Physical comfort of a student in the classroom is a topic that is often neglected and needs to be spoken about. Children spend as long as 9 hours at their desks every day and almost 83% of them sit at desks and chairs that are not suitable for their body height.
Educational institutions upgrade their curriculum and pedagogy regularly in order to meet the new standards of Education. However, they do not pay much attention to the seating arrangement, desks and chairs in the classroom which are one of the most crucial elements of a learning environment. Classroom furniture must fit the children, allow movement and hence invariably encourage a good posture. Movement plays an important part in seating. All these factors have a major impact on students learning and can immensely improve their performance if done right.
For instance, even today in many classrooms, students sit on conventional wooden desks and benches that are not suitable for their height or body structure. Though the children are of the same age group, their physical growth varies from one another and hence one common desk or bench may not fit all of them. Ill designed classroom furniture may give rise to body pain (Back and neck especially) which in turn distracts a student from concentrating in the classroom.
Classroom seating should support a healthy posture, especially since young bodies develop rapidly. It should also decrease fidgeting. Ideally, students should sit with their feet firmly placed on the floor and their backs against their chairs.
There could be two main reasons why the importance of well-designed school furniture is neglected and overlooked – Price and furniture longevity – Schools typically look for furniture that are not too expensive and that are durable as kids are not always careful with them. And as a result, institutions compromise on the ergonomic and functionality aspects of the furniture.
But after having said so, the future is not utterly bleak. There have been some grass root and rather ingenious attempts at reforming and remaking the classroom set up such as open-classroom design, collaborative learning space, etc.
While ergonomics is extremely important, classroom seating must also be flexible in terms of functionality. In other words, it has to complement the curriculum. Educators and designers feel that classrooms of today have become active learning environments. This requires portable (in weight and design) chairs that students of all age groups can quickly and easily move, arrange, stack and store.
We should break away from the ‘sit still and listen’ teaching style to one where students and teachers engage and involve in the space. Seating has to adapt to what is going on in the classroom in order to gain a measurable increase in student’s performance.
We may be generations away from real progress. Having said that, we are residing in the remedial stage of this development. In the age of e-Readers and iPads invading the learning process, aren’t our children primed for something better and more comfortable to sit upon than moulded plastic and nickel-plated bolts? Ergonomic furniture is not just designed for workplaces. In fact, the need for ergonomically designed furniture is equally or rather more required in classrooms as people actually start developing posture patterns at their early age. So, poor postures at an early age will have a massive effect on the physical well-being in the future.
School furniture is an environmental factor that is too often neglected considering the fact that it plays an important role in the effectiveness of a student’s learning. This opens - up an opportunity for schools and educational institutions to improve students learning and engagement by focusing on proper classroom furniture.
Institutions must take initiative to invest on customized solutions rather than conventional plug-and-play models. They must think beyond regular classroom design and encourage collaborative learning by creating an ideal learning space that suits every child’s need.
(The author is COO, Dovetail Furniture Pvt Ltd. Views expressed are personal).
First Published: Mar 13, 2019 16:57 IST