We talk with Valentina Raman, CO-Founder and Education strategist of DC Prototypes and Zineb Mouhyi, WISE Policy Development Officer about how to really achieve a change in education shifting from the traditional models to a new student-centered approach.
You have the full transcription of the interview below:
“We have enough evidences and studies to get really started”
“The steps are there, the tools are there, the reports are there, the researches are there, the data is there…yes, it’s not all perfect and yes, sometimes it’s not seventy years studies but we have enough to actually get really started.
The problem that we are trying to address is “Why on one hand we have this wealth of knowledge and on the other hand we have this industrial model of education that still isn’t changing?”
This problem cannot be solved individually. We can, Valentina and I, go into a room and say we are going to build this beautiful thing. This is a challenge we all face as people working in education.
Any person in this room go and ask them “What’s your biggest challenge?” it’s actually make people understand what needs to be done and getting that knowledge applied.
We are all facing the same challenge and clearly, there is no organization that is willing to give us a billion dollars right now to try to solve it so let’s solve it together.
“Innovative teachers are not alone. There is a great community out there”
It’s also the deep human problem of being and innovator which is the feeling of being alone, of being the only one in this world that is trying something new, that is daring to push the boundaries of what is possible in education.
And the reality is that we are very much not alone, there are millions of people around the world. And that is requiring also new intelligences like empathy and self-awareness and that inner compass of purpose and passion. It is like finding the person who wants to do this with the person who has the knowledge with someone else at the other edge of the world who has done it before and knows that is doable in your country because your context are actually quite similar if we look at it.
It’s like, imagine people who have shackles, and are trying to run forward, and everything is like blocking them on every direction. They can have an impact at small level or they can try to have the innovations and some of them produce amazing things. But what we need to go forward towards is changing the mainstream.
“We don’t have to be afraid of experimenting in our class”
My dream is to come in twenty years and call that not an innovation, call that what every kid has access to. I don’t want to be the exception anymore.
Part of it is trying. Part of it is not being afraid of actually experimenting. Because we have a lot of the knowledge necessary but yes we have never done it.
So, Am I gonna take a chance on something that is different but is aligned with my values or am I going to do like everyone else and pretty much guarantee that it’s not gonna work? Because it doesn’t work for most kids. That’s the reality of it.
So it’s trying to bring slowly those innovations within to make them normal, to make them something we are not scared of. Because there is experience behind, from a lot of people around the world who can tell you, we have done it and it works.
“We only need the 16% of society to change the mainstream”
It has been called the diffusion of innovations theory and it’s modelled from also animal behaviour.
If you look at a school of fish and they are all going in one direction, it doesn’t take the entire school fish for it to turn around. They don’t all turn around at the same time slowly and it’s actually at the point of 16% of the school of fish. Once that turns around, the entire one turns and goes into another direction.
We don’t need everyone right now to say no to old way of schooling, hierarchical, teacher as authoritarian, student as just receiving. We only need 16% of society. This is a hypothesis but any other innovations we have seen in patterns has always been around there. That’s really not much of the world. We are actually already nearly at that point, we are getting there.
What is fracturing us right now is what you were saying, is the lack of flow, we don’t even know what everyone is doing in different contexts. And also the lack of common language to discuss and even frame what we are calling.
I am pretty convinced that if we break those silos between people and make them realize the power that they have collectively we probably already are at 16%. That is going to take a lot of inner work.
The beginning step is not looking out there, what exists, what can I do…first, you have to look inwards and say who am I, what is my purpose, what am I capable of contributing.
We have to start taking these conscious decisions for ourselves, moving away from individualism to more a collectivist way of being, moving away from the achievement focus of success to well-being focus.
“Young people is hungry to express themselves. We have to bring art back to our schools”
The most critical role that has been for a long time undervalued in the education system that we have to bring back is art. The art of creative expression, the art of manifesting what is within into an external reality that it can be a mirror to look back on ourselves.
Ashoka in where I worked for three years, did a big campaign in the US to source innovations from young people on how to change their schools which was really exciting and validating of this philosophy that the students are the present change makers, they are not future change makers, they are changing now.
When we got back all the ideas over 30% were some form of art based intervention. Young people today are hungry to express themselves and they see art as the truest form of bringing people together, of breaking these boundaries.
It is a language that is beyond words, it is a language beyond our conditions that we grew up in. It is a natural part of the human expression and I think the more that we can bring that back into our schools in balance with the science and data and hard-hearted languages that we have come to really really value. We see all these jobs and professions that are necessitating that. If we can bridge these two worlds of art and science then we will reach to a center that is human and from that human center we can design an education system that is serving humanity.