Learning environment

The impact of the learning environment on preschool education


From an early age, today’s children spend more and more time in nurseries, kindergartens or schools. According to international statistics, the coverage of educational services is increasing worldwide. In 2015, 49% of children attended preschool, over 89% attended primary schools and 65% had full access to general education (primary and secondary). According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), by the age of 15, students spent an average of 7,538 hours on school premises (OECD, 2017). Thus, the school environment comes second, after the family environment, as the place where students spend the majority of their time. He can also become a “third teacher” (after family and educator) if he is arranged to support learning. The term ‘third teacher’ was first used by Italian educator Loris Malaguzzi, who went on to explain that the learning environment was not only a tool for educators, but also an independent source of discovery and learning. experiences for students (Cagliari et al. 2016).

One way to harness the school environment as a “third teacher” is to create child-centered educational institutions that provide a safe, inclusive and effective learning environment for all.

How is this done in practice? Building a school requires knowledge of pedagogical approaches, construction technologies, site settings and user needs, as well as a strong involvement of different stakeholders (e.g. project managers, school principals and teachers, architects, politicians and community members). For those who are developing and implementing national policies on school network expansion as well as for those working on the implementation of educational institution projects in the field, the availability of good quality research on these topics is of crucial importance for making informed decisions.

In our new book, The Impact of School Infrastructure on Learning: A Synthesis of the Evidence, the first three authors of this blog review current research on learning environments and examine how school facilities can affect children’s learning outcomes. We identify the key parameters to guide the design, implementation and supervision of educational infrastructure projects. We are also considering where the existing evidence could be strengthened and identify areas for further exploratory work.

Our review identifies the following aspects of the school environment as having a significant impact on children’s educational outcomes: school size, access to school and time spent attending school, class size, schedule and length of the study day, optimal use of learning environments, and availability of schools for children with special educational needs (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Learning environments for better educational outcomes

The technical aspects of school buildings also contribute to the overall quality of the learning environment; for example, natural light, temperature and air quality contribute significantly to how users perceive space and their ability to function. One of the most influential studies on this topic – “Clever Classrooms” by Professor Peter Barrett and colleagues – claims that the learning environment explains 16% of the difference in achievement and half of the improvement in results. learning is linked to hardware infrastructure solutions. (air quality, lightning and temperature) (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Contribution of each measure to the classroom

The most successful school designs occur when building users and stakeholders plan and develop the design in harmony with their cultural, educational and economic contexts. Sometimes schools or kindergartens are part of community centers, where, for example, sports facilities can be used by neighbors, while students can use the public library.

New learning approaches require different learning environments. For example, the Finnish educational community is actively discussing a new curriculum reform called “phenomena-based lessons”, in which subjects are integrated into multidisciplinary research activities. This means that the class is no longer characterized as a gathering of a number of students for a 40 minute lesson, but rather involves the parallel work of various groups of students and teachers on a given topic. For example, two small groups can combine to work with two teachers while at the same time a larger group can work with a single teacher. Experimentation, collaboration and creativity become very important for teachers in such contexts.

Different design approaches help make buildings more economical while making them more multifunctional. While the traditional school design allocates 10-25% of the space to hallways, alternative approaches such as the central space design allow for a more diverse use of that space while reducing the school’s footprint by 10. at 15%. It is important to mention, however, that ‘fitness for purpose’ is the most important criterion for the design of the learning environment and that teaching and learning practices should be the primary consideration in the design. layout of learning environments.

India is also increasingly recognizing the relevance of physical spaces for learning. The 2005 National Curriculum Framework (NCF) stresses the need to derive maximum educational value from the physical assets of schools and highlights the potential gains that can be achieved by connecting physical spaces with pedagogical and child-friendly approaches. Over the past decade, states such as Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Odisha have experimented with concepts such as Building as Learning Aid (BaLA), but much more could be done in this area. As further analysis and evidence on the relationship between learning environments and learning outcomes emerges, Indian stakeholders need to ensure that these ideas are used to inform public investments in modernization. school infrastructure across India.


Diego Ambasz, world Bank

Tigrane Shmis, world Bank

Maria Ustinova, world Bank

Kumar Vivek, world Bank

This item was originally posted in Ideas for India


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