This week I started observing a class of 6-year-old kids that are learning to read and write. The observation is part of my studies in Early Childhood education. The 1st grade teacher will be my research internship supervisor. First, I have to spend days observing and write down a report for my internship mentor who will discuss what I had observed. Then, I have to create the lesson plans focusing on literacy development and teach the kids a number of hours.
The 1st grade teacher is a great professional and passionate about the kids. I’m happy that she accepted this role in my final year. She’s also the one who will observe and assess me when the day come for me to step into her shoes. She’s been working in Bairro da Juventude School for 14 years. Needless to say that we clicked right away and as I am going to see her almost every week, for me that is a great thing. I feel blessed to learn from her as I’m working toward a specialization in literacy through out basic education.
Bairro da Juventude School
Bairro da Juventude is a philantropic institution. It serves the community, but especially for kids in risk, and they offer them full time education. The program is great. They have all kinds of activities, balanced meals, transportation and medical care. The kids are well looked after.
I’ve noticed though that some of these kids are agressive and most of them live in poor areas of the city which puts them in contact with things we wouldn’t want kids to be near of – drug dealing, crimes, domestic violence, etc. It’s not like a fairy tale obviously. Teachers and monitors have to be tough on the kids to straighten them up. It must be a chalenge for everyone who works there to do that when they actually want to cuddle those kids. My supervisor told me that for her it is. But she needs to be firm with them. That is the only language they can listen to until they learn there is a different world waiting for them outside their own reality, whatever reality they live in, and they can make the world a much better place for themselves.
What would be of such kids without schools? Without loving and caring teachers? I’m sharing an example in Brazil, but I just remember Panthy Govinda’s work in Nepal who has been reaching out to the world and connecting his kids to other realities. Everywhere there are people who care and work for a better education. We are not alone.
Needs of the past – Educating for the future
A lot of kids in my country need school not just to learn to read but also to be fed. The situation has improved a lot in the last couple of decades. Childhood education improved a lot and we have moved from the assistencialism view to a much broader perspective where kids must have a proper space and be surrounded by things that stimulate their development. We have also got past the idea that Education is transmitting knowledge, although there are people who still resists change, it is wide accepted that that is not the role of school anymore (if it ever was), and there are lots of people trying to change. They just don’t make the news. But they are here around us. Doing their bit everyday and contributing for change. Changing people’s life.
An interdisciplinary approach to promote better understanding of the needs
In order to talk about Education we ought to look at it from interdisciplinary perspective. It is not only about methodologies. There is so much that can affect outcomes like social, cultural and historical factors for instance. You cannot compare a school where students come from a place where books, news and other types of medias are available with a school where parents never read and some of them don’t even know how. You can not offer solutions based on internet or methodology. Literacy rate* in my country is really low. Teaching profession is not only special is the very best thing kids can get especially in areas of poverty.
*Not talking about the ability to decode words, but to be competent readers.
In our country there is a document that every school should produce and review often. It is called Projeto Politico Pedagógico. It’s a project because it is a plan for now and the future where we project what we want our school to be and do for our society. It’s political because it involves decisions about the organisation and management. It’s pedagogical because it concerns learning and teaching. PPP will tell what investment should be made on teachers development and infra-structure. Before writing the PPP there is a research that should be carried out by the school leadership team and that has to involve all parts concerned – leadership, teachers, community, people who work in all areas of the school and most importantly the students. Without this document the school exists without knowing what the future might hold, their purpose and what they can do to achieve it.
The 21st Century
Is internet part of the package for a good 21st century education? Of course it is. Digital literacy is already a concern among educators. And I’ve seen reports from around my country that makes me cry with joy. But some of those innitiatives involve big companies stepping in. Do they try to get their share of profit from it? Oh well. By doing what they do best, competing in the market, do they also contribute to the development in remote areas by bringing technology and internet access? Sure, I just saw an example of it last week.
In the video above the President of the company responsible for bringing internet access to the remote area said “who knows if one day they will become also clients”. There is always in this type of innitiative a second agenda and that’s a fact we can’t deny.
Sugatra Mitra’s Plenary
Apart from not finding anything new or innovative in Mr. Mitra’s work, I find his assertion on the future of learning confusing, minimalist and innacurate as far as education development goes and that is what bugs me. Nothing against promoting ways to engage students with learning and encouraging them to become protagonist because that is most desirable change in education I’d love to see. And I’ve learned about models of this kind in Brazil, so I’m thrilled to know that more and more teachers and schools are promoting it instead of keeping the old teaching model alive.
Because there is so much more to it, I agree with Michelle Sowey’s review of SOLE, especially when she affirms that,
We need to make sure that kids develop thinking and reasoning skills alongside skills in research and information awareness. For this, the support of a competent guide is indispensable, equipping children not only to assess the reliability of different sources but also to evaluate the many arguments they will encounter.
All it takes is a click to finding information in the web. And presenting by copying in a poster or reading it out is not learning anything and much less critically. Although Mr. Mitra states that the type of questions we ask matters and should promote thinking, the big question functions out as catalyst in the process of inquiring. I agree that encouragement is important, but mediating the process is paramont.
Motivation, Purpose and Interests: Learning Projects by Instituto Airton Senna
In Brazil we have Instituto Airton Senna, a foundation that has been working to promote better education in Brazil for the past 20 years. When I found out about their projects around the country and their online PD program years ago, I was amazed. I had never seen the whole school working toward developing learners as protagonists while developing also competencies and skills for the 21st century. I had participated and learned to collaborate with other teachers while doing it through the mediation of great educators (the courses at first used to be called Collaborative Learning Experience). I’m very happy to learn that they had implemented pilot schools in Rio de Janeiro and they have been able to carry out studies on socioemotional competencies and its importance for the development of learners as whole person. These are the kind of innitiatives that makes me smile and look forward to a brighter future for our kids.
Extra links and videos:
I apologize beforehand that the material shared below is not in English. But the images might give you an idea. aThere are many other videos I could post here, but they are in Portuguese. They are inspiring and I see what people did in the past is reflecting in our present. Thanks to all great thinkers who fought for it. And considering that Brazil is a huge place, it is very positive to see the amount of effort everywhere to make it happen.
2009 – An article in Portuguese about Learning projects. http://www.educacaoetecnologia.org.br/?p=1480
2010 – Rui Barbosa School learning to work with learning projects. (Projetos de Aprendizagem)
2013 – Chico Anysio School implemented a new high school program in Rio de Janeiro.
Here is the paper that presents the research of using SOLE in the UK.