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DISCUSSION PAPER JULY 2016

IS GOD IN THE DETAILS?


MELBOURNE

3/577 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 t (03) 9221 0999 e melbourne@graypuksand.com.au

SYDNEY

1/156 Clarence Street, NSW 2000 t (02) 9247 9422 e sydney@graypuksand.com.au

BRISBANE

2/172 Robertson Street, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 t (07) 3839 5600 e brisbane@graypuksand.com.au

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DISCUSSION PAPER IS GOD IN THE DETAILS? PEDAGOGY AND THE DESIGN OF FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS

Contemporary school design is predominately a functional response to modern concepts regarding the delivery of education. This applies to both non-religious and faith-based schools. However, unlike their secular counterparts, faith-based schools have traditions and values that influence their curriculum and pedagogy. Our research has found that religious identity can also influence school design. We have identified five potential ‘Design Connections’ which range from the overt co-location of schools adjacent to a place of worship, to the sublime way natural daylight enters and filters through a space.

WHY FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS? FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS FORM PART OF THE CATHOLIC AND INDEPENDENT SCHOOL SYSTEM. This includes schools run by non-government entities, not-for-profit organisations and faith-based institutions which offer alternatives to traditional Australian schooling including co-educational, single-sex, boarding, special needs and faith-based education. In 2014, the Catholic and independent school sectors accounted for 35 per cent of student enrolments in Australia. Of all independent schools, ‘85 per cent... have a religious affiliation’ (ISCA 2015, p.1).

Parents enrol their children in independent schools for many reasons. A 2008 report from the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA), identified that ‘moral values’ rank as high or higher in importance than factors such as high academic achievement, social skills and discipline (ISCA 2008, p.7). Faith-based education also provides an opportunity for the training of ‘moral values’ within an existing education framework.

©2016 GRAY PUKSAND

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DISCUSSION PAPER IS GOD IN THE DETAILS? PEDAGOGY AND THE DESIGN OF FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS

GOVERNMENT

1970

CATHOLIC INDEPENDENT RELIGIOUS INDEPENDENT SECULAR

1980 1990 2000 2010 2015 0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

90%

100% ENROLMENT CHANGE BY SECTOR 1970 TO 2015

HOW DOES THE CURRICULUM DIFFER BETWEEN SECULAR AND FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS? IN THE TRADITIONAL SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT, EDUCATION COMPRISES CURRICULUM, PEDAGOGY AND ASSESSMENT. EDUCATION EXPERT SIR KEN ROBINSON SUMS THESE UP AS FOLLOWS:

"Curriculum, which is what the school system expects students to learn; pedagogy, the process by which the system helps students to do it; and assessment, the process of judging how well they are doing." (Robinson & Aronica 2009, p.192).

The Australian Government (ACARA) sets education goals that must be achieved by the curriculum of all schools in Australia (MCEETYA 2008). Faith-based schools have additional goals based on their religious identity that affects curriculum and how it’s delivered (pedagogy), with Religious Education taught at all levels. This education emphasises cultural and religious heritage as well as moral values. Programs often focus on rituals, celebrations, prayer, religious texts and cultural languages, and on the moral and spiritual wellbeing of students in order to make them valuable members of the religious and wider community.

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CURRICULUM SCHOOL DESIGN

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

PROXIMITY ICONOGRAPHY PRAXIS COMMUNITY EXPERIENTIAL

ASSESSMENT

PEDAGOGY

PEDAGOGY AND SCHOOL DESIGN IN THIS SCHEME, SCHOOL DESIGN HAS A CLOSE ASSOCIATION WITH PEDAGOGY.

In the past decade, educational practices have shifted from lecture-based teaching to provide greater opportunities for group, collaborative and individually focused learning. Space planning and architectural design create environments that facilitate teaching and learning outcomes.

This concept applies to both secular and faith based schools but does not address the religious identity of faith-based schools. For Christian and Jewish Schools, religious identity is most evident in the use of religious symbols or their proximity to a place of worship. For Islamic Schools, where the use of religious icons can be more limited, it is less evident.

©2016 GRAY PUKSAND

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DISCUSSION PAPER IS GOD IN THE DETAILS? PEDAGOGY AND THE DESIGN OF FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS

HOW DO CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL BELIEFS INFLUENCE THE DESIGN OF FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS?

Just as architecture can facilitate learning styles, it can also communicate ideals and values. Learnings from our interviews with representative institutions indicate that there is a desire within the faith-based school community for design to communicate religious identity. However, the approach can range from an overt display of religious symbols to the use of natural light to inspire a sense of the sacred. We have identified a series of ‘Design Connections’ that provide a link between Religious Identity and School Design as described in this diagram. PROXIMITY deals with whether the school is adjacent to a place of worship. Schools that are co-located with a place of worship are more clearly identifiable as being associated with that particular religion. For schools that are not located next to a place of worship, the need for ‘religious identity’ can be more of a requirement ICONOGRAPHY is the display of religious symbols and is the most common connection evident in faith-based schools. Religious symbols often form a design feature of the façade or signage. However, the use of Iconography is not universal amongst religious groups. Some Islamic and independent Christian groups avoid the use of Iconography. Al Siraat College in Melbourne’s northern suburbs beleves that the school’s facilities should be simple and conservative with true Islamic faith not encouraging overt decoration and embellishment (Ahrain & Ahrain 2013).

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PRAXIS relates to religious rituals or observances that require a functional response. These include rites of passage, such as Bar/Bat Mitzvah or Confirmation, separation of sexes, spaces for prayer and building orientation. As a functional requirement, it can directly influence the layout and form of schools and is one of the most evident expressions of religious identity.  COMMUNITY is the manner in which the school engages with its spiritual and wider community. Catholic Schools place a strong emphasis on the idea of the school as ‘outward facing.’ They see the school community as made up of the parish, families and the wider community. However, some faith-based schools focus inwards due to pressures from local communities or historical prejudices. Jewish and Islamic schools have a tendency to focus inwards on a local level, but tend to have a ‘world view’ that connects the school community to their spiritual homelands and a global religious community. EXPERIENTIAL refers to how the school design might elicit a religious experience. It’s also the most powerful link for providing a sense of the sacred. Religious scholar Mircea Eliade states that sacred space “constitutes a break in the homogeneity of space” where “communication with heaven is expressed by one or another certain images” (Eliade 1959, p. 37). This can be achieved through the use of verticality, scale and the contrast of light and shadow.

CONCLUSION The influence of cultural and spiritual beliefs on the design of faith-based schools depends on the school, its beliefs and practices. At faith-based schools, religious identity influences pedagogy and there is the opportunity for it to influence school design. Sometimes, a school may simply need a functional space that facilitates 21st century learning outcomes. At other times, a school may require a sense of the sacred and look for an expression of God in the Details.


SOMERVILLE COLLEGE

©2016 GRAY PUKSAND

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Gray Puksand - Is God In The Details? Pedagogic and the design of faith based schools  

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