What do we propose?

The Challenge of Escola Nova 21

Join forces for change toward a common goal

Escola Nova 21 is an alliance for an advanced education system in Catalonia, articulating UNESCO’s invitation to civil society institutions to contribute to the promotion of educational transformation to face today's global challenges. It works as a three-year program (2016-2019), engaging nearly 500 schools towards a common horizon of change. Its promoters are the Center for UNESCO of Catalonia, the Jaume Bofill Foundation, the Barcelona Provincial Council, the Open University of Catalonia, and “la Caixa” Foundation.

The inertia that suffocates fundamental change in the school system is complex and multi-causal, and takes extraordinary energy to move. Escola Nova 21 will do so by focusing on a common horizon for all schools. Called the “Advanced School Framework,” it allows the initiative to simultaneously address the diverse factors that can call a halt to reform by evaluating them against a holistic and unifying vision for transformation that has been accepted by the broad educational community, including relevant public administrations. The Framework has been developed based on research from UNESCO and the OECD’s Center for Educational Research and Innovation, as well as on experiences and practices of innovative Catalan schools, to define four interdependent axes: Purpose, Practice, Evaluation, and Organization. This intersection of international and local research creates a rubric for change, starting with a fundamental reconsideration of the objective of compulsory education.

Many teachers, parents, public officials, and other people interested in education are aware of the need to overcome the transmission model of teaching and enable children and young people to enjoy learning experiences that are relevant and meaningful, that improve their ability to live lives of dignity, capacity, and well-being, that enable them to be autonomous individuals with full lives, and that also result in a more cohesive society, capable of responding to global challenges, forming free and responsible citizens. For this reason, the program first aims to raise public awareness of the urgency and possibility of change for the education system toward the common horizon of the Advanced School Framework; and, second, over three years, to create knowledge and procedures to facilitate this change.

escolanova21 has initiated a process of joint work between schools, the education community, public administration, organizations, universities, and international institutions. A process that helps to delineate the key tools and knowledge that will allow us to move toward the shared goal of an advanced education system. It is based on the conviction that education improves through co·operation, exchange, and mutual learning: between children and young people, between teachers, between schools, and between societies. The Catalan schools that were exemplars of educational reform a hundred years ago benefited, in their time, from the work of other schools and thinkers; this spiral of learning must be maintained and developed. escolanova21 wants to create and grow an ecosystem that is capable of interchange, of learning, of improving its work, and of transforming itself. Twenty-five innovative schools form a group of exemplars for the program, to which more than 458 Catalan educational centers have been added through an open call. This group includes schools that are already well along the path toward the Advanced School Framework, as well as those just starting out. By learning collectively and grounding the elements of our common horizon in existing research we will be capable of building an education system in which all children enjoy learning experiences that are relevant and meaningful.

Over the past months, more than 1,200 people from the 458 schools that form part of Escola Nova 21 have taken part in workshops on educational change built around the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed”, which focuses on holistic competency-based education (interdisciplinary). These workshops are ongoing, throughout Catalonia, with school directors, faculty, families, and other members of the education community. Between February and April 2017 schools are also engaging in a self-diagnostic exercise, which will provide an approximate picture of their center relative to the Advanced School Framework at the start of their process of change. At the same time, some 60 regional networks, made up of between six and 10 schools each, are engaging in cooperative learning in the service of educational change, and a sample of 30 representative schools are beginning an intense three-year journey of transformation, intended to yield tools and processes that can be generalized for the entire compulsory school system.

The Advanced School Framework, like most horizons, will remain just out of reach for every school; it is not a destination, but a guidepost for a continuous journey. For Escola Nova 21, as a program, there is a horizon to meet. In three years, the program will guarantee the continuity and sustainability of its efforts by:

  • Bolstering and expanding the mobilization of families, educators, and other individuals and collectives to demand the necessary and urgent transformation of the school system towards the purpose of developing competencies for life;
  • Focusing and consolidating the energy of this movement by articulating a unifying horizon for school transformation and by demonstrating that change towards this horizon is possible using specific tools and processes; and
  • Reinforcing the commitment of public education administrations to systematize this proven path to transformation, applying it in all schools in order to develop a truly equitable education system defined by the four axes of the Advanced School Framework.

The Framework therefore will become the common horizon for all schools, and extensive networks of schools will form a critical mass that compel systemic change. Escola Nova 21 will work alongside the multitude of families, educators, and citizens involved in this movement to cultivate and grow the engagement of public institutions ensuring that they, ultimately, fully assume responsibility for guiding this transformation.

Què volem? - Reflexió
Què volem? - Necessitat

How can we learn from
the experience of schools
that have already engaged
in processes of improvement and innovation?

How should learning
be evaluated in schools
working towards the
Advanced School Framework?

What are the key competencies
that teachers and school directors
need to approach
the common horizon?

The need for educational change is recognized around the world

“We are living in a world characterized by change, complexity and paradox. These changes signal the emergence of a new global context for learning that has vital implications for education. It requires that we revisit the purpose of education and the organization of learning. The complexity of today’s world requires a comprehensive approach to education policy embedded in a better understanding of the way in which knowledge is created, controlled, disseminated, acquired, validated and used. It also requires further development of the ethical principles that govern education and knowledge as common goods”. (Source: UNESCO – website submission of “Rethinking Education”)

“The aspiration of sustainable development requires us to resolve common problems and tensions and to recognize new horizons. Economic growth and the creation of wealth have reduced global poverty rates, but vulnerability, inequality, exclusion and violence have increased within and across societies throughout the world. Unsustainable patterns of economic production and consumption contribute to global warming, environmental degradation and an upsurge in natural disasters. Moreover, while international human rights frameworks have been strengthened over the past several decades, the implementation and protection of these norms remain a challenge. For example, despite the progressive empowerment of women through greater access to education, they continue to face discrimination in public life and in employment. Violence against women and children, particularly girls, continues to undermine their rights. Again, while technological development contributes to greater interconnectedness and offers new avenues for exchange, cooperation and solidarity, we also see an increase in cultural and religious intolerance, identity-based political mobilization and conflict. Education must find ways of responding to such challenges, taking into account multiple worldviews and alternative knowledge systems, as well as new frontiers in science and technology such as the advances in neurosciences and the developments in digital technology. Rethinking the purpose of education and the organization of learning has never been more urgent”. (Source: UNESCO - Rethinking Education report, 2015)

“Quality education fosters creativity and knowledge, and ensures the acquisition of the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy as well as analytical, problem-solving and other high-level cognitive, interpersonal and social skills. It also develops the skills, values and attitudes that enable citizens to lead healthy and fulfilled lives, make informed decisions, and respond to local and global challenges through education for sustainable development (ESD) and global citizenship education (GCED)”. (Source: UNESCO - Incheon Declaration 2030, World Education Forum)

“The case for 21st century learning goes deeper than this and is more abstract. It is about how knowledge is generated and applied, about shifts in ways of doing business, of managing the workplace or linking producers and consumers, and becoming quite a different student from the kind that dominated the 20th century. What we learn, the way we learn it, and how we are taught is changing. This has implications for schools and higher level education, as well as for lifelong learning. For most of the last century, the widespread belief among policymakers was that you had to get the basics right in education before you could turn to broader skills. It's as though schools needed to be boring and dominated by rote learning before deeper, more invigorating learning could flourish. Those that hold on to this view should not be surprised if students lose interest or drop out of schools because they cannot relate what is going on in school to their real lives”. ”Education today is much more about ways of thinking which involve creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It is also about ways of working, including communication and collaboration, as well as the tools they require, such as the capacity to recognise and exploit the potential of new technologies, or indeed, to avert their risks. And last but not least, education is about the capacity to live in a multi-faceted world as an active and engaged citizen. These citizens influence what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, and it is this that shapes the role of educators”. (Source: OCDE - Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills)

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Què volem? - Iniciativa