There are no classroom scenes in the Bible. The twelve students of Jesus never sat behind a desk. On the contrary, the passage that most clearly describes where learning should take place is Deuteronomy 6:7. Jesus seems to have taken this to heart in his pedagogy: throughout the gospels he is teaching and talking when he sits in his house, walks by the way, when he lies down and when he rises. That is to say, he teaches as he goes about the normal routines of life.

This does not mean that we must do away with classrooms because they are not mentioned in the Bible. They are not the only feature of school architecture that does not appear in the text: I am not aware of any references to washrooms or janitors’ closets, but most would see them as helpful innovations since biblical times. It does mean, however, that for a classroom to be an effective learning centre, it must be oriented to approximate to real life.

According to Deut 6:9, teachers were not to write their instructions on chalk-boards, but on doorposts and gates. In the previous verse, students were not to take notes in an exercise book, but to write on the back of their hands and put prototypical post-it notes on their foreheads. We must not be too literal here. The point has nothing to do with writing materials, as if stone tablets are more authentic than electronic tablets. It has all to do with the fact that are learning is best accomplished on the job and we remember best in a context of application as we go about life.

The key issue is the heart (v.6). The passage is not about externals as if evangelical living rooms are better than classrooms, or Jewish “frontlets” are better than memory sticks. The question is how we make the external structures serve the learning process. The classroom context may hinder the learning process if it is structured around theoretical information without practical application. It may be counterproductive if it is not geared toward problem solving. But where a classroom is transformed into microcosm of real life (even in a 40-minute period in the timetable), where the lessons are taught in light of real life activities and events, the learning process is enhanced.