Rethinking children’s learning environment

In Bangladesh, there is large number of primary schools. The net rate of enrolment in primary school level has been increased in the last few years but the rate of completion is very low. Among the reasons of drop out, the poor infrastructural condition is always missing from the scene. If you walk into a roadside primary school, in no surprise you will find an overcrowded classroom, poorly lit and ventilated. Sound travels from the adjacent classes, sometimes children can’t even hear what the teachers say. But you will find a large play ground in front of the building unutilized or under-utilized which can easily be used as an extension of the classroom.

Let me share an interesting finding about the children of primary schools. From a survey of five different schools in Dhaka it is seen that the most favourite space of children is the outdoor, most of them are eager to go to school because they can play with their peers and spend time in the school ground. Then why can’t we give them a classroom with sky for a ceiling and earth for a floor, a room without walls or desks? An outdoor classroom can be so resourceful for children where young scientists explore the world of bugs; mathematicians measure rainfall; budding writers record their observations; and actors rehearse on a natural stage! According to psychologists, children of this age (6 to 11 years old) learn best through exploration and experimentation- while their lessons are integrated with the context they live.

“All the elements we learn such as trees, animals, soil, air, water etc are around ourselves in nature which the teachers cite while teaching in outdoor,” said Jerine and Swapna, two children of class IV of a primary school Narsingdi, “We feel comfortable and learn easily the lessons of science which seemed very difficult in our classroom” in response to my query about their learning in their newly built outdoor class. This outdoor class was built as a part of a M.Arch thesis of Department of Architecture, BUET funded by Committee for Advanced Studies and Research, BUET. The children of class IV were taught a chapter from their science text book in the outdoor class and they showed greater interest and motivation about their learning science. Their science teacher says, “The children are spontaneous and enthusiastic in their outdoor class. They work in groups and our attitude towards teaching is also changed while we teach in outdoor class.”This again proves the famous equation of Kurt Lewin i.e. B = f (PE), (where B = Behaviour, P = Person, and E = Environment) behaviour is a function of person and environment relation.

The children were engaged in different phases of construction which created in them a sense of belongingness to the outdoor class. They don’t use the space only for formal science class, one morning I was passing by the school on a sudden visit to the village, I found the girls playing there different structured and non-structured games having interesting names like O dear friend (বান্ধবী গো),ludu (লুডু), singing with the last word (গানের কলি),  lemon lemon (লেবু লেবু) etc. Previously, they could not play and have time outdoor as generally the boys play in the school ground. They invited me to their class of extra-curricular activities which now a days is held in the outdoor class. Its like an open theatre- a girl was dancing on the front stage which is used as a space for experiment in their class.

Primary School is the place where the formation of future leaders is rooted. It’s our responsibility to make this place more attractive and conducive to learning. Wont we come forward to make our children’s learning easy and delightful providing them the healthy and joyous environment  for learning?Image