Elastic classrooms, spaces to learn skills from cooking to carpentry, glass walls, specially designed furniture, digital libraries. As technology and focus on specific needs transform conventional education, school buildings are evolving too, and evolving fast.
From the collection of classrooms, a few laboratories and a library that schools used to be, the buildings of today are a reflection of the institutes’ statement of purpose and also their brand ambassadors.
“The school is no longer just a place to educate children. It is an image-building venue for children and parents,” said Hafeez Contractor, architect. “Buildings are designed for better interaction between children. The furniture is child-friendly, the look is more appealing.”
Take Lodha World School in Thane. The seven-year-old school has a room for technical drawing, and another for music. Matunga’s Shishuvan School, established in 2004, has a ‘social science laboratory’ to teach clay modelling and cooking.
“Earlier, the buildings were designed keeping in mind academic needs and cost constraints. The new structures are ergonomically designed,” said Jesus Lall, CEO of Universal Education Group, which manages around 14 schools in the MMR. Classrooms in their newer schools are no longer rectangular. “We also use collapsible walls to alter the size of the rooms.”
While newer schools are constructed keeping in mind the new trends, older ones are fast catching up. “Once the school building is ready, one can’t make too many changes to it,” said Albin Anthony, director of Sacred Heart School in Kalyan. They are getting over this disadvantage by tweaking the existing architecture. Sacred Heart, established around 15 years ago, has built an 18,000-sqft indoor sporting facility and a terrace garden within its premises. To make the school disabled-friendly, ramps have been installed in the campus.
Utpal Shanghvi Global School, Juhu, founded in 1982, has replaced concrete walls with glass to express the institution’s principle of transparency and modernity.
In Thane, Sulochanadevi Singhania School has added an aquarium and botanical gardens. “Learning doesn’t take place only in a classroom. These facilities give practical knowledge and experience to students,” said vice-principal Cladious Pabro.
Apart from transforming the school’s architecture, the jury is out on if modern technology has changed classroom dynamics. Lall and Shubhadra Shenoy, principal of Shishuvan School, said the teacher is no longer the focal point of the class. However, many disagree.
Shenoy, too, struck a cautionary note. “Too much technology can be a problem, with children moving away from physical books and reading,” she said.
Principals assert these changes haven’t resulted in a steep hike in the fees. “We took care the additions were made at a minimal cost,” said Anthony. “Parents are happy to pay for additional facilities as long as they are not overcharged,” said Lall.
Some facilities Mumbai schools offer:
Sacred Heart School, Kalyan
* Indoor sporting facility: Space for indoor sports and other physical activities
* Ramps across the campus for students with disabilities
* Terrace gardening facility: Utilising vacant spaces in the building for growing plants
* Sky-dome (planetarium): A small theatre for students to experience the movement of stars
Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri
* Expanded school library with around 10, 000 books
* Increase in capacity of the dining hall, which can accommodate around 800 children from the 300 earlier
Lodha World School, Thane
* A separate room for technical drawing (draughting) and another for dance and music
Shishuvan School, Matunga
* Social Science laboratory to teach clay modelling, cooking and other skills to primary section students
* Radio Room in which children are trained in radio jockeying and editing
* Facilities to teach skill such as carpentry and welding
Universal Group schools
* Layout of classrooms in newer schools is larger in size and no longer of the traditional rectangular shape
* Classrooms are flexible in size, with moveable partitions
* E-Library: Libraries with the facility of e-book readers
* Vermiculture plot: Space for worm farming and composting
Utpal Shanghvi Global School
* State-of-art audio-visual centre: A televised programme is designed, recorded and telecast by students on a daily basis. Students are exposed to the process of making films, working with sound effects, photography and music
* Specialised dance room, yoga room, music room, computer laboratories
* Every classroom has uniboard, computers and projectors
* Every classroom has two real-time cameras to maintain safety and security
Sulochanadevi Singhania School, Thane
* Traffic Park: A lab to impart knowledge about traffic rules and road signs
* Botanical Garden: Cultivation of vegetables, spices in school ground
* Aquarium: For better understanding of underwater creatures.