From our viewpoint, the world today is replete with challenges and opportunities of an unimaginable depth and width. It is unthinkable that in a period such as this a student should be limited by a curriculum or a fixed study plan.
This world demands an agile and responsive approach in decision making to optimize educational opportunities for individual students. We reject rigid institutional procedure as counterproductive.
Nine years ago we started a learning program in the mountains of northern Morazán, through the Amún Shéa Integrated Development Center. From the outset, the goal was to make education a relevant and effective tool for improving individual and collective well-being.
The nine years have resulted in formidable challenges, unexpected discoveries and rewarding results. Three questions we are often asked are: what curriculum is used; what is the methodology; and where we get the teachers.
We could go so far as to say that the type of curriculum is not important, neither the methodology nor where the teacher comes from, but that would be a bit sharp. What we want to emphasize is that the most important thing is the goal of education. The rest are means to reach the goal and if we are not careful, we will only replace traditional rigid means with others that become just as rigid and counterproductive in the short term.
At Amún Shéa, our goal is to create unassailable life skills and focused situational awareness. This is put into practice with a five step protocol:
Through an Educational Management System, which requires:
- Giving responsibility and authority to both teachers and students;
- Utilization of available and changing information and tools;
- An emphasis in results over procedure;
- Strategic networking to strengthen our core program and;
- Instituting situational awareness.
We measure success by the impact our students have on their families and communities, and above all, on themselves. We measure success in our students by their ease, confidence, solidarity and ability to build solutions.
Today’s world is not only diverse in terms of information and opportunities, but also is characterized by the speed of change in that information and its application. A formidable example of this is the recent presidential election in the United States. Winner and current President Trump hired Cambridge Analytica, a specialist in psychometrics, to design his digital campaign. Psychometrics focuses on measuring psychological traits such as personality, and directs messages according to these traits. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, relied on the support of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other traditional digital platforms, because of the success with them for the first “social networking president”, Barack Obama. We know the result, but what we need to take into account is that we have just referred to Google, Facebook and Twitter as traditional and practically outdated. The lesson for us is, while our schools are bogged down in the age of “what we know”, the stage of “what we think” has passed by and come to the current age of “how we think.” Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
The critical question then is what is the curriculum and methodology and what is the teacher that can keep us up to speed with this change. We can infer that any focus of content is doomed to be part of a historical memory. The “what we know” stage ended long ago.
Therefore, we need direction with a clear objective but with enough distance to the horizon to guide us without locking us in. The skills required for today’s life include hard knowledge, but with flexibility and agility, and above all with a constant situational reading.
There are formidable challenges. Tradition and expectations of parents and the institutional bureaucracy represent filters that in one way or another bring us back in reality. These filters are not at all negative, in that they address the preparation of our sons and daughters. Consequently it is a subject that demands responsibility.
However, we must recognize that the biggest challenge is our own fear of taking that responsibility of making changes. Creating a change is always a big step, and always involves facing criticism and opposition. Every real innovational project has gone through that, no one enters with parade, party and pomp, but alone, with fear and on the defensive. Curiously, we could understand that the traditional method which resists change today was quite the innovation in itś time and has passed down this same path.
It is extremely important that we understand the dynamics of the situation and understand that the answer is not to raise another “sacred cow” to replace the old one, but rather to develop an applicable protocol for navigating it.
Situational awareness not only responds to the external environment, but also makes fluid adjustments within the program and in the development of the protocol itself.
For example, I just realized that while a person speaks at a rate of 150 words per minute, comprehension works at 400 words per minute and the thoughts of listeners run from one thousand to three thousand words per minute. Suddenly I begin to understand the reason behind the distraction in class and as such, we are already making the corresponding adjustments.
Likewise, our mind is constantly generating thoughts and ideas while reading, and boring is boring, whether spoken or written. Thus I trust that the thousands of thoughts provoked by these two pages have awakened your imagination and contributed to your situational awareness.
It is high time to change rigid institutionally into an agile and effective educational management tool!