The life we live has much to do with the environment we live in. Our room, our house, our neighborhood are spaces that will affect the way we feel, behave, and even reason. The so-called built environment has a profound effect on our well-being. That is why designers and architects of spaces have such a great responsibility; they create relatively lasting worlds. More so even for maintaining these worlds. When you neglect cleaning your room, are careless in maintaining your house, or inattentive to your neighborhood, it will not only show but also strike back on the way you and others occupy spaces. Schools as spaces are no different. Some schools are built like factory buildings, uninviting and demanding; others like sanatoria, distant and sterile. How schools are built says a lot about how we think about schooling and education (1) .
For that matter it is good to have evidence that well maintained schools provide spaces where students flourish. A Dutch study linked built environment in schools (playground, classrooms, corridors, facility rooms) to school success of students (mainly study results) and found a strikingly strong relation. Well kept environments provided an open engaging space for support of learning (the opposite also unfortunately being true). The study’s outcome resembles what has been found in the medical world about ‘healing environments’ (2) . Patients recover from their illness much faster when they get well in pleasant surroundings.
Now this all is not to make a socio-critical point, namely that better (and well kept) schools are to be found mainly in well off neighborhoods. It is regrettably obvious. This is meant to state that built environments are not poured down upon us. As social spaces they that can be modified and refurbished the way we like them to be (more or less we can). We interact with our environment, and when it is not interpreted as a given or pre-formatted world to be coped with we can uphold it according to our own specifications. It is a matter of how we want our lives to be. Therefore a great responsibility lies not only upon designers of built spaces but on educators and students alike to rearrange staffrooms, create open learning landscapes, ergonomic desks; in short, get involved in effective school design.
Predictors of study success from a teacher’s perspective of the quality of the built environment by H. Kok
M. Mobach & O. Omta
Management in Education 2015, Vol. 29(2) 53–62 ; ª 2015 British Educational Leadership,Management & Administration Society(BELMAS)