Monday, November 25, 2013

Chile, the new education

Needed reform of education, which has occupied a central place in the Chilean presidential campaign, will not be enough if does not consider the opportunity for a paradigm shift in its objectives.

So far, the discussion has been focused on very fundamental issues that require urgent changes, such as financing and institutional arrangements, forms of provision (and constraints) and the effectiveness and efficiency of its procedures. However, if only (and is already quite) we stayed in these aspects, we can move forward with giant steps in making cosmetic changes to a system that requires rethinking the paradigm from which it is built.

Suppose for a moment that against all legislative veto, the new government that will take office in March in Chile, and most likely will be headed by Michelle Bachelet, does push its reform agenda, reaching agreements and resources necessary to ensure free education, the end or at least a stricter regulation of profit, and a significant increase in available resources to resume the expansion of preschool coverage, and still reaching for something to improve the salaries of teachers and principals. How much closer to a quality education be? My guess is that not too much.

If you look at what happens in the world, you will find educational systems organized in the most diverse ways, with a lot more resources invested per child which we invest today in Chile and those that will invest with the proposed reforms, with and without profit, with much stronger public systems, and are equally unhappy with the educational results they get.

There's more background in the lack of quality in education, which has to do with a concept, designed from the industrial era, as a long training course that prepares children for 12 to 20 years to work as employees, workers or executives in traditional production systems. Students receive an education  widely generalist and are early "oriented", based on performance, but mainly according to their conditions of origin, to contribute as workers, technicians or professionals with very strict adherence to the opportunities their parents were able to provide. Exception swallows fail to do summer.

But industrial society is past. We live and in full command of the knowledge society, where creativity and innovation are key to the full development of every person and of society, where the wealth of information requires critical minds and working for the development of new knowledge complex and interconnected, where the abundance of communications has shortened distances, has favored the expression of diversity and where it is essential to have the power to collaborate, communicate and build with others, even those who are far away, we do not see and do not speak our language and believe in our gods.

If we want to have a quality education system in any of our countries in Latin America, we have to take care of this enormous challenge and an education for the twenty-first century. Otherwise, we will only strengthen an outdated education in their background and meaning. For that, there are three key aspects that require more attention than they have had in the Chilean presidential campaign, to be at the top of the educational agenda:

First, the national curriculum. More or less adjustments made, in Chile we have a curriculum designed in the 90s, and built facing the mirror, trying to "update" the contents of 20 years ago, instead of thinking in the 20 coming years. It is a ridiculously overloaded curriculum, which makes it difficult for teachers to establish hierarchies and priorities, and where all the materials must be "delivered", so torments of hell for schools. An essential and flexible curriculum is required, giving more space for the development of different educational projects, enabling teachers and principals to be professional (and not mere robotic applicators of rule and standards), but above all, a much more oriented curriculum to develop skills in students rather than forcing them to memorize content.

Second, teachers and career development. We must be able to double the salary of teachers in the next five years. Yes, you read well, to double the base salary of teachers. Do all teachers? Yes, all ... that meet the most stringent requirements for practice of teaching, reflected on a certification of contents and pedagogical skills with the highest standard. Advance this includes higher barriers of entry to the pre-service training. Eg: you can not get to study education with less than 650 points in the access test to higher education (now admitted with a score less than mediocre 450 points). Stricter access, regular and enabling certification tests every 10 years, and much better salaries are prerequisites for improving the quality and working conditions of our teachers in the medium and long term. The rest is smoke.

Finally, the learning assessment and quality measurement. A few days ago, students from half a dozen educational institutions of secondary education in Chile decided not to filing the SIMCE, our annual standardized test. Some authorities accused the students by "blaming the thermometer for the disease". True, SIMCE is a thermometer, and what I read at the bottom of complaint of those students (and what not addressed will have a growing support in the coming years) is that although without the thermometer does not cure anyone, believing that the thermometer is enough to understand all quality problems does not help.

The sacralization of the thermometer, to the point of order by temperature the incentives to teachers, school rankings, parent information, until ridiculous idea of ​​semaphores from the former Minister Joaquin Lavin, is what has become unacceptable. If the new government, and the Agencia de la Calidad that administers the SIMCE, want to save it, they will have to be opened at once to consider more complex and more complete measurement collaborative systems. What sense make today a test whose results are known the following year, giving no opportunity for schools and teachers to take improvement actions on students that are measured? What sense does persist in tests that measure only a few subjects, which is seeking to establish the coverage and effectiveness of schools to meet the curriculum standards (see the first point, two paragraphs ago) but are unable to support improvement process in schools and in the practices of teachers?

Good education, to which we aspire in our region and it is a right of all citizens, not be achieved only with wider access, more efficient systems, and more investment. This is necessary, indeed essential, but if we miss the chance to think about the core areas of our educational paradigm, we could end up in the short term, with a new frustration in our hopes for fairer, more inclusive and better educated countries.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Technologies for learning assessment


Much has been said and written about the impact of the use of technology in education. From the most ardent supporters, who rely heavily on technology and its revolutionary potential, raise the point that computers would be enough to drop from helicopters into the villages to see how children become learners themselves wise, without schools or teachers, to those who dismiss any impact, and would do without technology in schools, to safeguard the traditional space away from the "noise" that they introduce interested.

In my particular experience, education technologies are both inevitable presence (students already live and grow in a technological world, and is part of their cognitive repretorio) and a tremendous opportunity for disruption, change outdated practices and vices acquired by our educational systems. Maybe if the most important of them, having forgotten that the center of the educational process in students, in each one of them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The world is the school



Education in the world is destined, sooner or later, to a paradigmatic shift. The educational model that we have seen grow and offer the best in the twentieth century, is not sufficient to provide the quality of education that demands the XXI century, and therefore we are at the turning point of a major change.

So far, we have enough imagine education as "what happens in school," four or five hours each day, for twelve to fifteen years of our lives. Globalization and the knowledge society that has emerged for the development of information technology and communication have created a new paradigm that will break this belief in its spatial and temporal dimension.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The future of education will be personalized


The greatest achievement of the educational systems of the twentieth century was to ensure access to school to almost every children in school age. It was certainly a major success in the context of the huge inequalities and exclusions that our societies maintain. Education, understood as a right of individuals and a society need, is a great legacy for the century in which we are.

However, it is insufficient to ensure a legacy of educational quality. The XXI century calls for the development of new skills and competencies in its members, that industrially organized schools are unable to offer. In most parts of the world, educational outcomes show this gap, and achieve the expected results in the XXI century requires to change our paradigms.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New publication: Basic Guidelines for TED's Project Evaluation

The use of technologies within educational settings has become a priority for governments of developing countries. Investment in Technologies for Education (TEd), which has the goal of improving the quality of education and making it relevant to 21st century realities, has grown steadily during the past decade.

However, efforts involving the evaluation of such projects have been inadequate thus far. The evaluation of educational technology projects is critically important, since it allows us to learn from the experience of carrying out such programs while providing vital information on expected results.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Diane's questions

Diane Ravitch has an interesting biography. It is an education researcher who acted as advisor to the Secretary of Education George Bush (father) and then to the Secretary of Education for the administration of Bill Clinton. With the first led efforts to develop more rigorous educational standards. Then, between 1997 and 2004, with George Bush Jr. and the White House, she was director of the National Assessment Governing Board, the equivalent to Chilean SIMCE. In short, he starred in the design and implementation of the American educational model as it stands today.

The 2010 published an interesting book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, which should be required reading for every politician interested in education reform and who believes that the American model deserves to be followed and copying. It basically repent of what worked in previous years, and demonstrates with data, research and arguments, that the policies that were implemented for competing schools and teachers, to standardize the testing of students, targeted on a few materials and lack of resources and prestige of public education (with the parallel deification of private education without her show better results) have finished destroying the possibilities of improving the quality of education. Does this sound familiar?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Digital textbooks for Chile

When the Ministry of Education distributes textbooks, is actually doing three different things at once: is selecting educational content, printed paper is buying and is paying for all this comes to all schools. How these three operations could change if the Ministry of Education decided to digitize textbooks, as it has done as South Korea and the United States has just announce?

The most obvious change is the distribution. With digital texts, placed in a digital reading device (eReader) or a low-cost tablet, each year you could add or modify the content to update them remotely without the need for warehouses, inventory, trucks and vans, which as we know, not always reach their destination. If the devices include touch function (as indeed do all the tablets and several eReaders already on the market) could be included right there activities that students must perform in them.

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