Fundació Jaume Bofill Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

Thinking about future challenges of education in Catalonia

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Debats d'Educació

13/05/14 06.00 pm



It has not been easy for the jury of the Debates on Education in Action to choose from among the 72 innovation projects for change in education that Catalan schools and institutions have submitted as part of the celebrations for the ten years of Debates on Education. In the end, nine projects were chosen to be part of a conference that filled the MACBA auditorium to capacity as many teachers and students were able present their innovative initiatives.

A selection was made of the most striking and ground-breaking ideas. These ideas had three common factors, they question the status quo, are based on collaboration and can be replicated in other settings. They all made learning active and practical, with tangible results. They all relate to the everyday reality and aim to have an impact on this reality.

The first example of the afternoon made this desire very clear. Quatre Cantons secondary school presented the Globalized Work Based on External Proposals programme. They worked with cultural institutions, charities and associations to develop services that would be of use to them. This involved research, interviews, creativity, use of materials and planning. They project involved reflective, independent and collaborative work.

For example, they have already worked with the Sala Becket theatre. The theatre asked them to create a play aimed at teenagers, aware that there are few productions that tackle this subject. Their latest project was with the Vila Casas Foundation. They first considered what they knew of contemporary art. They drew what they thought an example of this art was. They then visited the museum and chose a work. Following this visit, they created sound files (poems and soundscapes) inspired by the chosen works. These files will soon be available to be listened to via a QR code that the museum will be installing alongside the works of art.

Another educational experience that fosters collaborative work among institutions, schools and social organizations is A les places! [In The Squares!] by Granollers Town Council. The town council has been working for two years on the collaborative design of activities in public spaces aimed at children with a view to strengthening community relations. The first task that has been completed is the construction of a children’s play “artefact” made by students studying the arts baccalaureate.

The students looked at a square in the town and analysed the use that was made of it. Based on this, they designed a large structure to be placed in a square. They produced the mock-ups, decided what the final project was to be, ordered the materials, worked on the construction and finally installed it in the middle of the square. They also assessed the use that children made of the artefact and how it would be necessary to repair the pieces that would become damaged with use.

A third experience with regional involvement are the experiments aimed at children between the ages of 0 and 6 set up by Children’s Education students at the Bages University Foundation. These experiments were presented at an interactive fair in Manresa where the children are able to play and experiment. For example, they have to make a ball move along a channel without using their hands. They discover that depending on where the air comes from, the ball moves one way or another, or that they make the wind stronger or weaker by funnelling or dispersing it. The various experiments were also collated in a book. “It is especially important,” explained Montse Pedreira, “because there aren’t any experiments aimed at younger children. It also fosters an interest in science and connects the university to society.”

Art was the core of a number of the projects presented at the conference. Two proposals used this discipline to create magnet schools (schools that are usually stigmatized by having a high immigrant population that specialize in an area to increase their value and pull).

One of the cases is that of the Josep Maria de Sagarra school and the MACBA. Throughout an entire school year, pupils worked across curricular subjects and linked them to the art at the centre. It is another experience that made an impact, as the museum has drawn a lot of information on how to get children interested in contemporary art.

The second magnet experience was Tic-Tac from at the University of Girona. The programme came about through collaboration with schools in India where boys in the lowest caste, the untouchables, were trained in computer skills. This initiative was then transferred to one school in Girona and another in Salt where 90% of students are immigrants. The project consists of workshops organized on the University of Girona campus looking science, art and technology. One example was the construction of Lego robots that were programmed to walk in a straight line. Dresses were then made for these robots, which “starred” in a fashion show. “It fosters creativity, a critical spirit, teamwork, technology skills, social inclusion and adds to the value of these schools,” explained Eduard Muntaner.

Other projects offers students with practical skills as they provide services to their school and classmates. This is the case of the Joan XXIII school, which has created the figure of ICT specialist among its students. The school uses computers and iPads in the classroom. They realised that many students had technical problems with these tools and that this was having a negative effect on the class. As a result, they named other (primary and secondary) students as ICT experts to help their classmates. They act as technicians and teachers. They themselves feel that this helps them gain the respect of their classmates, be more sure of themselves and improve their communication skills. “It is also good for the teachers,” says Maribel Benito, “who have to overcome their fear that the students know more than they do in this area.”

Technology as a tool for conveying values, this is the aim of the Ull, canvi, acció [Eye, Change, Action] programme of the La Garrotxa secondary school in Olot. For some years, they have been working with the students on audiovisual skills so that they can produce a video report on the place of origin of immigrant students at the school. They have already visited Morocco, Cuba, India and China. They see first-hand what the country is like, they live with the families, they experience the students’ reunion with their families and friends. The video becomes a series of enriching experiences and emotions that is then screened at a fair in Olot. The aim is to raise awareness of what migration means and to foster tolerance, respect and solidarity among students and society.

For the Castellum New Playground project, the most important thing was collaboration among all the members of the school community: children, families and teachers. Between them, they thought about how they wanted the school playground to be. They chose a final project and worked on it themselves. They installed plant boxes and planted plants, created a tunnel from willow stalks, transformed a wall into a play structure and built a wooden house with a slide. And finally, they opened it with a party.

Finally, another of the proposals presented could even be tasted. Baccalaureate students at the Escola Pia in Granollers have created a simulated business, Sweet Sefed, as part of an international programme for students. The business studies course involved working on all of the jobs related to a business as though it were real. Sweet Sefed produces chocolate, cakes and tea cakes. Students learn how to answer the telephone, place orders, keep the accounts, run marketing campaigns, run the communication department and control warehouse stock. They have even created a corporate colour: pink. At the end of the conference, the speakers were able to taste pink cupcakes made by Sweet Sefed.

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