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For those of us responsible for designing, building and renovating educational facilities, it’s time to go back to school – and fast.


A recent whitepaper prepared by KI explores how we must rethink education. In essence, whether it is the actual facility or the furniture that completes it, we have all been accustomed to designs and prices based on ‘“student-head-count’ per-square-foot.’

But things have changed dramatically over the past few years. The way we all receive and curate information today is radically different, yet the bricks and mortar and traditional teaching models within the education system are still in place. Architects and designers have very real opportunities to aid in preparing educational institutions for the future.

So, why is it important to move now?

A report prepared by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century states:

As we end the first decade of the 21st century, there are profoundly troubling signs that the U.S. is now failing to meet its obligation to prepare millions of young adults.

A few of these include:

• Only 56% of those enrolling in a four-year college attain a bachelor’s degree after six years.
• The U.S. has the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world even though we spend $400 billion annually on post-secondary education.
• U.S. employers complain that today’s young adults are not equipped with necessary skills.
• Students fail to see the connection between their studies and job opportunities.

The report goes on to conclude:

The fundamental problem is that our education system has not evolved to serve young adults in this radically different world.

KI suggests that we all shift our proposed solutions to position educational institutions for better  “learning” per-square-foot, thereby improving student success, creating a community of learning, and strengthening our country’s competitive position for the future.

This requires understanding the impact the digital world has had on our youth. According to the Pew Research Center this generation is:

• Confident
• Connected
• Open to change
• Team-oriented
• Self-expressive
• Upbeat
• More ethnically and radically diverse
• 93% go online
• 97% play computer, web and portable games
• 75% have created social networks
• 20% have posted a video of themselves online

Students today expect 24/7 access to information and the ability to study or do homework anywhere, any time. So, in order to attain the attention of these constantly moving targets, educators must be moving with them. It’s no longer a choice.

A good starting point includes designs with:

• Less walls, open feeling
• Engaging environments
• Flexibility
• Connectivity
• Collaborative areas
• Interaction opportunities

This will not only have a radical impact on how classrooms are designed. It essentially turns every square foot into a learning opportunity – or should.

But what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree?

Also we’d love to see some samples if you are already incorporating new ideas to prepare the education industry for the 21st Century.