Context and institutional identity
Who are we?
The Gimnasio Moderno Foundation is a Colombian, private, non-profit and ownerless entity. It was created in 1914, and in 1919 it became a foundation. Its purpose is to promote the improvement of the education of children and young people in an environment of freedom, solidarity and democracy. It currently runs two schools in Bogotá: the Gimnasio Moderno and the Colegio Gimnasio Sabio Caldas (IED). At the same time, it supports other schools in Colombia with the transfer of its pedagogical model.
The Gimnasio Moderno of Bogotá is a Colombian, private, liberal and humanist-inspired school, in transition towards bilingualism and in the process of consolidating its internationalization program. Its purpose is to educate children and youth comprehensively for leadership at the service of society, to promote critical thinking, individual freedoms, ethical values, love for Colombia and social and environmental awareness, as well as a commitment to the challenges of the world. Its educational model is based on the Active School, on the fundamental role of its teachers, on the Discipline of Trust and on the maxim “Educate, not only instruct”.
In 2027, the Gimnasio Moderno will be a Latin American benchmark in pedagogy, culture, leadership, Positive Education, innovation, ethical training, social vocation and care for the environment.
On March 18, 1914, in an old house, located on 57th Street with the Carrera Septia, the idea of the Gimnasio Moderno was materialized. 38 students began their education in this house of education and culture, which offered citizens the opportunity to be trained and educated in an atmosphere of freedom and autonomy.
The teachers who adhered to this pedagogical dream were distant from resources widely used in their time, such as the brace and the orthodox education led by the church in the middle of the conservative hegemony at the beginning of the century; on the contrary, the Gimnasio’s teachers, since then, have identified themselves with the principles of the Escuela Nueva, which seek to remove punishment and memorization, to let the child think for himself.
That is why its curriculum has been characterized by classes in vegetable gardens, drawing outdoors, discipline in sports, representation of plays, assembly of orchestras and master classes in which students have the opportunity to discover the world beyond the books, thanks to the trips with their teachers where they have the opportunity to approach live botany, live zoology and walking geography.
This way of teaching has always surprised many and has aroused suspicion in those who do not know the methods that the Italian Maria Montessori and the Belgian Ovidio Decroly implemented at the beginning of the last century in Europe and that Agustín Nieto Caballero considered and was convinced should be put into practice in Colombia.
That is why, when he arrived in the country in 1913, he first raised his concerns with the government and, not finding an echo with them , he contacted the brothers José María and Tomas Samper Brush and other friends, who adhered in a visionary way to the idea and gave their patrimony to build a forward-thinking school.
That is why its pedagogy has always been close to the ideals of great representatives of the world’s educational and psychological theories. Figures like John Dewey and Jean Piaget have been its reference. Likewise, the Gimnasio Moderno has been an institution that has been in permanent contact with other thinkers of the 20th century, as a way to enlarge its spirit and to introduce modern pedagogical concepts.
Great personalities of the national life have been invited to participate in the model of this school that has marked a real transformation in traditional Colombian education.
Men and women with their ears attentive of the universal movement of ideas, became the main engine of this revolution, which forever defined the essence of the school: names like Tomás Rueda Vargas, Ricardo Lleras Codazzi, Ricardo Gómez Campuzano, Miguel Fornaguera , participated in its beginnings and were indispensable figures in the turn that the Gimnasio Moderno gave to traditional and passive education in Latin America.
Over the years, figures of national life also associated themselves to the educational mission of the school, as did Julio Carrizosa Valenzuela, who, in addition to being Minister of Education, was also rector of the school.
The same happened with Carlos Lleras Restrepo, who before being President of the Republic, was, in 1944, Rector and the first Dean of the Faculty of Industrial and Commercial Administration, which Daniel Samper Ortega created, to give continuity to the professional training of students and which, over the years, would give rise to the emergence of the Universidad de los Andes, on the initiative of Mario Laserna and other alumni.
But the substantial spirit of the Gimnasio Moderno also inspired other pedagogical projects, such as the Gimnasio Femenino, in 1927. A school that would fill the enormous gap that existed at the beginning of the last century in the education of women. Other educational institutions were also born from the essence of the school, such as the Alfonso Jaramillo, the Gimnasio del Norte, the Agustín Nieto Caballero, the Colegio Gimnasio Sabio Caldas (IED), among others
Likewise, it encouraged the emergence of the Scout movement, as another way to contribute to the education of young people; and as part of the humanitarian commitment that is instilled in their students. From its meadows, the creation of the National Youth Red Cross was promoted almost 95 years ago.
The interest of the school’s founders in having foreign teachers was also a fundamental element that helped to nurture the Scool of Teachers; a way to educate teachers from the Gimnasio within the paradigms of the Active School: a space to educate those who teach.
Figures of the stature of the Catalan Pablo Vila Dinarés; The Swiss mathematician Henry Yerly or the German, Ernesto Bein, show the school’s effort and interest in creating an ideal atmosphere to carry out its pedagogical work, based on the quality and ongoing training of its teachers.
Through the field trips, which are carried out from the first school grades, the youngest students visit regions close to the capital, and then, as their exploratory spirit expands, they get to know all the corners of the National territory. A way of stimulating self-regulation that students must exercise over their lives and a way to develop a deep love for Colombia.
After the death of Don Agustín in 1975 and Ernesto Bein in 1980, the same children of this house have been in charge of carrying the flags and ideas of this “fortress of illusion”, as the hymn of the institution says: Mario Galofre Cano, Germán Pardo Sánchez, Leopoldo González Chaparro, Juan Carlos Bayona Vargas and Víctor Alberto Gómez Cusnir, have tried, from their rectories, to keep this institution in the forefront of its pedagogical concepts but always preserving its principles: freedom, autonomy , dialogue, love for Colombia and the child as the center of his own process and a valid interlocutor.
94 classes of Gimnasio Moderno students, who since 1922 have graduated from the school, have known how to mark the history of Colombia from each of the areas that their souls have dictated to them: businessmen, lawyers, politicians, economists, artists, musicians, athletes, writers, religious leaders, journalists, communicators, scientists, finance-men, doctors, educators, diplomats, architects, engineers, cooks, philosophers, among many other vocations, have been faithful to the principles instilled in the school’s campus.
Its graduates, as citizens, have stood out as good men, responsible towards society, with principles, clear and transparent values, loyal to their rectitude, innate, chivalrous leaders and with a clear sense of belonging to their country.
The Gimnasio Moderno, declared a National Monument in 1984, and currently a Cultural Interest Property of the National Order, has managed to adapt to a changing world, without altering its principles that remain the same that inspired its founders during its first hundred years.
Now, towards the commemoration of its second centenary, the school is reorienting its destiny to leave a marked presence in an increasingly competitive world, but without risking in the very the least, the humanistic postulates that have characterized the education of its students and its performance in national life. It is for this reason that it has given way, within its curriculum, to bilingualism. But not for the contingencies, nor for the fashions that have never mattered to the spirit of the school, but for allowing the boys to master one and hopefully many languages, so that they can be citizens of this wide and foreign world where they cannot and they must not be lost.
It is also a commitment of the school in this flight, to educate these new Colombians, within the framework of global challenges, new media, foreign languages and new devices; and at the same time, consolidating a feeling of construction and service towards the country. Being at the height of current times but differentiating itself with identity, humor, autonomy and frankness.
The Gimnasio Moderno will continue working in a visionary way to project itself from its academic programs, the updating of its physical structure, the training of its teachers, the policies of its administration, its social, environmental and ecological work and its cultural emphasis; to continue in the consolidation as an institution that is constantly evolving to provide a service to the Colombian society.
This post is also available in: Spanish