21st Century Learning Environments
School buildings have a crucial contribution to make to raising educational achievement. Designing high performance school buildings for the 21st century for all children is a shared concern amongst OECD countries. Innovative research seeks architectural answers that make efficient use of the resources invested in building, renovating and running schools. Changes in the design of those buildings must serve the educational process and improve the quality of the learning environment. A major challenge is to secure the best possible design input to deliver schools that will meet future needs and expectations and offer a positive environment that supports learning and teaching.
In the early years of this still new century, the role of education in the knowledge society has been reaffirmed. Educational facilities, which provide innovative learning environments for tomorrow’s knowledge workers and the wider community, are more important than ever. The principles of lifelong learning, inclusion, integration, sustainability, connectivity and quality have become catchphrases of educational policy in all OECD countries, and those responsible for designing educational facilities are responding in new and exciting ways. Today, the word “school” does not capture the rich purpose and function of new and existing learning environments. A school can be a space centre, equipped with the latest technologies to simulate man’s exploration of the universe. A school can be a vocational training centre, where adults can improve their work-related skills after school hours and on the weekend. A school can be a place where communities gather to receive medical care and other support services, to watch exhibitions, to perform and to play sport. A school, through information and communications technology, can serve to link communities in isolated areas, creating virtual learning communities. Individual elements of a school such as an eco-garden or DNA-spiral staircase can be learning tools themselves, fostering enquiry-based learning skills and teaching students about the impact of facilities on their immediate environment. Finally, school design is not only an architect’s conception; it can also embody the creative vision of students, the practical necessities of teachers and the enthusiasm of communities.
Drawing on material presented at an international conference in London on “Creating 21st Century Learning Environments”, this report captures the spirit of innovation and excellence in educational facilities design today using case studies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. It also reflects an exciting period in educational facilities design in the United Kingdom as the government is significantly increasing capital funding for schools in an effort to raise educational standards. Through a number of building programmes promoting innovative design, the UK Department for Education and Skills is committed to creating attractive, imaginative and stimulating – yet safe and secure – learning environments. This report showcases a host of exemplary schools in the United Kingdom, several of which were visited by participants at the conference. Many of the facilities presented here demonstrate how governments, architects, facilities managers, teachers, students, parents and communities are working together to enhance existing quality learning environments and create new ones. By sharing innovative experiences and practice in educational facilities design, we can challenge traditional design concepts, inspire an emerging generation of designers and facilities users, and alert governments to the role of great design in improving educational quality.
Table of contents
Section I. Emerging Themes
Section II. Summary of Presentations
Section III. School Visits - London Area
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