Education: a functional analysis

Here we will perform a functional analysis of the concept "education" with the goal of decomposing it into its constituting and fundamental motives, goals and functions.

Our starting point for the functional analysis was the question "why do we educate, and why do people want to be educated?". As an answer to these questions we came up with the following general underlying motives of education.

First, people want to be educated because they want to explore their interests and feed their curiosity. In short, we concluded that the first motive boils down to personal development. Second, we found that a major motive to pursue education is the desire for prosperity. From a student's point of view this is the desire to lead a prosperous life, without a lack of material needs. From the organizer's point of view (often the state), it is the desire for the nation to prosper that drives high investment in education. As a third motivation we agreed that people often join an educational institution for social aspect, i.e. the desire for social interaction and, by extension, exchange of ideas.

Although this analysis was useful in defining more clearly the goals and needs of the design process, we agreed that it would be more interesting to start from a different question, namely: what are the basic functions and goals of education and furthermore; how do we adapt our design to support these functions in the best possible way? Here we concluded that there are three major pillars of education. The first pillar is the transfer or dissemination of information, the second pillar is the generation of new knowledge or information and, finally, the third pillar is the storage of information or knowledge so that it is not lost.

Now, for each of these pillars we could proceed by asking ourselves how this function could be supported or improved, using solutions found in nature. For this we thought of a set of basic prerequisities that need to be fulfilled for each pillar, which provided a next step towards specific requirements for our design.

First we identified some prerequisities for the generation of new knowledge and information, in other words: prerequisities for successful innovation, research and development. We agreed that these prerequisites include: an environment that stimulates creativity and curiosity, that offers opportunities for experimentation without punishment. Furthermore the environment needs to facilitate cooperation and the exchange and cross-fertilization of ideas. Hence, these requirements would be included as special points of attention in the design of the building.

For the successful dissemination of knowledge we identified the following requirements. Information should be available in a modular way, so that it can be made fit for personalized education, and for people flowing into the department from different backgrounds. Furthermore, we agreed on a need for project-based learning, where students would absorb the information in an active instead of passive way. In general, we wanted that information would be spread and absorbed more organically than in traditional forms of education, and that the dissemination would be made fit for emerging forms of education.

Finally, for successful storage of information we identified these key features: the information should be easily retrievable and copyable, while still being stored in a compact way. Not only should it be easy to copy, we also found that it was important that the information should be variable, i.e. easily modifiable and that data should be easily merged with other sources. These principles were mainly gleaned from the principles of the spread of genetic information in nature.