Building Walls or Futures?

A school's physical building can impact various aspects of student learning.

School Environment January 3, 2019

Studies connecting the school physical facility with student achievement are not new. Early research by Thomas (1962) and Burkhead, Fox, & Holland (1967) indicated that a proper physical environment directly influences students’ academic performance. Following these preliminary studies, other researches have significantly advanced the concept by studying the importance of variables such as wall colors, acoustics, room size, air circulation and even age of the building (McGuffey & Brown, 1979). Despite the different approaches and conclusions, I believe that the major contribution of these studies was to disprove the idea that investment in structure is unnecessary. If the physical plant is an expression of what it means to educate, investing in suitable buildings is not luxury, but necessity (Chan, 1996).

Tusgal Secondary School is the only Adventist school in Mongolia. Last summer we renovated our school facilities. Our history begins in 2009 but we officially became an institution in 2011. Like many missionary schools, we functioned in an improvised building that was previously an apartment building. That circumstance limited our ability to ensure not only student safety, but also provide an environment in which students have a share in the learning process. These days, teaching is often stuck in the model of lined up desks where the teacher speaks alone and there is little or no opportunity to develop critical thinking. The physical school structure is a tool to empower the autonomous thinking of our students. We need to be attentive to this. The large new classrooms, extended corridors, bathrooms, dining hall, new offices and other improvements are now daily reinforcing the message that our education is more than repeating what is written on the books, but emphasizes our holistic Philosophy of Education (White, 1903). Nothing replaces the emphasis on character development, but the school facility can promote an efficient communication of these precious biblical principles.

We glorify God for salvation in Jesus Christ and for giving us such a precious message to share with this world. We are thankful for the opportunity to change children’s lives with an education that can impact them for eternity.


  • Burkhead, J., Fox, T. F., & Holland, J. W. (1967). Input and output in large city high schools. Syracuse, New York: University Press.
  • Chan, T. C. (1996). Environmental impact on student learning. Valdosta State University, Georgia.
  • McGuffey, C. W. and Brown, C. L. (1978). The impact of school building age on school achievement in Georgia. CEFP Journal 16(1), 6-9, 14.
  • Thomas, A. (1962). Efficiency in education: a study of the relationships between selected inputs and mean test scores in a sample of senior high schools. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, California.
  • White, E. G. (1903). Education. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1903.


Diogo Santos

Pastor Diogo Santos is a South American Division missionary working in the only Adventist School in Mongolia, Tusgal Secondary School, as Vice-Principal.

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