Decision Making for Education

Here’s an interesting and very telling story from the Guardian newspaper, UK:

Guardian newspaper – School Design

The gist is that civil servants and politicians, sitting in their ivory towers will dictate to schools and local schools’ management boards about how schools are to be built. This includes what features they will/ won’t have etc. In India, ironically, so far, this has been a much healthier state of affairs. Government sets down (and occasionally enforces) minimum standards about such things as square footage space per student, rooms available and numbers of toilets etc. of course, there’s still a further irony that whilst these rules are imposed on private schools there are vast areas of the country where the government’s own schools in the public sector don’t comply with the rules.

Reading this news story I was troubled by the underlying message that government wasn’t interested in views based upon the views and expectations of educators or those who have developed specialized skills in the creation of effective learning spaces. I could understand if the restrictions were about preventing large swathes of wasted space in fancy reception areas or decorative features like domes etc. on buildings, but this appears to cut far closer to aspects that impact on the actual learning environment.

Interestingly, Kunskapsskolan and its school designer from Sweden, Kenneth, have recognized that if you design school buildings that don’t have conventional classrooms and corridors you make far more effective use of space in a way that supports far more imaginative and creative learning for children. The UK government has welcomed Kunskapsskolan to run Academies in UK, but I can’t help thinking they would do well to also understand the educational model and its implications for learning spaces, school buildings’ efficiency etc.

Here in India, conventional schools are, sadly, extremely wasteful in use of space, whilst often scrimping on the actual size of classrooms (limiting educational flexibility in pedagogy due to limits on space). If you go, at a particular point in time in to a school that has eight sections of students and visit the classrooms of a particular year, you will find one room empty as the children are having a PE lesson, another empty as the children are in a computer lab and maybe another empty because the children are in an art class elsewhere. So, at that moment in time, half the classes of that year are empty, whilst the others are working in a way that is cramped.

Yes, we educators need to think about how schools are designed and how we use space. However, I’m not sure that politicians and civil servants are the best people to reshape the agenda on school design!

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2 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on ramblinginthecity and commented:
    This is an interesting post for architects and designers. How much do we really understand of the activities and the philosophy behind the spaces we are called in to design. And does a really involved design process mean the modern design practice (numbers, large projects) needs to be rethought drastically? Also what’s the role of partnerships, how do we learn from a variety of experts and non-experts?

  2. Reblogged this on ArchiSHOTS.

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