Imagine earning your education in a box. I’m talking four walls, maybe one window, a door, and a white board. Doesn’t it sound drudging? In a place so mundane, and simple, how can students be inspired or stimulated to think creatively?
Though much of education reform’s focus has been on school curriculums, policies, teachers and administration, recent in the news is talk about the importance of school environments.
In an effort to cut school building costs by 30%, education secretary Michael Gove is planning to simplify school buildings. In the new plans, curves will be banned from school architecture design, corners will be square, and ceilings will be bare and no higher than head height. Buildings will now be covered will materials no special than metal or render. Surprisingly, folding partitions that divide classrooms will now be banned. According to the Guardian, schools will shrink in size by 15%. The goal is to standardize school buildings and to design them in a way that can be replicated over and over again in a cost-effective way.
Why the sudden simplification in school design? Some schools have gone above and beyond, hiring prize-winning architects to design their schools. Michael Gove is against these practices, believing schools are spending too much money in the wrong places. He claimed in the recent article, “New school building designs hit by curve ban,” that our goal isn’t to make architects richer.
Michael Gove’s new plan has met with some opposition. A study at Salfrod University found a strong correlation between the built school environment and test scores. Factors such as lighting, sound, color, circulation, and individuality have been found to affect students’ academic progress. Of coarse, correlation does not necessarily prove causation; yielding a need for further investigation.
Though simplifying school buildings will cut down on costs, the idea of standardizing our schools can be quite gruesome. There is a concern about providing children a proper learning and engaging environment. Recent efforts in changing school designs are quite contrary to what is going on overseas. In Sweden for example, the Swedish Free School Organization hired a Danish studio to design a vibrant, open school with abstract furniture.
It will be interesting to see how these two different school environments will impact children’s academic performance. Perhaps in years to come we will be swapping data with Sweden!