With the increasing acknowledgement of mental health issues, it comes as no shocker that researchers and developers are trying to look at every plausible factor that could contribute to the tampering of the human psyche.
The age group most affected by mental health issues is the youth (18-25 years). Mental health issues don’t spring upon a person out of anywhere, it takes a few years for them to culminate upon you until it starts to take a more serious form.
Educational buildings, mostly schools and colleges, are places where students and educators spend most of their time. In such a scenario, the surroundings play a significant role especially in a setting where learning is conducted, which is often overlooked.
If you work at an office that is centrally air-conditioned or have traveled in an airplane, you might have experienced difficulty in concentrating at work or while reading a book due to the uncomfortable temperature around you. Imagine young and impressionable minds trying to learn and grasp new concepts in such a setting.
While temperature is one of the factors that affect human psychology, other factors that affect it are- sunlight, ventilation, air quality, noise and acoustics, individuality (personalization of a space), the colors around you, exposure to the natural environment and the harmony with which different elements in your surroundings come together, among a few others.
We have often come across children saying they can study better at home or in the Indian context at their coaching classes than in their classrooms –have you ever wondered why?
This is mostly because the surroundings in their schools might not be conducive to learning. It might be something as trivial as noise from the playground, or the fact that they cannot connect to their classrooms due to the lack of personalization of the space.
It’s not only the students who are affected in educational settings; it’s also the educators that face the consequences. Educators have a very important task at hand of molding young minds and steering them in the right direction. Factors such as irritability, lack of enthusiasm, and disinterest in their task may affect the quality of their teachings.
Concerning teachers, educational buildings affect teacher recruitment, retention, commitment, and effort. Concerning students, educational buildings affect health, behavior, engagement, learning, and growth in achievement. Without adequate design considerations and interventions, it is extremely difficult to serve large numbers of children with complex needs.
The design interventions can be simple. For instance, orienting spaces to avoid glare and optimize ventilation, or providing wooden desks to make students feel closer to nature, or even providing desk arrangements that encourage peer learning. These solutions are not grand but they are impactful research shows.
In educational building design, there are many characteristic spaces like classrooms, staff rooms, corridors, and recreational spaces. Ironically, even with the same names and basic functions – one size does not fit all. The building needs to function as a single well-oiled entity, eliminating challenges such as cramped spaces, lack of natural light, and bad acoustics.
Educational buildings should relate to their surrounding community and purpose, each combating its challenges and offering their perks. Primary schools having wooden desks that the tiny tots are unable to use without the teacher’s assistance defeat the purpose of making the students habitual of performing basic tasks.
The process of imparting education has been evolving since the beginning of time and in each case, architecture and its surroundings have played an unsung and crucial role. Right from the inscription in caves to orally passing on knowledge under the cool shadow of a banyan tree to what it is today, imparting education without architectural interventions is impossible.
However, the prevalent education system has not been significantly updated since years. Although convenient, it is far from perfect and efficient. While the curriculum and other factors are important, the surroundings in a learning environment are also non-trivial.
Well-designed buildings and appropriately formulated surroundings can result in improved attendance, concentration, motivation, and self-esteem –all factors that can improve performance.
Arguably, the psychological impact is an important factor affecting students’ performance but it is not the factor responsible for good or bad performances. Yet, it is our responsibility to provide the future of our nation with the best facilities possible. Researching thoroughly and thinking about the psychological impact before beginning or during designing an educational building will probably take a few days out of our life, but will probably reserve multiple hours of students and teachers every day – by helping them utilize energy and time, otherwise put in dealing and adjusting with their surroundings, in learning and teaching.