Empowering education through the built environment : towards a proposed integrated skills development centre for Durban.
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Twenty years since the establishment of democracy in South Africa the country remains in a process of transformation and is currently facing a skills paradox whereby there are severe skills shortages and high unemployment rates. Historically education in South Africa has been restrained by poor governmental policies, poor funding, apartheid, corruption, rapid growth and most importantly by the subsequent built environment of educational facilities. This dissertation sets out to explore the role of the built environment in empowering education, specifically skills development. The aim of this study is to investigate how the built environment may be used as a tool for empowering education. The objectives that are derived from this aim include understanding what empowerment means in the context of the study, to investigate how the built environment can empower learning, to investigate how the built environment can change the perception of FET colleges and to critique existing FET colleges in the context of the study. The research problem therefore centres on establishing the nature of the impact of the built environment on education and, in turn, society. This study used a mixed method approach to the problem in order to prove the hypothesis and achieve the aim and objectives of the study. The research materials included in the quantitative research include the analysis of the learners’ views on existing learning environments in the KZN Coastal FET College and the Umbilo Skills Training Centre in order to understand the conditions of existing educational facilities in Durban, South Africa. The qualitative research was carried out in the form of a site investigation and in the form of focussed interviews with the managers of the respective case studies in order to further understand the quantitative research and to determine how the built environment can empower education. This study determined a set of criteria for educational facilities to empower education and showed that the built environment of existing skills based learning centres in Durban is not empowering education sufficiently in terms of improving the quality of learning and in terms of improving the perception of such facilities. The impact of the philosophy and vision, the location, the physical and micro-design and the physical conditions on education is not understood by the executive personnel who manage these facilities. Similarly, the policies that define and structure FET colleges are not enabling these facilities to realise their potential. If education is to be a vehicle for the development of the country and to resolve the skills paradox then the impact of the built environment on empowering education must be realised and the built environment must be invested in in order to achieve this aim.