Talking to Trainee Teachers in the Coldest City on Earth

Designing Schools for the Coldest City Earth – Part 2

I have just been talking to a group of trainee teachers in Yakutsk about the design and use of space in schools. I was invited by the Education Institute of the North Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk.

The audience of trainee teachers at the Education Institute, North Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk

The audience of trainee teachers at the Education Institute, North Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk

In most schools the design is very conventional although teachers and government are very open to looking at different ways of approaching school design. For my own part it was good to be able to learn about how they teach in their education system and what ideas from other places may work there, as well as impart what I have learned from other places.

My approach was to show them what is happening in other countries and leave them with the message that the built environment should support them in what they do rather than ‘dictate’ what they do. It was also to encourage them to explore different ways of using the spaces they have.

As part of the government improvement programme in education, it is focusing on the training of teachers to better use space. They are very clear that the kindergarten construction programme has to be supported by training of teachers. This is a lesson that should be learned and widely adopted around the world by other education systems.

The investment in construction is always significant whether it is the initial capital expenditure on providing new or renovated buildings, or the recurrent costs of operating them. However, the real value from this effort can only be truly realised by better support of the users, in particular teachers. My worries about this issue were confirmed earlier this year. During a school design competition judging panel I was on I asked one of my co-jurors, who was the head of a teacher training college, how much attention was paid to training teachers to use and manipulate spaces in schools. The answer was: “None!” Indeed this was supported by other educationalists around the table.

To be an outsider and be invited in to talk about things one is passionate about is a privilege. To be able talk with an audience that is open minded enough to want to listen to new and sometimes challenging ideas is a reminder that we do not have to put up with things the way they are.

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