Matluba Khan is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the development of design guidelines for primary school grounds that can enhance children’s learning. She tweets @mishtush and blogs at matlubaanalysingandwriting.
Children in their outdoor classroom in Tulatoli Government Primary School, Bangladesh (Photo: Matluba Khan)
According to the recently published data by UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 1 out of 11 primary school aged children across the world are either dropped out or never entered school. The number is pronounced in the developing countries for example in Bangladesh 11% of the girls and 15% of the boys are out of school. Research is being conducted and different measures are taken by the international and national organizations in order to ensure every child’s right to education, to bring the out of school children back to school. However, the role of the physical environment in children’s learning experience has been rarely considered as a measure in order to attract children towards school. The role of the design of immediate surroundings of the primary schools on children’s education and motivation is seldom given consideration.
My Ph.D. research thrives to investigate the role of the design outdoor primary school environments in children’s motivation and learning. Bangladesh is one of the first countries to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989 and the first National Child Policy was written in 1994 which emphasizes on the whole development of the child in primary and secondary education. In Scotland, Curriculum for excellence emphasizes on the opportunities for children and young people to enjoy first -hand outdoor experience. However the immediate outdoor environment of the primary schools i.e. the school grounds are needed to be designed in a way that can support a child’s whole development and first-hand experience of the curriculum contents. The objective of my Ph.D. research is to formulate some guidelines for the design of primary school grounds that can help educators and design professionals in their decision making for improving the school ground.
The research aims at providing evidence for policy makers at national and international levels for their decision making regarding attracting children towards school and improving the quality of primary education. It adopts an experimental action evaluation research strategy which includes the design and development of a school ground in a Government Primary School in Bangladesh where the children used the designed school ground for learning of the curriculum content and other activities. Data were collected before and after the intervention which will be compared in order to find out the impact of the design on children. The interactions of the children with the designed outdoor environment are studied to explore how design influences children’s behavior.
But how can I communicate the findings of my research to the policy makers? With the aim to know the answer to this question I applied for the training on ‘Policy Stories’. The two-day training provided useful information on pros and cons of policy stories, for example, how does policy get made- actors, constraints and voices that are heard, tips and hints on effective strategies to communicate the research, how ideas are put forward and evidence-based policy making. The story-telling workshop was a fun way to learn how to tell the stories of Ph.D. research that can surpass academia to reach a diverse audience. The training also offered the opportunity for telling the stories of our research. Some of us made a policy pitch which encouraged discussion on the floor and the researchers were benefitted with useful comments and suggestions from the experts and colleagues about how the story can be told in a more effective way.
I have got my answer in the workshop and I look forward to apply what I learnt in order to inform the national and international policy-makers to ensure a better learning environment for children, the future leaders of the world.