BaLA or Building as Learning Aid is a concept that believes that the quality of education can be improved developing child-friendly, learning and fun based physical environment building in school infrastructure. This concept was developed originally by Vinyas, Centre for Architectural Research & Design with support from UNICEF and is now implemented in more than 2558 Model Schools in Gujarat state. A large team civil engineers at district and block level, several teachers and Head Masters of schools have been trained to obtain successful implementation of this scheme. A good thing about this scheme is that it can be introduced in new schools as well in existing schools by combining it with building repairs and up-gradation.
Objectives of BaLA
The BaLA scheme mainly focuses at achieving the following:
Allow school to be conceived in a holistic way
Make the school a child friendly and exciting place, allowing learning with fun
Create conducive self-learning situations for children
Create inclusive learning spaces and provisions spaces for Children With Special Needs (CWSN) – i-BaLA is specifically developed for this purpose
Allow learning materials accessible to children, at all times
Prevent the TLM to be stolen or misplaced and hence it can remain orderly
Allow teachers to adapt them to suit their specific needs
Levels of intervention of BaLA
There are two levels of intervention of BaLA scheme:
Develop the SPACES to create varied teaching-learning situations. The Spaces can be:
- Steps and staircase
- Outdoor space
Develop the BUILT ELEMENTS in these spaces as teaching-learning aids. The Built Elements can be:
Implementation of BaLA Scheme
In Gujarat, the SSA has made around 1620 Model schools with BaLA across all the districts. The focus is given on covering as many schools as possible. Vinyas has developed about 150 design ideas grouped under 61 categories for both rural and urban elementary schools.
Now to implement the BaLA scheme in a school, a team work of school administrators, teachers, children, architects, educationists and construction workers is required. With the schools coming forward and taking active participation in the scheme, the implementation has been made a lot easier. SSA has also developed the capacity to implement and monitor the scheme across various districts.
To accomplish BaLA for maximum benefit, it is very important that the pedagogy, teacher’s training units as well as civil works units work in close coordination.
Existing and Proposed Setting of BaLA
The following settings are already implemented under the BaLA scheme:
- Circulation Corridor Space 0
- Outdoor Space and Natural Environment
- Developing space between two blocks
- Developing backyards and plinths
The following settings are proposed to be included under the BaLA scheme:
- Counter as a Space for Interaction
- Space for Exploration and Discovery
- Space for Exploring Three Dimensions
- Activity Space to Play with Mud and Sand
- Space for Adventure Play with Tyres
i-BaLA or inclusive-BaLA
A further extension of the BaLA scheme is the i-BaLA or inclusive-BaLA that focuses on the Children with Special Needs (CWSN) in all schools. It aims at making inclusive learning environment available to children with hearing impairment, mental retardation, visual impairment, etc.
SSA in Gujarat is taking initiative of i-BaLA that is being developed in partnership with the Blind People’s Association Ahmedabad and Vinyas. Presently some BaLA ideas are being adapted for use in learning activities for children with hearing impairment, mental retardation and visual impairment. Till now, only mild and moderate categories of such children are likely to attend the inclusive schools. However, SSAM plans to take it to a large number of schools across the state.
Outcome of BaLA
Intervention of BaLA in the Model schools has brought a tangible change with a very high visibility in the eyes of the community, school teachers and the children. Look at some of the points below to see how BaLA implementation has a positive impact on the education rate.
- There has been increase in enrolment, attendance and retention of children in Model schools.
- Children now come before school hours and go back much after school hours.
- Learning in school is now more interesting, joyful for children and teachers.
- There is higher ownership of the school by the teachers, children and the community.