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Education for the life
Carlos Magro - Independent consultant in transformation projects in Education and Communication
One of the great challenges of education has been the need to incorporate context into the school. We have always demanded from the school more connection with real life and with the interests of students and we have criticized it for being too abstract and superficial in relation to out-of-school education, much more vital, profound and real. There are many who have defended the idea of a school in which we learn to live in the same way as we live.
This pretension of an education for life is not a novelty of our times.
Throughout the 20th Century, numerous groups of teachers emerged for whom the motto "let life enter the school" became their pedagogical guiding principle.1 They advocated an education that would allow us to respond and intervene in the most appropriate way possible with respect to the problems and questions that life in all its spheres holds for us.2
The dissociation between life and school seems to be, more than ever, an unavoidable fact. In this context, we are once again faced with numerous doubts: are we training our pupils in the knowledge necessary to live (or perhaps survive) in this century? Will the traditional values and skills be used to face the problems of the 21st Century?
We are now faced with the difficulty of determining what learning should be provided by the school in order to prepare us for life (personal, social, work), especially when the future is increasingly uncertain and it is difficult for us to imagine what the ways of life and work will be like in a few decades' time. We do not know what the problems and situations that any of us will have to face in the near future and throughout our lives will be.
The challenge of offering a growing set of competencies and skills is being partially met by the creation of a new lifelong learning infrastructure. However, innovations in lifelong learning continue to exist outside our education system. The dominant educational paradigm still focuses on what students know, rather than how they use what they know.
In any case, it does seem clear that aspects such as flexibility, innovation and interdisciplinarity should take precedence over rigidity, repetition and discipline.3
If we agree on the importance of the integral formation of people and accept that people construct their personality through different educational experiences, then we must assume that another of the great challenges for education systems today is to be able to integrate formal, non-formal, and informal learning in a natural way, overcoming the traditional division that has always existed among them.
It seems key, therefore, to work for a transversal education that allows citizens to respond in a flexible and proactive way to the change of a society of permanent learning.
Cristóbal Cobo points out five trends that call for a profound change in formal education systems. Faced with the growing gap that seems to exist between formal education and the challenges of society, it seems necessary, according to Cobo, to introduce mechanisms of flexibility and connection between formal and informal learning. This is something that some have called " Seamless Learning" and that ultimately tries to overcome the old division between what happened in the classroom and what happened outside the classroom.
Traditionally, we thought that theoretical knowledge was the basis and the key to later know how to do and know how to be, but we had delegated to informal and non-formal education the learning experiences that prepared for the nonprofessional spheres of life: the personal, the interpersonal and the social.4 Integrating these fields into formal education now necessarily implies, that we make the transition from a focus that is excessively centered on what we learn to one that is also concerned with how we learn, whose final meaning is to achieve deeper and more permanent learning, while at the same time it stands out as essential to develop different types of skills and knowledge such as critical thinking or learning to learn, in a future context in which we will need to learn throughout life and move on to a paradigm of learning that is delocalised both in time and space.
In this new learning ecology, learning is, and will increasingly be, oriented towards the acquisition and mastery of generic and transversal skills and competences that allow learning to continue in a wide range of situations and circumstances.
Why we do it?
We live in a changing, innovative, disruptive, abundant, fast, but also uncertain, fragile, fragmentary, permeable, unequal and fickle world. We live in a complex world, mediated by technology and full of data. We live in a world where everything changes and nothing remains, where the only thing that seems to remain is change. This change represents an opportunity to work for a better, more inclusive and participatory, fairer and equitable education that responds to the diversity of our societies and helps us to overcome the current disaffection with learning. In this changing society, the school must help students build the mental, emotional and social resources to enjoy challenges and cope with uncertainty and complexity.
In short, it is a set of skills that allow us to respond and intervene in the most appropriate way with respect to problems and questions that life will pose to us in all its spheres of action, in all its scenarios.
We have grouped them into four vital scenarios that recover in a certain way the four basic lessons learned in the Delors Report, but emphasizing the contextual and situational nature of these lessons: the Personal Scenario, which gathers the skills related to self-esteem and personal adjustment; the Community Scenario, with the skills that favour coexistence and social relations; the Academic Scenario, which gathers the skills related to knowledge management and learning; and the Professional Scenario, which includes those that facilitate access to the world of work.
In reality, neither skills nor scenarios are isolated and stagnant categories. All skills are related to each other and influence each other, and all of them, of course, influence the integral development of people. Almost all, for example, have an impact on our learning capacities as demonstrated by the learning sciences.
For their part, the scenarios (personal, community, academic and professional) are also in constant interaction and interrelation. And we obviously move from one to the other, mobilizing knowledge and skills, without a line of continuity. It is difficult to think of a good professional who does not simultaneously mobilize, in addition to the skills that we have categorized under that scenario, others such as flexibility, self-esteem, communication, empathy, analytical thinking or information management that we have placed under the other scenarios. The development of some facilitates or amplifies the development of others. The development of self-knowledge, self-esteem and the management of emotions are, for example, a fundamental element in learning. Collaboration, on the other hand, which we have placed on the professional stage, is also fundamental for the academic or the community. Learning is reinforced by the development of intrapersonal skills that allow us to reflect and adjust our learning strategies accordingly. On the contrary, research has also shown how the development of cognitive skills, such as the ability to think objectively about a disagreement with another person, can increase interpersonal skills and reduce antisocial behaviour.5
Therefore, skills, worked in an interrelated way and together with the rest of curricular knowledge, must contribute to the integral development of the personality in all spheres of life (personal, social, civic and labor), the ultimate end of education and as the main part of a greater system, the ultimate end of school today.6 Their activation in "real" contexts and situations is a complex process, so it is interesting to exercise them in defined and normalized contexts such as those we can find in school.
What we do?
That is why Santillana, starting from the different frameworks that define 21st Century Skills, has made his own interpretation of which skills schools need to work to achieve active and participative citizens, with great self-confidence, autonomous, curious, adapted to change and promoters of innovations, eager to participate in the wealth to which they contribute, convinced of the need to create more individual and collective value and forged in the culture of balance between effort and reward.
1 y 2. Philippe Perrenoud. Cuando la escuela pretende preparar para la vida. ¿Desarrollar competencias o enseñar otros saberes? Graó. 2012.
3. Álvaro Marchesi y Elena Martín. Calidad de la enseñanza en tiempos de crisis. Alianza Editorial. 2014
4. Antoni Zabala y Laia Arnau. 11 ideas clave. Cómo aprender y enseñar competencias. Graó. 2011
5. Durlak, J. A., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. Weissberg, R. P., y Schellinger, K. B. «The Impact of Enhancing Students' Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-analysis of Schoolbased Universal Interventions». Child Development, 82(1). 2011.