The Building Revolution – merely a facade

In Australia, the Federal Government has undertaken a major building program that has involved large numbers of schools getting new classrooms, learning centres and sports stadiums etc. It was introduced as an economic stimulus plan for the nation.

At a quick glance it looks as though it would revolutionise education.

I don’t know about whether it is a revolution of education perhaps more of a “renovation of schools”. And new and shiny is always good…isn’t it?

This is what the government says on their website:

The Building the Education Revolution (BER) program is the single largest element of the Australian Government’s $42 billion Nation Building – Economic Stimulus Plan, with around 24 000 projects to be delivered in every community across Australia.

The $16.2 billion BER program aims to modernise schools through the delivery of necessary infrastructure, and by doing so, support local jobs and stimulate investment.

The BER is now in its most dynamic phase with construction underway in thousands of schools across the country. In many locations, students, teachers and their communities are already enjoying the benefits of recently completed projects delivering world-class, 21st century facilities.

A primary school near my home

As I travel around my city I see many brand spanking new buildings that are modern and inviting. This is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. It is only a start.
What I also notice is that these buildings have been built on open spaces in the schools at the expense of outdoor leisure space. Less outdoor space to run and play. It gives the impression that what happens inside the buildings/classrooms is sooo much more important. That “inside” is more important than outside. That true learning occurs inside 4 walls.

It appears that the doing outside is not as valued as the doing inside.

Let alone the doing that happens outside the school.

From the UnCollege blog of Dale J. Stephens, he so rightly heralds to us all:

“Learning by doing—in the world, not the classroom—is the best way to develop your talents and turn booksmarts into streetsmarts.”

To me the revolution is but cosmetic of an education system that is outdated inside it’s walls as the old factory system employed 150 years ago is still going strong.

As long as the classroom and school walls are seen as the lone bastions of learning from kindergarten to college (University) then our kids will be denied the streetsmarts they so need in life.

So Mr Government, keep the new buildings coming but allow school leadership increasing freedom to greater personalise learning for students and the opportunities for them to learn in the community.

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