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India needs a collaborative, student-centric, research-based & outcome-bound education system: Mugdha Thakurdesai

India needs a collaborative, student-centric, research-based & outcome-bound education system: Mugdha Thakurdesai

Children of today are the citizens of tomorrow. Therefore, it is important to invest in the future. It is important to overhaul the education system and make it more ‘student-centric’ which could be run by a collaborative, research-based & outcome bound system. And there is one organization that has initiated this change.

Education Design Architects, one of the leading designs and architecture companies in India, has been designing the educational institutes for quite some time. It believes that a 19th century model of corridors and classrooms teaching must not define the future of today’s students. Team RealtyMyths spoke to Ms. MugdhaThakurdesai, LEED AP Team Lead at Education Design Architects and discussed her vision about the education system in India and the company is contributing towards making it more robust and future-ready. Here are the excerpts.

Q. Do you think every educational institute is different or should be different from others? What value does the architect add to an educational institute?

A. Educational institutes need to break the barrier of the 19th century model of corridors & classrooms to cater to the millennials & the future generation that belongs to the 21st century. It needs to transform into a learner-centric model from a teacher-centric model. It is not possible to make this transformation if the learning spaces do not support the methodology. This is the value that we as architects bring to the table. We design 21st-century learning spaces – spaces that are innovative, inspirational, collaborative, flexible and agile.

Q. What is the basic difference between the structures of a preschool and a higher-secondary school? Which is more challenging to design and why?

A. Research has proven that there is no one way of learning or teaching & hence every child/ student learns things differently. While intimate, cozy spaces are a key ingredient of early years, collaborative, agile spaces are the ones that are required for higher secondary school. Primarily, early years environments require a lot of play-based activity zones, open spaces for outdoor play & interior zones for multipurpose activities. Anthropometry is a key factor while designing furniture for schools – chairs & tables that are appropriate for a 5-year-old will not be feasible for a 15-year-old!

There are challenges in every typology of the project, but I would say that higher-secondary schoolers are vocal about their needs in an environment. Preschoolers are often not. Although they express themselves in their own way, we as adults decide what is right & wrong for them & thereby the design follows our thought process.

Q. What made you focus on the educational institute segment only?

A. Children of today are citizens of tomorrow. Our main focus is on the end customer of an educational institute, which is the child or the student. There is a big gap between what the needs of this end customer are and what is provided through the medium of educational institutes. We are here to bridge that gap between the pedagogy & the environment by providing architectural & interior design solutions to clients as well as educational consultancy in terms of teacher training & curriculum mapping to name a few. Our entire approach is based on research on learning methodologies, behavior & emotional needs of a student. Thus, we come full circle in what we do.

Q. There are discussions that propose that the Indian education structure needs overhauling. Do you also believe so, and why?

A. We thoroughly believe that the Indian education system needs reform. It is still a classroom-based, teacher-centric, textbook-based & time-bound system. Whereas it needs to transform into a collaborative, student-centric, research-based & outcome bound system. We are in the day & age where we need to prepare our children for 21st-century skills that will help them for future jobs that don’t even exist. We are not going to achieve that by rote learning!

Q. Tell us more about Kai Early Years. What is special about this project?

A. KAI Early Years is one of its kind projects – the only preschool in India that is purpose-built exclusively for early years on 1.8 acres of land. Every space in KAI, indoor or outdoor is child-centric, every movement of the child is geared towards exploration – be it the tactile surfaces or the sensory walkways. The design is an outcome of the fact that the first 6 years of one’s life are the most formative years & the built environment plays a major role in this.

The play of light & shadows at KAI is magical. Starting from the trellis of the walkways to the large skylight at the entrance, each space has a story to tell. And what is childhood all about? Isn’t it about weaving stories, climbing structures, coloring walls & playing in water & sand? KAI’s built environment has all of these & more! By means of walls & surfaces that talk, there is a world out there for children to explore, experiment, feel & touch.

For an architect, the conception & design process has been a joy. And for it to take its form just as we envisioned it has been a reward in itself.

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