The unanimous response of the education experts consulted is no. “You can not cram school programs with more and more educational content ; what counts for the success of the students is rigor , precision and coherence ; that means focusing on teaching a smaller number of things with greater levels of depth, “says Andreas Schleicher , deputy director of education at the OECD and director of the PISA report. Maria Vinuesa , from the Rosa Sensat teachers’ association, is convinced that the school “has to teach very few things and very well, with great rigor, to ensure that the foundations are laid that will give the possibility of continuing to learn along the way.” lifetime”.
However, this unanimity disappears as soon as the following question is asked
if it is not to teach everything, what should it teach? The positions range from those who think that the contents of the current curriculum are already adequate and what needs to be modified are the methods , how the knowledge of mathematics, history, languages, art, etc. is transmitted; even those who opt to dismantle the conventional program of subjects, choose the essential contents that a 16-year-old young person needs to develop in today’s society and organize them into cross-cutting themes and projects linked to daily life and adapted to each age.
There is a certain consensus that during the last decades the school has been used as a tailor to respond to the growing demands of society and new values or social priorities, and new educational content and new competency requirements have been included, but without reduce or eliminate what already exists. “Despite the fact that society is changing, and in recent decades in an increasingly accelerated way, school content remains intact; one educational reform after another is limited to changing the order of the contents in each course, but in the end it is always the same “, reproaches Rafael Yus , professor of Biology and author of What should be taught in today’s school? (Ed. Ludus). And stresses that the school “to educate has to use a content that is of general interest for students, and in that content must enter, interrelated, academic subjects, values, emotions, etc., that allow acquiring the desired useful basic skills for real life, and it does not matter if it supposes to eliminate a good part of the knowledge that nowadays we can obtain comfortably with the help of the machines “.
Each era has its keys and the world needs the school to prepare 21st century people
who probably do not need the same learning or the same subjects as previous generations. “Today we are in the information society and there is no sense in a long list of academic learning that, moreover, does not hold in your memory if you do not use it; What we have to do is to train people to live with so much information, overcome the excess and know how to address the most reliable sources, “says Yus.
Manuel Fernández , researcher and head of the Department of Didactics and School Organization of the University of Granada, believes that the concept of educated person evolves and requires incorporating new knowledge that perhaps today may be the use of defibrillators, education for consumption, education sexual or environmental protection. But it emphasizes that the responsibility of achieving that educated person is not exclusive of the school , but shared with parents , family , community , media and civil society . “I do not think that every time we talk about new educational needs we have to talk about adding disciplines to the school program; the school can not turn its back on these new contents, but neither can it add or fragment the disciplines anymore, “he says. For Fernandez, the role of the school is to lead the process of integral education of the individual and place the teacher as a reference person and responsible for integrating content of social importance such as sex education, the prevention of abuse, responsible consumption or nutrition in your conversations, relationships and activities with the students or in the disciplines that you already explain.
Rafael Yus shares the idea that the school can not teach everything and there are many things that the family or the social environment can teach, but he warns that there are tasks for which the school is irreplaceable. “What the family can not do is teach complex subjects, educate skillfully – a well-trained teacher is needed, just as a doctor is irreplaceable to deal with rare diseases – or educate in society, because the classroom is a microsociety in which the students can interact, relate among equals and mobilize other aspects of the personality “that they do not show to parents,” he explains.
Forming citizens, not academics The responsible for the development of teachers and educational policies of Unesco, Francesc Pedró , emphasizes that the school program does not fit everything and there are knowledge that, however important, must be left out. “The question that a country has to ask itself is what are the minimum or essential competences for a boy or girl of 16 years to go out and have guaranteed survival , and based on that redefine the school curriculum , because there are many possible mathematics, and the important thing is to ask oneself what are the ones that a citizen – not a university student – needs to know, “he says. In his opinion, if the function of the school is to train citizens capable of living in their environment, it makes sense that the compulsory content program includes road education to know how to live in an environment where traffic is crucial, or training on what a check or how to contrast the different interest rates, which are resources that they will have to use when they ask for a loan for studies, to finance a motorcycle or a trip. “And I do not see why including this knowledge in the program can not contribute to the learning of issues related to science, mathematics or physics, because through road safety education activities you can address fuel consumption, braking distance and many other issues, “he stresses.
Maria Vinuesa, from the Rosa Sensat Pedagogical Renewal Collective
agrees that the school must ensure that all children reach the age of 16 by being competent for what life will ask of them, be they transporters or nuclear physicists. And for this, he believes that not all teachings should be in the same category because the school has to focus on the basics, what can not be left to free will or trust that the child will learn or not depending on their family and social context. Among these basic issues mentioned reading and writing – “is essential to be able to understand a booklet of instructions or to read and solve a problem of mathematics,” exemplifies, but also the oral expression , the critical spirit and the scientific method or art and philosophy . “Ethics and aesthetics have to be present in the school because they are part of the human dimension and we have to train people who, when they go to a city, are able to appreciate that behind certain urbanism there is a philosophy of citizenship, or that they know how to value the biblical scenes on the capitals of any convent they visit, that can talk about cinema or theater authors and can get excited when they go to a concert and listen to Schubert, “
he highlights. Vinuesa believes that all this knowledge, as well as the basic questions of mathematics , culture and history of the environment where they live must be worked from the earliest ages. On the other hand, he believes that other aspects, such as religion , entrepreneurship or values, do not have to be part of the compulsory education program. “The school must give criteria so that the person is autonomous, can think for himself and see the values in which he has to live, but not teach those values or instill that all must be entrepreneurs; the important thing is that when they finish compulsory education, boys and girls have a broad cultural, scientific, political and social base , know how to organize any work they have to do and when they listen to a speech they know how to identify the key ideas so that later they can be collected and worked on “, Value.
Hence, in his opinion, the key to adapting the school
to today’s society is not so much in the content programs as in the methods. “It is logical that in these times when there is great concern for the planet, the theme of the environment is worked in school, but talk about the environment is to speak of natural environment, which is already a school content; the important thing is how you work on these contents, which serve to develop reflection , scientific work and the critical spirit “, exemplifies. And he emphasizes that the same thing happens with emotional education : “It’s not about including a weekly hour in the program to teach emotions, but to work on the conflicts and joys that arise every day in class”.
Pedró also believes that integrating the traditional contents of the school with the competencies that society now demands is a matter of methods, of a pedagogical rethinking . He gives as an example the teaching of philosophy : “Surely, important as it is, in compulsory education it is not or is not basic to explain the philosophical currents; But that does not mean that school education does not give 14-year-olds the opportunity to face basic questions about the meaning of life and to know the foundations of philosophy and ethics. “
Transversal themes For Rafael Yus, the solution to integrate
new and old school contents and to work on competencies is to end the fragmented vision of knowledge by subjects and betting on cross-cutting themes that allow connecting academic topics – “that only interest us specialists in the field, “he says,” with real-life issues that motivate students more. Ensures that these cross-cutting issues would be linked to fundamental issues in life – knowing how to take care of oneself, caring for others, caring for the environment, being effective, knowing how to consume or living in peace … – but they would change from one institute to another according to the interests of the kids and the environment of each school. “Within the field of health, it may be that students are interested in the topic of drugs, and on that issue many things can be worked on: historical elements, mathematical and statistical approaches, literary analyzes on terminologies used for said substances , topics related to plants, chemical reactions, ethics …, and address that reality as a team, taking advantage of academic knowledge to reach conclusions and proposals for improvement and modification of reality, such as being involved in an information campaign about the effects of drugs, “he says.
And he points out that this way of teaching and learning requires that schools have more freedom to organize themselves and that the focus is more on using knowledge than on acquiring it. “It’s not so useful to know things that you can search quickly, but it’s important to know how to use that knowledge and work with it,” he summarizes.
The head of education policy of Unesco also considers that teachers and schools should enjoy more autonomy to organize their educational project according to the context and the families they have. “You can not say that we educate competitions and then regulate that you have to give three hours of math, four of language, etcetera; specifying in detail the content and the hours to be worked is a nineteenth-century way of controlling the quality of teaching; in modern systems the professionalism of teachers is relied upon and controls are made by tastings