In a period of continuous transformation and change for schools, it is worth listening to disruptive voices questioning the need and the proposed direction of change.
Last week, the European Commission launched its “Opening Up Education” initiative. (See my previous blog entry.) The final objective is to enable “all individuals to learn anywhere, anytime, through any device with the support of anyone”.
All education ministers in Europe and beyond seem to agree on the need to advance in the “digitalisation of learning” and design strategies to favour the future students’ employability. Jobs and skills are the ultimate objective, and testing is one of the key instruments to measure youth attainment and the system’s overall effectiveness. All education ministers? No! Like in Asterix, “one small village of indomitable education experts still holds out against the invaders”.
In a letter (paywall) to The Times, 198 academics and children’s authors accused the new national education policies “of taking enormous risk with the quality of children’s lives and learning”. They urged the ministers to give up “arrest[ing] change and seek consensus on the future of education”.
These thinkers and intellectuals are not pushing for a new model of education but reintroducing a missing character in the whole picture of change: the child. They write: “Childhood needs wide horizons, high hopes, confident expectation and absorption in the joys and challenges of meaningful learning.”
“Arrest change” is per se an innovative message. A report published in 2010 showed that over the past 30 years, all EU educative systems have been continuously engaged in a change process. The rhythm of these organisational and curricular reforms during this period more than doubles that experienced since the turn of the 20th century. So stopping the change may indeed already be a change.
Arrest change may be an invitation to change in a different way, i.e. to look for a new consensus where creativity will be the true driver in the classroom to attain excellence. Genuine creativity is a way of acknowledging the fantastic potential of every child and highlighting his or her special talents.
Have a look at the wonderful animated documentary Academy of Specialists (Academia de Especialistas) created by the Spanish illustrator Miguel Gallardo. This short film clip, which talks about autism, shows in a positive way the special abilities that many people with autism have — and which are not always understood when seen from the outside.
But the message is wider than the one aimed at parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. All parents need to feel proud of their children not only for their progress at school but also for the things that make them unique. This is the meaning of the “Creative Classrooms” initiative targeting Spanish-speaking teachers — Aulas Creativas — where artists, like Miguel Gallardo, intellectuals, teachers and experts share their passion for creative thinking in the classroom.
This is also the sense of a truly open education: design a learning path to make us feel unique.
Arrest change is not the final message.
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