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The Future of Schools: A joint vision by three change-makers

Ph: Alfredo Hernando Calvo, Monika Horch and Jorge Yzusqui.

In order to look into the future, let´s begin by looking at those who are “practicing” it by transforming their schools into fascinating educational spaces for students. This is the case of Jorge Yzusqui, of Innova Schools in Peru, and Monika Horch, of the Monserrat School in Spain. A third member was invited to this futuristic conversation: Alfredo Hernando Calvo, author of Journey to the School of the XXI Century (with more than 200,000 downloads), who has visited innovative schools around the world.

They were interviewed by GRADUATE XXI at a meeting of educational innovators organized by the Inter-American Development Bank in San Francisco. Their ideas on the future of schools dive into possible realities and get mixed with dreams still to come true. They belong to a new educational conversation which involves technology, pedagogy and the future of schools. Thus, we are introducing a series of interviews by GRADUATE XXI with key players in the world of educational innovation.

What should be the objective and the steps to be taken, that will prioritize education at school in the upcoming years?

Alfredo: The key will require placing the student at the center of education. The main question that schools who have managed to transform themselves and created an optimal educational environment where students actually enjoy learning is: how do we make available all the school´s resources for each student to develop to their full potential? In these schools, the main goal is not to repeat content but to broaden the horizon of each student.

Jorge: My first question always is: how will the world be in 15 years? And that is how I know how to prepare students for that world. Since we don´t have a clear answer for that, although we do have many indicators, what we have to do is prepare students to adapt to an ever-changing world and be able to manage the conflict that comes with such constant change.

An ongoing challenge is knowing how to prepare students to face new ethical dilemmas, which will arrive on areas like technology sciences and genetics. The school must emphasize more than ever the formation of values ​​and principles, by preparing them for new situations that don´t exist yet.

Monika: You have to prepare them to live in a globalized and multicultural world. Today everyone is your home in a way. You have to live in diversity and learn from it. Add to that the uncertainty about the future: as we don´t know what will come, we must generate the motivation of wanting to learn throughout every stage in life, not only during school.

What should change in schools to head in this direction? To what extent are certain disruptions needed to achieve those ends? How much needs to be done to create a deeper change?

Alfredo: There is a false debate between innovative schools and traditional schools. Actually, there are schools in the process of growing, which march to their own rhythm. Innovation is another way of growing, just like there are many other ways to improve.

Jorge: What I envision is the setting of new grounds; they are not a breakthrough, but a change of era that materializes through innovations. I think we’re in a tipping point where there are efficient but ineffective schools: They are doing what they have to do well but are not doing what they should do. There are schools that teach traditional content well, but that should no longer define the role of a school, instead the development of core competencies of the XXI century should define it.

Monika: Technology has changed everything: knowledge is at the palm of our hand and neuroscience has shown us a revolution in the scientific field of education. It is not enough to improve but to transform the school, systemically, throughout the entire school. The change needs to come through the curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation. This completely changes the teacher’s role and the role of the school. Time, rhythms and space, including digital spaces change.

What are the key elements and secrets of the schools that make them transformative?

Jorge: An example of this transformation is the use of flipped classrooms, where students watch a video on content and then work in class on that material. The main problem we had when we started is that some teachers could not bear the thought of working like this; they didn’t know what to say to students. So the school trained them and so they began to prepare more, they began to study in order to respond to new questions brought by the students. Change begins when teachers are able to generate in students a need to demand knowledge and new ways of teaching.

Monika: For our case, there is no doubt that it´s a combination of factors. On one side, it´s the leadership that our school has by Monserrat del Pozo, but also the teaching staff who are looking to be ahead on the future. They come together as a team that questions, reads and looks for new answers. Above all, there is a need to change the order of school culture and create a spiral of continuous growth. It has to do with the ability to doubt what you do and see the world to understand what is happening.

Jorge: The principal has to be the trigger of educational change. An active principal is a change-maker, because we need leaders who can drive educational changes without imposing them, but instead inspiring and motivating others.

Monika: For us, the trigger would be the management team. They are the first to make innovations in the classroom and show that we can be done instead of an outsider who comes up with a new theory. The management team shows this by applying it and involving everyone.

Alfredo: There are collective leaders, who are part of a transformation that goes beyond school: they have the idea that the world can be changed. This generates a search, a need to transform the world from the classroom. This search allows them to question what others are doing, what’s new, what works and what doesn´t, generating an ongoing activity based on evidence and good practices.

How do you imagine schools in 10 years? Will there be a profound change in schools? Will change come from outside of schools?  Will this only generate a few changes? Or will the students lead schools towards digital learning?

Alfredo: I have an optimistic view that schools will be transformed. The leading schools, which are driving change, will be the light to shine the path for others to come. But in the middle of this path, possible dilemmas will arrive because of a clash between the successful introduction of technology to learn and resistance by schools to rethink their model of learning.

Jorge: I don´t know if in 10 years Latin America will have a major change. I think high school will be the first to change because the technology there will increase greatly rather than it would in kindergarten or elementary school. A radical change coming will be the breakdown of classes as they are now with tight- closed schedules. I imagine in 10 years, a school where a student comes to school and has 10 projects to make and works with interdisciplinary groups with different models, no blackboards in classrooms with different schedules and formats, as the Monserrat College and many others schools are doing already.

Monika: I imagine future schools as meeting places. Perhaps in the future, the school will not disappear but the school classroom itself will. The school must be an integral and living space, where projects are being developed all the time.

Jorge: Ultimately in the future, when jobs change because we will automate much of what we do today, what will be left for schools to teach? The answer will lie on what that machines can´t replace: the arts, sensitivity, love, empathy, human communication and the components that make generate a culture. Maybe that will become the core of the future of schools.


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