Location of Learning

The School for Life favours a challenging environment for its students, teachers and the wider community. As Ivan Illich, the famous author of the worldwide bestseller ‘Deschooling Society’ states: “The most intensive learning occurs not by precept but by the unhindered participation in a relevant environment.” An ideal environment for learning in realworld situations is not one which is based in the boredom of sleepy, predictable community, but one where a motley mixture of solvable problems is present. Students want to be challenged and to understand the meaning of learning. Solving problems in the real world and changing situations for the better makes sense. A “relevant environment” can be found in the countryside, just as it can in a city; it stands to reason that regionally-based Centers of Excellence such as the Center for Nutrition & Health or Organic Farming can provide special meaning to students. Such a Green School for Life concept can serve as a vanguard of the development of a healthy lifestyle.

In cases where a School for Life is not newly designed and built from scratch, the innovative remodelling of existing buildings such as an old factory, a hangar, a decommissioned ship, or an unused train station should be considered. In contrast, the use of empty rooms or space in a shopping mall for example, would be uninspiring and incompatible with the approach of the School for Life. Even traditional school buildings or other barrack-like facilities, are not considered an ideal “relevant environment”.

The master plan for the (re-)building of the school is developed by the School for Life team, together with an architect of your choice. It is based on the UNESCO-characterised concept of an “Open Learning Village”.

“The most intensive learning occurs not by precept but by the unhindered participation in a relevant environment.”

No classroom needed – Learning as Discovery (School for Life Chiang Mai)

This approach can be seen in Bali, Indonesia, where in the second half of the 1990s, the concept of a School for Life was realized for the first time – and later emerged as the Green School (www.greenschool.org). At the Green School, the commissioned architect was asked to refrain from adopting any design which took the shape of a traditional school building. Instead, they were asked to create a ‘market square’ in the middle of an Open Learning Village.

The School for Life in the province Phang Nga (southern Thailand) was built as a village: family houses, dormitories, six Centers of Excellence, guest bungalows, restaurant, cafeteria, theater, museums, classrooms, a pavilion of religions, sports facilities, fields for farming, and ponds for fish farming. The themes of the Centers of Excellence are defined by local or regional challenges and are shaped by special characteristics which foster learning and development in a non-traditional environment. The Centers focus on the turning of problems into business ideas, with a two-pronged approach. For example, the Center for Nutrition & Health also operates a laboratory for food processing and a bakery; and the Center for Cultural Heritage & Development operates a theater, a ‘pavilion of religions’, a dance studio and a studio for the arts. They incorporate guest bungalows, a pool, restaurant and reception and are the learning center as well as source of income for the Center for Culturally Sensitive Tourism.

The architecture is based on standard ecological construction and the use of alternative material, such as the Green School, with its use of bamboo and clay.