The KFI model of architecture education

On Friday, 11th July 2014, we were given a chance to visit Pathashaala as part of the Intern-Mentorship program by CAF

Pathashaala is a residential wing of The School KFI in Chennai. A small school located in a vast amount of land, it threw up a lot of curiosities and pleasant surprises along the visit, from the way the classrooms were to the method in which the toilets functioned. I could write a couple of posts about that, but this one is not about them.

Outside the kitchen and dining complex (excuse the photo, crappy camera)

This is a post about the education model the school follows.

If you want a more indepth look at it, be my guest.  However I’ll look at the ones which caught my eye and were explained to us during the presentation:

  • Lack of the reward, punishment, fear model – students function as small groups within a classroom and each student’s individual expression and creativity is allowed to flourish due to the low student-teacher ratio. Students are expected, and taught to be bold enough to express themselves. Not your typical 40 students to one teacher classroom where it is easy to slither into a corner and be the one student that everyone knows just vaguely about.
  • Multi-age classrooms – This has been shown to work on some Montessori systems as well; however I do not know more about this so I can’t comment on its efficacy.
  • Overall engagement by students in the community – The total number of students + teachers + staff come up to around 150, the Dunbar’s number. This means a community where almost everyone knows everyone, and is a part of everything. The students there take part in the day to day activities of the school as well. Let me tell you – the kids I saw there were some of the most confident and well rounded ones I’d seen for their age.
  • No ‘standard model’ exams – Seriously, let’s do away with them already 😛

The School seems to tackle the issues the current education system quite nicely – and in all honesty, it seemed quite an excellent place to spend your school life in!

Now the question is : Can the KFI model work for architectural education?

The funny thing is, I found quite a lot of similarities already.

  • Multi-age classrooms – Although architecture schools don’t have such a pattern, most of the senior junior interaction which takes place outside classrooms ensures healthy conversation with not just your same age group. But this is ‘supposed’ to be coming down. 
  • The Teacher-student relationship – Yeah, this one is pretty much expected when you’re in college – you’re not going to be spoon fed. The “ideal” of teachers and students learning from each other might be far off, but more often than not, you’re expected to be able to know your stuff and back it up.
  • A limited number of students – This one’s fast changing; I’ve heard my teachers reminisce about times when there would be just 20 in a batch and 100 in the college, and everyone knew everyone else. But, no longer the case with each year having 80 students now. I’m not complaining here, I probably wouldn’t be studying in my college if there weren’t 80 seats.

Do you see the irony here? The present school education system is being revolutionized by schools like KFI, whereas architecture schools, which were KFI-like in several aspects, have started to resemble our schools!

Is there a solution?