Which school for our children?

scuola-digitale-120903114800_mediumThe way our schools teach children – and then young adults – deeply influences the way  they see society. A vast literature, along with experience, supports the fact that the idea that teenagers have about institutions is directly proportionated to the way they were schooled.

Maximo Ibarra, CEO of Wind and professor at LUISS, some days ago (*article in Italian) referred to an old-fashioned school, which leaves aside the emotional and creative side of the technological development, able to overwhelm us unaware.

Today we have an educational system based on notions, vertical knowledge, in “silos”, on technical and not emotional nor social intelligence. We have forgotten that our country introduced, in the early 19th century, an innovation we should rethink in digital terms, the Montessori method: more soft skills, creativity, attitude to personalisation and the ability to keep the “big picture” in mind, more solidarity and respect, a strong ethical sense and meritocracy, not subjugation but real acknowledgement.

(…) We need to centre our development and growth on the most strategic resource: the human being. This must be the first and foremost priority of Italy since now. Without wasting time.

What Ibarra says reminds us how important is to pick the best, to grab what has been done good – and is being done good – in the Italian school, for the better. The challenges our teens face now are multiple and change swiftly.

First, technology, as Ibarra correctly explains. The technological development witnessed an impressive improvement and our school struggles to keep the pace, so that our children nowadays are often more skilled in new technology than adults.

Second, the school today seems to be stiff and to leave little room to creativity and initiative. The idea of the Montessori method 2.0 works as long as we are able to unleash the reins of a system that requires innovation, favouring personal initiative of children and youngsters, who can easily learn with effective peer-to-peer methods.

The Finnish education is rooted on many of those principles: set the student free to privilege the subjects he/she prefers, an environment that favours contamination and shared learning, the different parameters to measure students, not before they are well in their teens. As a result, 93% of Finns graduate from high school and 66% go to college, the highest rate in Europe, compared to the Italian 22%.

What do we lack to reach those levels? The reform of school passed today in Parliament represents an important tile to improve the Italian school system and make it more competitive and effective for the labour market. Surely, we should welcome the initiative to allow stages in companies before completing high school, to hone students with the necessary experience they will need when entering the labour market.

Ibarra’s appeal should be a warning, an invitation to make the good school an increasing priority.

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