There are many competing demands that need to be balanced when you assess school infrastructure. Ignoring one or more areas inevitably leads to problems in future.
So when developing a school infrastructure assessment brief it is important to understand the key areas of school infrastructure performance and what should be measured and why.
School infrastructure assessments measure the performance of facilities in the following areas:
- Teaching and learning: This assesses the suitability of facilities and equipment in terms of whether they support up-to-date teaching and learning methods that enable education outcomes envisaged by the school and education system to be achieved.
- Users: This assesses the suitability of facilities and equipment in terms of whether productive, healthy, and inclusive environments for learners and teachers are achieved.
- Facilities: This assesses aspects such as building condition, building regulation compliance, health and safety and energy and water efficiency to establish whether facilities achieve regulatory compliance and good practice.
Often school infrastructure assessments tend to focus on 3. Facilities. This results in a partial view of the performance of school infrastructure and issues such as learner productivity, the availability of modern teaching and learning equipment and disabled access, which are important parts of a modern education system, not being assessed.
Budgets and timeframes for school infrastructure assessments can be limited, so it is especially important to get the right balance in the areas above and identify, and measure, the most important issues.
Assessors may not be built environment professionals so it is important to design assessment instruments that can be easily completed and provide practical, accessible training. This is best done through pilot assessments where technical issues can be explained ‘in the field’ and assessment results can be reviewed and calibrated to ensure they are accurate.
Google Earth and online repositories of school information such as contact details, enrollment data, facility plans, photographs, measurements and sketches can be invaluable in building a comprehensive picture of school infrastructure.
At the outset, it is important to establish the different ways that data collected in school infrastructure assessments will be used. For instance, if there are national programmes on inclusive education or ICT-enabled education, it may be useful to collect data that enables these programmes to be planned and implemented more effectively and efficiently.
Many of these issues surfaced in an interesting school infrastructure assessment exercise that I supported recently in Armenia. Applying a structured methodology enabled the main purpose of the assessment to be identified and effective assessment instruments to be developed. Pilot assessments indicate that the instrument and training are robust and should produce high-quality accurate results.