In fact, when children sign up to social media sites and share their content there they are likely at some point to unknowingly sign over their own intellectual property

On the counter side, illegal downloading is another IP topic that children may lack knowledge about and presenting them with balanced information would, it is argued, make them more aware of the consequences.

Of course, IP matters are not all digital and the concept of owning an invention or a design and benefiting from it is something that may just stir extra innovation and entrepreneurship among the youth of today.

Intellectual property has come to the fore in popular media, particularly in such programmes as Dragon’s Den, which is routinely criticised by IP professionals for broadcasting ill-informed opinions on IP matters – IPKat published an entertaining post on this subject.

Better education of the general public in relation to IP matters would seem to be desirable, and that education needs to start somewhere, so why not in schools?

How we can teach children about IPeducation-548105_640

While it’s important children learn about the issues, any lessons would need to present a balanced view and if industry were to shape the items on the agenda there would be a risk that the topic of copyright infringement may dominate.

It would be preferable if children could understand how IP relates to science, business and art and therefore, alongside copyright it would seem good to also cover patents and trademarks and perhaps even registered designs.

The Shaun in the City schools programme, targeted at four to 16 year olds, aims to promote creativity among school pupils while educating about Intellectual Property. It’s running now until the end of May to coincide with the launch of the new Aaardman Animations Shaun the Sheep movie and has been put together in collaboration with the Intellectual Property Office.

As part of the scheme, school children have been challenged with decorating sculptures as well as designing a new mode of transport to help Shaun in his journey in the city, encouraging creativity and original thinking, something that while already on the curriculum in other guises is not often used to specifically reference intellectual property.