Regional schools must focus on learning spaces rather than ‘gloss’, says expert

A top specialist in education design has urged regional schools to concentrate investment into quality teaching spaces rather than showy facilities.

In an interview with Middle East Architect, Graeme Fisher, partner at GAJ, spoke about the trends in regional school design, as well as his recent appointment as head of design and infrastructure for Dubai-based GEMS Education.

When asked about the common mistakes in regional school design, Fisher replied: “I think there hasn’t been enough importance placed in the need for quality teaching and learning spaces.

“Even with the new schools, that there is too much emphasis on some of the areas that aren’t really going to affect the quality of teaching. When you start to sacrifice quality of teaching spaces over some elements that are really just the gloss – in terms of capital expenditure – the balance isn’t quite right.”

Fisher conceded that certain schools will need to contain impressive facilities to attract paying clients. “There’s no doubt that with fee paying schools you need to provide something that is going to entice the clients , i.e. parents, such as great sports facilities and a great auditorium.”

“But if you’re spending all your money there and sacrificing the specialist classrooms and the teaching spaces, then there is a bit of a question mark. It will take a bit of time to get the balance right.”

Yet Fisher stressed that the standard of education architecture in the UAE has improved due to the recent investment by organisations such as GEMS and Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC).

This investment has seen the development of impressive schools such as Aldar Academies’ Al Bateen School, designed by Dewan, in Abu Dhabi (pictured).

“It’s great to see GEMS, ADEC and others taking a leading role in looking at contemporary teaching and education spaces. It’s a really exciting time to be involved in education in the region,” he remarked.