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Designing schools

A question most parents of primary school going children ask as soon as their child returns from school is,

“What happened in school today? What did you learn?

Of course the primary business of schools is to bring about learning and parents are anxious to know what their children are learning.

Designing a school is an involved task. It begins with goal setting and devising a plan that can achieve the set goals. To work through this, let us take an example.

Look at the number 4. We can get this number by:

2+2 =4

1+1+1+1=4

1+3=4

5-1=4

The list can go on. In fact there are very many interesting ways of obtaining 4. But the important thing to notice is to get something as specific as 4, we have many options and all these options lead to the same desired result.

Let us see what happens when we substitute 4 with LEARNING

What design process do we follow to bring about learning in children of say age 10?

?+?=LEARNING

For a well defined learning goal, we can, like in the previous case come up with very many ways of achieving it. We may teach well, provide a library and encourage reading, use audiovisual resources, use arts and crafts or sports and games .... But the difference is that even if we define learning as carefully and completely as possible we can at best arrive at something like,

understanding how children learn + knowing what they already know + providing experiences for new learning + encouragement to learn MAY BRING ABOUT LEARNING

Notice that this can never become an equation nor can the same procedure work for all children at all times. It is this fact that makes designing a school a very difficult task. Nevertheless, to bring about learning, the 4 ingredients mentioned above are absolutely necessary. The absence of even one of them is detrimental to learning. We need to focus on each one of them.

  1. How do we understand children?
  2. How can we be sure of what they already know?
  3. in how many different way can we design and provide learning experiences?
  4. How can we encourage children to learn?

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