“Knowledge is not devalued, it changes what is learned”

A competency and interdisciplinary curriculum. Essential and desirable learning. An exit profile at age 16. A more personalized teaching. These are some of the premises that make up the Spanish educational system that the latest reform aims to promote. The Celaá law has proposed to carry out a “modernization” that not only consists of updating the contents but also modifying the criteria from which they are selected. But, What and how are our children and youth going to study?

20 years ago the EU and the OECD raised the objective of the competitions and the PISA report already carries out a competency assessment. In Spain, this is not the first law in which it is embodied, but its real implementation has been scarce. “I know centers that are working in this line, but most do not. We are far away,” says Neus Sanmartí, honorary professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. “We have at least made progress in the teachers’ awareness that they are important. We have been doing many experiences of innovation in schools. But a systematic training model is required that allows teachers to prepare themselves in the new way of understanding the curriculum. and to personalize it for each student, which is one of the great challenges of this system “, remarks the pedagogue Carmen Pellicer, president of the Trilema Foundation.

The idea is to provide students with skills, attitudes and values ​​to function in an increasingly technological, globalized and changing world. At a time when data is just a click away, “the school has to focus on what Google has no answer for“, explains Pellicer, and that goes through a teaching that consists of getting the kids to know how to apply in other contexts and in everyday situations what they have learned in the classroom in a specific circumstance.

“A student can tell us a physical formula if he memorizes it, but if he does not know what happens if vinegar falls on a marble structure, that knowledge will not lead him to be more competent,” exemplified Elena Martín, professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the Autonomous University Madrid, during a meeting with the media to present the main lines of the new curriculum. In a chat with 20 minutes Sanmartí gives a similar example: “A lot of information is given when civilizations are taught, but if we ask what a civilization is, no one has a clue. We have to understand it to apply it to one, to another … because otherwise all we do is repeat nonsense content . If later we want to know more concrete things that we have not worked on in school, we go to the internet and we learn them. “

This chemistry teacher highlights the importance of the verb transfer, something in which Héctor Ruiz agrees. “The transfer it is what differentiates superficial from deep learning. If the curriculum does not lead to deepening, the knowledge will be ephemeral “, points out the director of the International Science Teaching Foundation (ISTF).

In this context, the experts consulted indicate that it is not about stopping teaching history or physics but to do it in another way and that memory is not criminalized either, but rather that the students are not limited to accumulating and replicating the lessons without further ado. “Of course there has to be knowledge. They are so important that that is why we have to ensure that they are acquired properly. You cannot think, create, be critical … without a foundation in knowledge. And memory is the ability to our brain to understand anything, “says Ruiz.

Archive - Students in class (Archive)

In this way, the way of evaluating should also be different. That is why Sanmartí bets, for example, on an evaluation that is not immediate: “To know if you have really learned, the activity to verify it would have to be done two months later. If then you are able to activate it and use the knowledge in another project, it is well internalized, but if it is immediate, not”.

The eight competencies that the Ministry of Education proposes they are in linguistic communication; multilingual; STEM; digital; personal, social and learning to learn; citizen; enterprising; and in cultural awareness and expression. They are related to what is established by the EU, which already in the early 2000s saw the need for “a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes that all people need for their personal fulfillment and development, as well as for active citizenship, inclusion social and employment “.

“The LifeCom competition is an interesting novelty”

Carmen Pellicer, president of the Trilema Foundation.

carmen pellicer

Carmen Pellicer is president of the Trilema Foundation and director of ‘Cuadernos de Pedagogía’.

Would something change in the list of competitions? No. An interesting variation on the old wording is the new LifeCom. It involves training in habits that allow intelligent learning but also adds training in emotional skills and the practice of healthy habits and personal well-being. We must give more space in the curriculum to initiatives that stimulate it.

Will a model that seeks to be more personalized require lower ratios? I think it will require an investment greater than that provided by law. The most important thing in a school are the teachers. Co-teaching, that there are larger groups but with several professionals, that increase the hours of support and the time that each student spends with their tutor … are fundamental initiatives to improve the quality of the system. And that requires more teachers. It would be a priority when investing.

How do you rate Lomloe? The saddest thing is their lack of consensus. There are many positive initiatives and they must be presented not in a way that is revengeful against previous laws, but rather by making a commitment to dialogue. We are not going to improve Spanish education if we confront each other. It is time for a social pact to be reached that leaves it out of partisan discussions.

“To learn we have to use memory”

Héctor Ruiz, director of the International Science Teaching Foundation.

hector ruiz

Héctor Ruiz is director of the International Science Teaching Foundation (ISTF).

How is competence development achieved? To learn you have to use memory. You are not saying that you should not do it. Trying to avoid memorization means avoiding that superficial way of learning and mass learning hours before a test that is passed by reproducing information, with which learning is not lasting. You want knowledge to be acquired in depth and understanding and it is done with opportunities and time to use it in new contexts.

Is it a more practical teaching? Another misunderstanding is understanding active learning as learning by doing. From an academic point of view it means learning by thinking. You have to make sure that the students think about what they learn and that entails giving it meaning, understanding it, connecting it with other knowledge … The application must carry a reflection behind it.

What do you think of the eight blocks? Our foundation focuses on STEM subjects and it would have been a surprise if they weren’t there. It is important that all citizens have notions about how science works, its limitations, how it can help us … The current situation highlights the importance of understanding and being critical of information.

“The important thing is to know what a civilization is”

Neus Sanmartí is an honorary professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

neus sanmartí

Neus Sanmartí is an honorary professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Is there concern in part of the educational community that this method will lower the level? Yes, and it will not be like that. What changes is what we teach. The important thing is not to know curiosities of the Egyptians but what a civilization is. Neither is knowing the name of all the bones in the body but what happens when one breaks and how it recovers. This is not devaluing knowledge.

Advocate for students to self-assess. Is it really possible? The first condition is that the teachers believe it. The strategy is to clearly share the objectives and the evaluation criteria with the students. They do not usually know what they have to do to have a six and thus they cannot evaluate themselves. But when they know it, they can take ownership of the process and it is proven that they do it very well.

How will the generations be trained in competitions? Apart from having a solid basic knowledge there are transversal learning: autonomy, initiative, creativity, critical vision … Things that the school currently works very little and is what today’s society needs. We are seeing it with the coronavirus. It is not about knowing all the information but to be able to interpret it you need knowledge. And this, without a doubt, is a school assignment.