An overview (in English) of Ian Gilbert’s 18 minutes of fame at TEDx Patagonia in Santiago today:

The answer to Chile’s education problems must come from Chile. You can look for ideas from beyond but, ultimately, you need a culturally-specific response to challenges facing you.

I can’t give you answers but I can help you think about the questions.

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a very useful way of thinking about the challenges of education, especially the ‘banking concept of education’ that many systems are still battling with.

The Creativity Question

Is yours an education system that fosters creativity? Creativity is about breaking the rules. The education system was designed to get children (from the poor end of the scale especially) to do what they were told, love God, respect authority and die for their country. But that was then. We are in a different world now. Picasso said that ‘Every act of creation starts with an act of destruction’. What will you have to go away and break in the system to improve 21st century education for Chile?

The Technology Question

To what extent are you using technology to improve education in Chile? In our new, interconnected ‘flat world’ anyone can work with anyone else.  With jobs becoming ‘fungible’ (ie they can be done by someone or something else somewhere else) we have to ask the question ‘Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?’ Knowledge has been democratised. It is cheap. It is out there. What has yet to be democratised is learning. The answer is that we need ‘good’ teachers who can help children know where to find the knowledge and what to do with it. And we can bypass the parts of the system that don’t work.

The Learning Question

To what extent is Chile focusing on learning and not simply teaching? The teacher’s job isn’t to teach children, it’s that they learn. Just like the doctor’s job isn’t to give you medicine. It’s to get you better.  There needs to be accountability in schools and with teacher and not just, ‘Well, I taught them so I did my job. If they haven’t learned it they need to get a private tutor!

The Neuroscience Question

To what extent is Chile taking notice of the latest understandings about the workings of the brain? Three examples – it takes between 20 and 30 years for a human brain to mature; you can’t be older than your brain and there can be a two to three year spread in terms of where children are at in that maturation process, even if they have the same birthday.

The Thinking Question

To what extent is the Chilean system developing thinking in its children, teaching them how to think and not simply what to think? Einstein said, ‘We can’t solve the problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’. If children leave the system being taught to think our thoughts then nothing will change and if nothing changes, basic evolution, it dies.

The Hope Question

To what extent is the system ensuring high levels of hope in its young people? Hope means ‘Things can get better and I can do something about it’. Like in Escuela Nueva in Columbia. Like in the Lumiar Institute in Brazil. Like in El Sistema in Venezuela.

And, finally, going back to Freire, we need to ensure that the children in our schools who are the ones who will solve the problems, that we do things with them and not to them, that we ensure that they can say, ‘Things can get better and I can do something about it’.

Thank you