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The OECD's resources promote quality learning environments


The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is a forum where the governments of 30 democracies, including New Zealand work together to address the economic, social and environmental challenges of globalisation.

The OECD also has a strong focus on education, including early learning - working to assist governments to develop policies that deliver quality learning programmes and quality learning environments in today's rapidly-evolving knowledge society - offering useful statistics and resources on emerging issues and topics, such as:

This annual publication: 'Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011', which showcases over 60 recently built or refurbished educational facilities from 28 countries, each of which demonstrate "state-of-the-art" educational design.

This BBC Slideshow - Knowledge economy: Global best school buildings, which gives a glimpse into some of the educational buildings featured in the (above) book, Designing for Education:

From top-left clockwise: the interior of Tuomarilan kindergarten, Espoo, Finland, and (right) it's multicoloured exterior. Bottom-left is the Aadharshila Vatika in Delhi, India, which is praised for its "bold use of colours, variety of non-regular spaces and customised furniture and fittings, creating a playful ambience". And finally, the much-celebrated Fuji Kindergarten, with no fixed walls between classrooms, and which incorporates living trees and a landscaped roof for play.

There is the database of Best Practices in Educational Facilities including a facility of the week, such as this example located in Glascow, Scotland, UK: Hazelwood School. Recognised for its multi-sensory design - creating a challenging and stimulating environment for all, the outdoor spaces, safety needs and special needs provision.

Varied wall and floor surface textures and built-in navigational aids - such as trail rails, varied ceiling heights, and the print, Braille, moon and graphical signage - help children to navigate around the building independently. The design is both imaginative and sympathetic to the school’s parkland context, with its use of natural materials such as wood, slate and cork.

And there is the multimedia page, which includes videos and powerpoint presentations, such as this one of the Fuji Kindergarten designed by Tezuka Architects, which embodies the idea of "a kindergarten as a huge playground for children's growth, a tool for fostering children".

I love how they give the camera to a child at the end of the video, where we get a glimpse of the playground from the child's view.

One of OECD's latest videos, 'architecture for learning' talks of how learning spaces can work to inspire students, explaining that schools that are successful inhabit the following attributes: "walls become windows, spaces are fluid, nature is respected, the outdoors is as important as the indoors", and is where "the building becomes a teacher, and a resource for learning".


  1. Design wise, this is really interesting - but what goes on inside, thanks to the increasing influence of the OECD is pretty scary. I'm not sure of your views on the knowledge economy and neoliberalism but the OECD is seeking to make educational systems in different countries the same through the PISA assessment which is a standardised test on competencies. This test has led to the reconstruction of education systems in some countries and replaces national aims with rigid predetermined transnational targets that primarily focus on economics and the maintenance of neoliberalism. It is a potent example of transnational organisations leveraging control over national educational systems and is the force behind National Standards here in NZ.

    The OECD is definitely in favour of both the knowledge economy and by default its framework of neoliberalism. The reality of these systems is a homogenised education system which is incredibly destructive for multi-cultural societies like New Zealand.

    sorry for the rant - but your introduction really got to me.

  2. No, thanks for that. I didn't know/think about that, so you are raising some very interesting points - I guess my view was more that they are providing some useful resources on new educational architecture - that is interesting to look at/discuss...

  3. Yeah I totally respect where you are coming from - and you do a great job at highlighting new design initiatives. with that in mind, I read this today:


  4. What a great article!! Thanks so much for posting. I completely agree with everything it says. It says to think about the landscape as a playground, and nature as the equipment - now apply that to a building - with the building as a playground and the interior fit-out as the equipment?



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