23 SES 04 C, Educational Space
Parallel Paper Session
The education system in Portugal has undergone several changes in recent years. The massification of schooling since the 1970’s raised the question: if school is for all, how should the differences and discrepancies in the school community be addressed? Equal opportunities and school equity became a central issue in education and it was therefore crucial to diversify educational supply to allow the integration of all pupils, regardless of their aspirations or backgrounds. This was particularly important in secondary education in which structural measures were adopted, particularly in the 2005-2009 period, following the extensive Ministry of Education legislation and programmes.
One of these is the "Secondary School Modernisation Program” (SSMP). This programme represents a major investment to refurbish the public secondary schools aiming to cover a total of 332 schools by 2015. Until now, 107 schools were refurbished and the programme was suspended, due, in part, to changes in the political government.
The SSMP is based on the assumption that the quality of school buildings is a driving force in improving education, a strategic element in constructing a culture of learning and knowledge dissemination and contributes to equal access to education. It has three main objectives: i) to rehabilitate and modernise the secondary school buildings, creating the conditions for an evolving education,; ii) to open the schools to the communities, ensuring full exploitation of the potential of the school infrastructures; iii) and to establish a new management and maintenance model for school buildings, guaranteeing the optimisation of resources for the upkeep of the buildings after the renovation work.
In this article it is proposed to analise how a political decision can influence the relationship between learning and space. To develop this argument we focus on the social actors’ views on the programme, from two main dimensions: i) how the spaces are being used and to what extent the physical learning environment supports contemporary educational practices; ii) and to what extend social actors participate and influence the interventions on the schools’ space.
Having as starting point the main aims of the SSMP, we propose to present some of the results of the research that finished last November, developing the actors’ views, from the political actors responsible for the programme to the pupils.
The central concern of the research was to analyse the importance of schools as learning environments, given the politically established principle of equitable access to education and the centrality of knowledge and learning processes in any society. It is clear from the literature review that the characteristics of school facilities influence teaching and learning processes and, in theory, improvements in those facilities contribute to enhancing educational performance and outcomes. In this article we will focus on the social actors’ views as a way of foreseeing what the consequences on their practices might be.
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