Kabir Vajpeyi

Ashoka Fellow
New Delhi, India
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Kabir Vajpeyi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Kabir is using the one common element in all rural schools—the physical infrastructure—to improve the quality of education. His Building as Learning Aid (BaLA) idea works on the premise that the scope and dimension of the built environment can contribute to the teaching-learning process. An intrinsically interdisciplinary concept, it combines architecture and design with child development, child behavior, and the pedagogy of learning languages, mathematics, and science.

BaLA uses school spaces (e.g. classrooms, circulation spaces, corridors, steps, and the natural environment) and their constituent built elements (such as floors, walls, ceilings, doors, windows, and furniture), to create a range of affordable learning environments that can be integrated into existing spaces and be actively used as learning resources, with or without the presence of teachers. The three-dimensional space also offers a unique setting for a child to learn because students can have a multisensory experience, as opposed to only engaging in “flat” mediums, such as textbooks or black boards. It also offers the potential to make abstract concepts more concrete from the child’s perspective. For instance, dimensions, shapes, and angles in physical spaces are used to communicate basic concepts of science and mathematics to make learning a more enjoyable and memorable experience for children. In addition to supplementing conventional curricula, BaLA is encouraging teachers to rethink their teaching methods and explore different ways of aiding the child’s learning process.

BaLA translates abstract theories of child development into an actionable pool of simple design improvements and innovations that can be implemented by principals, teachers, and engineers in new and existing schools to enhance their child-friendliness and educational potential. Kabir has begun to implement BaLA by working through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the Government of India’s flagship educational program to improve education. Working in partnership with eight state governments, Kabir is bringing together designers and engineers with teachers and the community to develop the environment of the school.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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