We are going through a key time in social and political terms. Our economic model, lifestyles and expectations for the future will depend on the decisions taken by our leaders and citizens’ demands. Education plays a more important role than ever before, as our values and vision begin to be forged at school.
Education has gone through an unprecedented transformation, but just like a pendulum, it must return to the centre after the tidal wave of changes we have experienced over the past decade. The three most significant challenges facing our sector in the short term are to provide a humanistic education, teach our students to think and train our teachers.
Humanistic education vs. professional training
For years now, the Best Schools in Spain have been at the vanguard and have taken the initiative to offer the best education possible to the new generations that pass through our classrooms. In the current context of rapid and incessant changes in the academic, social, labour, economic, technological and cultural worlds, schools must pay attention to the three key points of 21st-century education: training, occupation and citizenship.
Schools have had to innovate on all levels, from teaching methods and teacher training to new assessment methods, technology, tutoring activities and, of course, their educational project (contents, skills and attitudes). The challenge for schools will be to design an educational project that strikes a balance between humanistic education and professional training.
Teaching students to think, act and lead
Our society is increasingly dependent on technology and the benefits it offers. As a consequence, this dependency makes a significant number of skills obsolete, meaning that we no longer learn and develop them. But, above all, we are slowly becoming passive beings that are swept along by the circumstances and feel unable to change things. Given the colossal amount of information available and the power of social media to influence people’s opinions, it is essential to learn how to think for oneself, develop one’s own criteria and understand how the world works and the interests that make it go round.
On the other hand, we are also faced with the threat posed by machines to the current work model and the well-being of citizens. Companies demand professional and personal profiles that have important qualities such as initiative, lateral thinking, empathy, constructivism, creativity, and the ability to persuade, as well as public speaking and sales skills. However, first and foremost, they want people that see “one step beyond”.
As school marks the first milestone in a student’s professional life, representing the space and time when they start to develop intellectually and have their first experiences, we understand that it must prepare them for a successful professional life.
Consequently, the education that students receive today must be adapted to both the current and future needs of society and companies. This is where humanism, values and ethics come into play, because, without these qualities, we would become mere instruments that could be easily replaced by a machine. The world needs leadership, and this leadership must be stimulated at school. That is why we work on this skill at the Best Schools in Spain.
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In the coming years, the trend will be to hire specialised teachers that provide quality learning based, above all, on their experience in non-educational settings. This means that a choreographer from The Lion King musical could be our music and dance teacher. Or a video game programmer could be the perfect person to teach new technologies at the Best Schools in Spain, or an archaeologist could give history lessons. For students, the experience that teachers have “in the real world” is highly valuable.
An educational system is as good as its teachers. If we want our students to perform exceptionally, we need to train our teachers to help them develop the very qualities we want our students to acquire. You can’t teach what you don’t know.
New assessment methods
Another challenge is to change the way we see the concept of assessment, no longer acting as “judges” and taking on the role of “trainers”. The student’s learning process is more important than what they do or do not know. It is vitally important for schools, and above all for their students, to create an assessment model that helps us improve and excel in a “friendly” way.
On the other hand, the points that we assess become what we teach. We need to adapt our assessment methods to what we want our students to learn. This must be done in each school year and with all teaching staff. Assessment must be cross-curricular and contextualised, exciting and slightly stressful, and it should never lose the basic element of play. We must evaluate emotions, teamwork and how students overcome challenges. It should be noted that students prefer to be assessed through teacher observation, by talking with the teacher, or through oral presentations.
This model creates the need to review our tutoring activities plan and adapt it to each and every student. There is currently a discrepancy between what students and teachers expect from an evaluation. As a result, at the Best Schools in Spain we are working together with our students and teachers to design a common, personalised line of assessment with objectives that help children and young people progressively excel.