“Australia still has an industrial model of school education that reflects a 20th century aspiration to deliver mass education to all children. This model is focused on trying to ensure that millions of students attain specified learning outcomes for their grade and age before moving them in lock-step to the next year of schooling. It is not designed to differentiate learning or stretch all students to ensure they achieve maximum learning growth every year, nor does it incentivise schools to innovate and continuously improve.”
- Gonski Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools
The citizenry in western industrialised nations began to be universally educated when the dominant powers realised it was essential to a successful experiment in democratic self-government and industrial capitalism during the 19thcentury. Much of this education was not technical in nature but social and moral. Workers who had always spent their working days in a domestic setting, had to be taught to follow orders, to respect the space and property rights of others, be punctual, docile, and sober. It was in the educational institutions that citizens received their social conditioning. (Mokyr, 2001, p10)
Education systems are often still defined by the 19thcentury hierarchical model, superimposed with the late 20th– 21stcentury neoliberal ideals, education subjugated to metric outcomes, economic dogma, digitised appearance and consumer competition. Presenting life as a spectacle of accumulation, consumption and desire.
The learning environment is both a representation and a generator of capitalist production landscapes. With an agenda of economic growth for the already dominant class.Today there is an ever expanding growth in technological advances, the ability and effectiveness for automation and machine learning to do jobs for us is increasing rapidly. Employment and labour as we currently understand it is in jeopardy. If education environments have existed to facilitate labour what need will there be for learning environments in the immediate future?
These new forms of employment are still unknown, we understand that jobs that require large amounts of social interaction and creativity are less likely to be threatened by automation. (Freye and Osborne, 2013,p.44) The current dominant narrative and educational institution typology does little to successfully construct a programmatic and spatial environment that is fostering the learner for the kinds of environmental, technological and social landscapes of tomorrow.
However there are a multiplicity of progressive pedagogies, education models and learning ecosystems that are challenging the standard programmatic and spatial typologies. Some of these learning environments are seeing teachers and learners become more collaborative, digitally literate and agile in their learning. An increasing industry of online learning sees less need for face to face-ness (timetables) less need for physical space (classrooms) and less need for centralised instruction (hierarchy). There are already working examples of learning environments for children and adults that incorporate experiential learning models into pedagogy, Risk Parks, Theatre of The Oppressed and High-Tech High are all examples that enable risk and playto become an integral part of learning, having a transformative affect both spatially and programmatically. These approaches provoke the potential for profound changes in educational architecture, shifting the traditional notions of the educational interior and spatial arrangements of learning environments and their relationship with the public sphere.
Here Debord describes the learner (spectator) as isolated from each other. “A lonely crowd” mediated by a Foucauldian panopticon approachto surveillance and passivity. If learning environments are to combat such an image they might need to be made public. That is, their program, architectural thresholds and interiority might need to be grafted to the social and cultural context that surrounds them. Learning environments have the ability to be sites of social change, community cohesion, creative production and collective action. The successfulness of educational systems may well be their ability to create agents of change (actors) rather than Debord’s passive spectator. Spatial proximity, lamination and co inhabitation can be used to challenge and reimagine the educational institution.
This studio will examine, scrutinise and disassemble the existing dominant and progressive learning models and spatial environments. We will challenge notions of security, surveillance and opacity of institutional spaces. The studio will re-imagine the landscape of learning spaces, recalibrate, reorientate and reconnect learning to the learner and to the social, cultural and political environment.
We will interrogate the role of the learner – What needs to learnt and who needs to learn it?