Education Spaces of the 21st Century

Organic Table Design RosanBosch Foto Kim Wendt-sm

The aim of the Educational Spaces 21. Open up! (in short: EDUSPACES21) project is to assist schools in modernizing their educational spaces with 21st century solutions in mind.The central idea of this approach is to see educational space in broader terms than as a mere classroom. This encompasses three principal dimensions: physical space (architecture, equipment, school infrastructure), virtual space and technology (online/ network-based learning and teaching), and social aspects (school community, local community, contact with the world).Physical space

Physical Space

In all parts of Europe, most schools look alike. They resemble prison cells in which education is enclosed. Learning space is limited by walls, standardised into classroom dimensions (the same layout, school desk setup, a single blackboard as a teaching medium) and put in the hands of the sole master: the unerring teacher whose goal is to fill the minds of the pupils with knowledge. This description illustrates the prevailing teaching model which ignores the fact that a new definition of educational space has emerged. In the course of this project, we want to present possible architectural and infrastructural solutions, as well as guidelines concerning the ways in which the existing infrastructure can be modernised. We will try to show how to better arrange each school's educational space in small, incremental steps. All changes must address the actual needs of the users: both students and teachers.

Virtual space and technology

Thanks to the development of the Internet, we now have access to innumerable resources via a series of user-friendly means, including mobile tools. The Internet has altered our lifestyles, our learning habits, as well as our working and communication models. The teachers’ roles and student expectations are constantly evolving. The same applies to the set of skills necessary to function professionally, socially and individually in the 21st century.

The level of trust in new technologies on the educational market is still unsatisfactory, which is reflected by the rigorous internal regulations (e.g. school regulations) that hamper the development of modern approaches to education. The ban on the use of mobile phones in class is one such the ways in which learning and teaching methods can be modified with the use of ICT. EDUSPACES21 wants to provide a solution for these issues in the form of a guide on effective, informed use of the Internet and new technologies in learning and developing key 21st century competences.

Social and cultural space

PISA survey results (2012) have indicated several challenges to be faced by Polish and other European schools. An overwhelming majority of 15-year-olds (79%) is of the opinion that school is a waste of time. They do not believe in school nor do they feel happy inside its walls (Poland ranked 7th from the bottom of the list). 20% of Polish teenagers do not believe that they will get a good job if they do well at school, while 30% claim that the school will provide them with no useful knowledge to be applied at work. The results of PISA's 5th research project focused on problem solving based on everyday activities (e.g. buying the cheapest ticket in a ticket machine, bypassing traffic etc.) are also alarming. Poland scored 481 points in this survey (below OECD average: 500 points).

This is confirmed by studies in unemployment, according to which one of the factors contributing to failure on the job market is the low level of candidates' professional and social competence. Unemployment in Polish people aged 24 or less is one of the highest in the EU (28%, compared to the EU average of 23%). This leaves us with around 425,000 jobless young people. According to the research conducted by universities, NGOs and employers, candidates lack soft skills (cooperation, communication, critical thinking, learning facility etc.), mainly due to the lack of practice in the form of project-based work. This lack of skills seriously limits young people's flexibility and independence on the labour market. The proposed project provides solutions aimed at fostering students' entrepreneurial and social skills. Apart from being learning and teaching centres, schools should also function as social institutions, multifunctional entities that take various groups of stakeholders into account, including parents, senior citizens and local communities. Schools have the potential of becoming lifelong learning centres, gathering volunteers, promoting local activity, social and educational initiatives focused on the community. Schools should be associated with dialogue, initiative, and active participation of both children and adults. They should aim at escaping the isolation that is often forced upon them. Such 'liberating' activities will ensure greater social cohesion and build social capital.

Through series of EDUSPACES21 guidebooks and conferences developed in the project, we will present a list of recommendations and descriptions of changes which may be implemented in schools to make them more student- and teacher-friendly, and to streamline teaching processes in line with 21st Century approaches.

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