SynopsisWhat are we waiting for? What is holding us back? What do we still need to know? Fundamental societal challenges ask for new approaches to education. Many schools and universities are changing tremendously and opening ways to different forms of education. A growing movement is gaining momentum. But what is missing to make the education shift happen on a large scale? We explore the future of education, the changes that are happening already, and how different communities collaborate beyond existing structures and paradigms. Be it a Montessori model, a Democratic model or a traditional school system model: it is important people have a choice of the pathways they pick to be educated. Adopting a multicultural and interdisciplinary approach enables us to create unique learning environments. As we come together, forming networks based on our concerns about the future, we find the strength and wisdom needed to create a viable human future in the 21st century and live in the world where we can freely explore our full potential and are empowered to make decisions affecting our everyday lives. Read more
“The instant is of an imminence that takes my breath away.The instant is in itself imminent.At the same time that I live,I burst into its passage into another instant.”
— Clarice Lispector
To educate is to simultaneously preserve the past in what we expect for the future, at the present moment. Educational action is so spontaneous that we could say it is natural for human beings, in other words, to produce and transmit culture is human nature. However, that action, following modern industrial societies, has acquired greater complexity in previous centuries, gaining its very own place and science: the school and the pedagogy. Their wide expansion all over the planet indicates how both have served the purposes of men from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Some philosophers, physicians and educators have made harsh critiques to this hegemonic model of education all through the last century, but society has barely replied. In the 21st century, however, with the advancement of digital technologies, the liquid modernity that Bauman presents to demonstrate a more impactful process than Industrial Revolution itself, and the changes in the understanding of what is work and value creation, new models of preparing men for adult life started to be demanded.
Against this backdrop, thinkers of the 20th century were reclaimed, new schools were created around the world and many players, from big corporations to small town teachers, started to envision new educational practices that were more meaningful for the youth and for the job market, for the families and for the planet, for the state democracies and for each person’s wellbeing.
Back in 2013, I started my doctoral thesis referring to this subject. It was published under the title: “The Brazilian movement of educational renewal in the beginning of the 21st century”. To its elaboration I visited several schools in Brazil and reached projects and organizations that provided different stimulus to these initiatives. One of those was NGO presente!, created by Philippe Greier.
I found it intriguing that a group of Europeans recently arrived in the country, who did not speak Portuguese and with no financial resources, had the aim of meeting and connecting schools. I thought that the way they organized themselves was very peculiar, no one knew what the next step would be, and everything was going to be built with the human and financial resources that came along. I did not think that they would go far, but five months later I met them once again in Brasília, at the National Conference of Alternatives for a New Education (CONANE, using it’s Portuguese acronym), that had this group as a cornerstone of publicity and connection of events that would take place in a disperse manner.
The first CONANE was a milestone in that movement, connecting over 400 educators, giving voice to a process that, although relevant, was silent until then. Afterwards, regional CONANEs took place, a second national CONANE and now in 2017, the third CONANE National will happen jointly with the Summit of the Americas (ENA, using it’s Portuguese acronym), where we will have the launch of this book.
The idea of this project came up in 2015, when I was finishing writing my thesis, organizing those experiences on theoretical grounds. Philippe was still traveling the world developing projects and connecting people and schools. We thought about uniting my desire to have records and the possibility of sharing those ideas on education with Philippe’s network. That is how the EDUshifts book was born.
We invited several authors who shared their writings with us over the course of 2015 and 2016. We moved to searching for voluntary translators to help us reproduce the book in various languages and at the end we made a fundraising campaign for professional review of the writings, as well as illustration, editing and printing of the piece.
The book will firstly be released in English (printed and digital copy) and in Portuguese (digital). It was developed 100% online, using digital resources of sharing and co-management, and will be available free of charge under a Creative Commons license. It involved two coordinators, 17 authors, 22 translators, 1 illustrator, 1 designer, 2 reviewers and 1 coordinator for the fundraising campaign. They were people from 16 countries from all continents.
To live the development of this book could not have been a more immersive way to experience the contents presented in the following pages. It was amazing to understand the potential there is in the network: people of the entire world donating knowledge, time and resources for a project of people they are just meeting, friends of a friend or Facebook colleagues. If one word could sum up this project it would be generosity. People giving themselves to others on behalf of a project, and much needed cause.
We can see that same commitment in the experiences shared in this book, from the gifted writing of the authors and from their own glossary of experiences. This book includes ample examples of current projects that already develop the concepts introduced by the authors on theirs writings about the future.
The glossary was written based in the InnoveEdu platform, from PorVir in partnership with Wise, edSurge and InnovationUnit. The original chapters were written freely with no restrictions on format, size or content, we only asked each one to write “some pages on their believes and dreams for education of the future”, the result was a multiplicity of writings, from academic papers to interviews full of stories, from recounting of experiences to philosophical propositions, some more extensive, others quite brief; all involving, intriguing and propositional.
In the writing of Axinia Samoilova we have a report on a Russian educational experience with considerations based on Makarenko. With Flávio Bassi we reflect about the transformative competences adopted by the Ashoka program. Flor Dillon details the experience of free education Inkiri, a living university in the south of Bahia (Brazil). Floris Koot goes beyond criticism to the traditional education and introduces possibilities for an education of the future. Galorian widens the universe of education and offers in his writing a reflection on the network society and its possibilities. Gerald Huether brings us the most advanced contributions on the human brain and its impact for education. Helena Singer talks about social movements and points to the reasons why we are in a context favorable to change. José Pacheco reflects about community-based education and shares his experience with Escola da Ponte in Portugal. Manish Jain provides examples around the world presenting educational proposals that serve as alternative to the conventional model. Phillip Mäntele offers details on his educational experience in Uganda. Philippe Greier writes a manifesto on educational transformation, demonstrating that this process is already underway. Thereza Pagani recounts her vast experience as an educator through play. Thomas Heide in a dense but brief piece of writing graces us with a new paradigm to think about education. Tião Rocha brings us closer to the earth and the tradition to devise the education of the future. Yaakov Hecht, in a very explanatory article, exposes the basis of democratic education. And Ku Kahakalau talks about the tradition and modernity of Hawaiian native culture.
May this book inspire us to create the future we want!
In 1987, I have founded and run the Democratic School in Hadera, Israel, an experimental public school for four hundred schoolchildren age 4 to 18 years old. In a democratic school, each school child builds his own personal study program and determines what to learn, how, when, where and with whom. The school is run democratically and all the teachers, schoolchildren, and parents are welcome to be partners in the school’s management.
With time, I have been involved in the foundation of similar schools both in Israel and worldwide and developed professional training, which is designed specifically for teachers in democratic schools. Increasingly I have started to lead processes in the spirit of the Democratic Education in hundreds of traditional schools and from there, launched the development of the Education Cities model, where the goal is to transform the entire city into one big school. In Education Cities, the organization I am running today, we develop municipal collaborations between public institutions and private organizations that are active in the city, for the goal of expanding the unique development routes that are available for each schoolchild. As of today, we are active in more than 10 cities and towns, working with about 10% of Israeli schoolchildren, and the rate of our development is growing with increasing speed.
Many times, I have been asked, why have I chosen to call the school in Hadera “Democratic”? Is it not that every school in a democratic society is a democratic school? I have named the school in Hadera “Democratic” because I realized that the old school model that had prepared schoolchildren to live in the non-democratic society of more than a century ago, could not keep on existing and preparing schoolchildren for life in the democratic society in which we live today. Schools in the past, that had prepared its students for life as workers in an industrial factory, which mainly required discipline and obedience, cannot prepare them for life in contemporary organizations that call for creativity and for taking initiative.
I have realized that democratic education is the missing piece in the bigger puzzle called a democratic state.
MANISH JAIN AND ADEBAYO AKOMOLAFE
Around the world, going to schooling is such a normal part of growing up today that to question its legitimacy, to even hesitate a bit, is to attract blank stares and harsh criticism. How else does one expect to learn unless you are taught in school? How would one do well in an increasingly competitive world except you get a job that pays your way through? Isn’t it a crime to even consider denying a child the right to education? Aren’t these things encoded in international charters and laws? Why are you even asking these questions?
And thus goes a possible (and very familiar) series of questions one encounters from citizens of a mass industrial culture that has evolved to see institutionalised formal education – with its hierarchies of degrees, battery of tests, armies of teachers, skyrocketing fees, and Western bias – as the only legitimate way to think about learning. Schooling – like many once indisputable institutions before it – is perceived as ‘natural’ and ‘indispensible’ – supported by governments, promulgated by an expert class, championed by fearless NGOs, advocated for in public service announcements, and promoted even by the most left-leaning progressives.
This fundamentalism of formal education is so entrenched in our ways of seeing the world – especially in the so-called global South (where the imperatives of “catch-up” still burn brightly) – that even when a crisis in education is acknowledged, it is to complain that there isn’t enough of it. Recent perturbations in the educational landscape of Africa, particularly in South Africa, have inspired narratives that bemoan the “undue union influence, poor teacher content knowledge, [and] too little learning time” as reasons why South Africans are not really learning. In India, an article reporting the failures of the country’s “Right to Education Act”, noted that “more than half of its 5th graders can’t read”, and called for sweeping transformations to the country’s paradigm of learning – mainly by selling more technology solutions to lubricate the exhausted gears of schooling.
What easily escapes awareness in these times, when unusual cracks are showing up in our social edifices, is that schooling itself is a crisis of magnificent proportions. And that attempting to fix it, or problematising a lack of access to it, is part of a world-making practice that excludes and silences a disturbing truth: that there are many other ways to learn and live in the world.
What do we actually teach, through the way we educate? The way we educate is a training in itself. You, as a student, have to listen, acquire government approved viewpoints. You basically learn to see things and act accordingly to the way your government and or school thinks the world works. When you succeed in doing so, you are deemed worthy to climb the corporate or government ladder, as you have shown willingness to comply to their standards, in order to be successful. Most of us consider this normal.
I met over time so many young people, really talking about their studies as if it was a portal to conquer the world. I once saw a student talk about how hard he wanted to work to get the same big car a business owner had waiting for him outside. The business owner smiled and blatantly honest told the student: “You think hard work will get you that car? You work hard, boy, and end up making me richer. And you look at the car and don’t see the price I paid for it. Two failed marriages, lost sight of my children when they grew up, and I have a heart condition. Especially not knowing my own children well really hurts.”
Meanwhile, companies around the world spend billions to make up for what has been lacking in education, on training & coaching. Students dream of important jobs, and what do they have to offer for it? Being able to give the right answers at the right time. Many students really think that the better they comply the higher they get. But the whole concept of work life being a pyramid, in which you have to compete yourself upwards, has four major problems.
- Bullying increases, where the idea of competition, and thus of winners and losers within the competition is embraced. Students will understand this as “pull yourself up, by pushing those down, who you conceive as in the way to your success”. More pressure, more bullying.
- Everyone who might become self-employed and/or start a business is not trained to think for themselves, nor builds the self-discipline to get themselves out of bed in the morning. School mostly caters to employment in bigger organizations.
- Most people just want a good job, enough income to feel safe (Maslov) and spend time with friends and family and things they care about. That doesn’t make them lesser students or people, for that matter. There’s a madness to everyone really aspiring to get to the top of the power pyramid, even at the cost of friends, health and lives of others.
- And at the same time some very real troubles on our planet are hardly addressed, or are made clear how each of us is part of them.
Of course, most of this happens with the best intentions, and many educational ideas of our government do make sense. Then what happens? Logical choices towards a better education are built upon logical choices that once made sense before. Together they slowly pile up into this limited (sickening?) system. To me, it’s very sad that many students don’t feel free to speak of their own dreams and rather prefer to play along. I feel we need a big change!