Chapter IV: The challenges of the 21st century for the Gimnasio Moderno
The Gimnasio Moderno of the 21st Century: The challenge of educating leaders for uncertainty
Why do we educate? How and when to educate? These questions pose enormous challenges. Since its foundation, Gimnasio Moderno has taken on the challenges of the future with the conviction that it is in education, in the free development of its students and of their different talents where innovations for the future is born and cooperative work is done to solve problems and conflicts. More than a hundred years ago, the founders took education as a challenge. It was about educating a type of people capable of leading other types of realities, an organic education, that is, tailored to the person, intellectually and emotionally.
Many of these challenges have changed as a result of a more diverse and global society. Both the sciences and the humanities agree that we live in a time characterized largely by uncertainty. We cannot know for sure what can happen or how exactly we are going to apply what we learn in school. However, we believe in the suitability of the school to educate its students with the capacities and aptitudes that allow them to adapt to changes, whatever those may be. What has remained intact, now like a hundred years ago, is the vocation to educate for change and service. We must do everything in our power so that students understand that human excellence is a journey that encompasses the academic and the formative, without quarreling with each other, that the local does not quarrel with the global, nor happiness with the effort. In times of crisis, the school would be an important contribution for these future citizens to learn to assume uncertainty with responsibility and joy in cooperative work and a constant commitment to their own improvement.
Why educate? Leadership
Aware of these challenges, the school brought together several experts, alumni and teachers, who answered the question: why educate? Among many other interviewees, the businessman José Alejandro Cortés, a 1948 alumnus, spoke to us about the importance of educating to “enrich life”. Rodolfo Llinás, scientist, about the commitment to teach “in a context”, that is, for the solution of specific problems. Mauricio Nieto and Mauricio Álvarez, the first speaking from history and the second speaking from biology, spoke to us about “teaching for autonomy”. Sergio de Zubiría, philosopher, of an “education for freedom”. Carlos Cardona, from physics, spoke to us of “teaching to solve the problems that threaten the survival of the species.” Carlos Alberto Casas, renowned educator, “for the construction of a happy life”. Leopoldo González, former rector of the Moderno, “for an integral formation that includes rectitude, respect and responsibility.”
Almost all the guests agreed on two positions: teaching for an integral life, framed by the particularities of each person, and teaching for the service of the community. Both agree on the main purpose of the Gimnasio Moderno, which is leadership. A leadership that today we must understand as the formation of his own character, self-discovery and the feeling of personal well-being, aspects that allow him to work together with others to defend innovation and democracy, freedom and honesty. According to research carried out at Harvard University in 2007, leadership emerges from the history of each person. For this reason, our day-to-day duty within the Gimnasio is to invite our young people to continually test themselves through real-world experiences and thus, help them understand who they are in the essentials. In doing so, they discover the purpose of their leadership and learn that being authentic makes them effective and necessary within their community.
Likewise, Gimnasio Moderno students must be fully educated to be good citizens and develop character, take on their difficulties with effort and reveal their talents as a source of happiness. None of this would make sense if it does not translate into an unavoidable commitment to understanding and transforming society, both in its immediate surroundings and in the global reality that demands the best of our efforts and talents.
What should we educate about? Our Challenges
An Active School has the student as its center of development. It starts from the interests of children and adolescents, and not of some fixed content that they must learn. However, and this is one of the main motivations towards project work, these interests must be connected to the main problems we have as a country and as citizens of the world. Our curriculum proposal aims to fulfill this purpose: to reveal the light of each student to put it at the service of democracy and the problems of the 21st century.
In 2012, with the name of Flight to the Bicentennial, teachers, alumni, students, experts and administrative staff came together to think about the school’s legacy and its future. The first table thought about those fundamentals of the school that can never be abandoned. The second, in those problems or “challenges” that we will have to face as a school. This work was only the beginning of a long discussion about education in the 21st century. We must develop in our students the so-called competencies so that they can face everything that the coming years will bring, broken down in this document according to our language and our interests. But we had to go much further, providing a direction for those abilities and skills, a set of common purposes. The result of the work was the identification of the following challenges, which in a curriculum of the future would have to traverse everything we can plan for the learning and development of our students.
Language and Communication
Educate people capable of expressing themselves, interpreters and constructors of their realities, today multicultural and multilingual, never isolated or passive subjects. Currently, the school structures its curriculum based on the language skills of its students (SEE PEDAGOGICAL MODEL). The transformations towards bilingualism are progressing at all levels: by 2022 we hope to have an officially bilingual school.
Construction of the Country and World Citizens
Educate people capable of valuing and defending diversity wherever they are, committed to local contexts and global challenges. The school, through its different areas, has sought a balance between training world citizens and good leaders for Colombia. There are multiple actions that support these efforts: our collective construction of the Chair of Peace or the continuity of the Debate Group, the United Nations Model and the change in educational exchange programs, the new proposal for Social Service and the transformation of the Field Trips, the international activities of the Teachers School and the Cultural Agenda of the school. The Gimnasio Moderno without ever losing its curricular autonomy or its link with the country, explores various internationalization projects to have a richer and more diverse relationship with other educational institutions in the world.
Logic, Scientific, Analytical and Critical Thinking
Educate people who are able to think critically, in an orderly and coherent way. That they can develop reasonable arguments and draw their own conclusions and inferences based on the evidence. Gimnasio Moderno students are familiar with the scientific method, with the way science approaches the study of nature through observation and experience; they are able to propose constructive answers through analysis and complex reasoning. The school wants to become a benchmark in science and mathematics again, it wants to take advantage of the technological developments that make schools more active. In them we continue to find an ideal space to create, design, observe, answer and ask questions about the environment. But it is also them, thanks to the development of multiple logics, which in many cases give us the ability to imagine and work in very different contexts, both in the scientific and humanistic fields, which prepares students for change.
Creativity, Innovation and Ict (Information and Communication Technologies)
Educate people capable of giving a human sense to these connections, both emotionally and intellectually, with sufficient criteria to take advantage of information, create and interact with applications and devices, without giving up their privacy or impoverishing their relationships. Aware of such difficulties, the school led a project to define what pedagogical orientation should be taken in the face of these technological challenges. The result is the book Educating in the Age of Applications. Currently, there is an ICT committee with a significant investment in the provision of networks and equipment, a pedagogical strategy to train teachers and students for an increasingly creative and responsible appropriation of applications and devices, integrating their facilities into the classroom. It seeks to train students capable of creating from technologies and seeing in them new possibilities for the democracies of the future. The evidence shows that the use of ICT from the Active School contributes to the development of creativity, logical thinking, strengthens communication and collaboration, the selection of information, and critical thinking. All skills particularly valued in today’s world. For its part, innovating, as is well known, is nothing other than the ability to solve problems.
Sustainability and Self-Care
Educate people capable of taking care of themselves, of others and of their environment, aware of the environmental crisis and its implications. With the leadership of the Science Area, the school has been transforming its administrative practices towards the reality of a more sustainable school. Since 2015, the Sustainability Education Meeting has been held annually, in which different experts from Colombia and the world participate. These pedagogical strategies are beginning to have an impact in the classroom. The Gimnasio Moderno, through field trips and its campus, as well as its interest in scientific research, has been a pioneering institution of ecology in Colombia. The aim is to continue with these purposes through transversal projects that involve the daily activities of the school as an example of caring for the environment. This attitude of care, towards others and towards the environment, is sought to begin with the body itself. In this sense, the school, through sports and physical education, in its dining room service and school shops, works intensively so that its students improve their habits and have a healthier life. The Psychology Area carries out a program of sexual education and prevention of the consumption of psychoactive substances, based on the importance of affectivity and the integrated support of the home and school. For its part, from the Positive Psychology Project and the Peace Training Program, spaces have been created for students and teachers of Mindfulness, Meditation, Yoga, Chi Kún and cultivation of positive emotions, among others, in order to build inner peace, self-knowledge and awareness of the body and emotions.
Ethical Education and Conflict Resolution
Educate people capable of working with others in conflict resolution, understanding the importance of ethical limits that mediate between the relativism of “anything goes” and the fundamentalism of “only this goes,” that is, educate defenders of democracy. In this sense we have to think about the how, we cannot stay at the level of discourses. The problems are not solved in the speech but facing them. Ethics is taught through example. We believe that relationships are more beneficial and harmonious if we relate from the strengths of others and value very different approaches. For its part, the school is currently carrying out a pioneering program in Latin America in Positive Education, in which teachers are being trained in topics such as the science and biology of happiness and well-being; mind-body connection, mindfulness and yoga; character development and character strengths; growth-mindset; gratitude and positive emotions; emotional and social intelligence; appreciative inquiry; resilience and adversity management; and cultivation of goals and purposes. At the same time, the Gimnasio is studying the experience of Educare Pedagogies with the values of Love, Righteousness, Non-Violence, Peace and Truth. With the above, we are looking for happy students, who enjoy their stay in school, who experience well-being, who develop their character, who build a life with meaning and purpose, who flourish and who put human values into practice.
Historical Memory and Development
Educate students aware of the historical implications of their actions or omissions, aware that a historical memory is necessary for the construction of another future, especially in a post-Peace Agreement era, of social efforts to achieve equity, but also reconciliation. In its constant dialogue between tradition and educational avant-garde, the Gimnasio Moderno is a privileged space for these reflections. As it has been recorded in the Chair of Peace, we think that it is very important that students, through the cultivation of themselves and the humanities, are able to know themselves better and to place themselves in the role of others, to understand that there is a diverse history enriched by the difference in perspectives.
Internationalization in the Gimnasio Moderno: Colombian Leaders and World Citizens
Internationalization and interculturality in the Gimnasio Moderno starts from the principle of recognizing diversity and the enrichment it brings to understand each other locally and globally. This framework makes it possible to establish that internationalization seeks to recognize a broad set of good practices that enable the teaching and learning experiences to be enhanced, but also seeks to generate connections between cultures, recognizing the richness that exists in them.
In this order of ideas, the internationalization program seeks to establish cultural relationships, negotiations and exchanges and develop an interaction between culturally diverse people, knowledge and practices. This premise confers an international and intercultural dimension to teaching and learning mechanisms, through the academic mobility of students, teachers and researchers, as well as participation in networks, internationalization of the curriculum, research and management.
The proposal of mobility programs would allow gymnastic students and teachers not only to enrich academic experiences, but also cultural and social ones. Contact with other cultures can serve to open new intellectual horizons and develop more tolerant ways of thinking. These types of exchanges aim to promote the ability to learn – always critically – from others and that others also learn from us, emphasizing that it implies an intercultural exchange that assumes cultures on equal terms, so that they enrich each other. Academic exchange with other countries also brings the opportunity to avoid inbreeding, identified as an important limitation, both in European and Latin American cultures (Aghion et al., 2009; Salmi, 2013).
On the other hand, for a school whose principle is the development of a research culture, internationalization is a favorable setting for exchanging experiences and consolidating the academic community in various settings, both for students and teachers.
The principles of internationalization are based on the following aspects:
- Academic Mobility
- Curricular development
- International Networks
Regarding academic mobility, the Gimnasio Moderno promotes the movement of its community to other places in the country and the world, with immersion programs, summer camps and short programs, such as national and international excursions, entrepreneurship and leadership programs, and local, national and international United Nations models. Thus, it generates opportunities to study abroad for the community through academic-cultural immersion agreements and enables the emergence of collaborative work networks with the exchange of student and teacher practices. Similarly, the School actively promotes national and international training programs for its students and teachers.
Curricular development is oriented towards the construction of agreements that ensure the right to quality education for all students, through national and international content that facilitate updating in teaching-learning and incorporates experiences of innovation. The academic environment is permeated by digital platforms, which serve to host didactic material and learning activities in a virtual environment, in a logical and organized manner in accordance with the structure of an academic program, with the aim of establishing achievement-oriented educational relationships of learning and the formation of cultural and personal skills to face the global world.
The Gimnasio seeks to promote the study and improvement of a second language in all students and teachers and to develop intercultural skills, which not only refers to the knowledge of other cultures, but also to the ability to assess individual and cultural differences for the sake of individual. For its part, international benchmarks in Positive Education are studied to incorporate curricular innovations into our programs.
The Gimnasio Moderno has established different associations and has managed to establish academic networks through its Cultural Agenda and the School of Teachers, to facilitate the generation of alliances and the exchange of experiences and knowledge, as well as the participation of our teachers in academic programs and joint research projects. The participation of various Nobel Laureates and prestigious worldwide speakers will enrich the academic environment of our community. Similarly, as a cross-cutting axis, literature encourages different learning styles and preferred styles permeated by the cultural environment.
The Gimnasio Moderno has encouraged the creation of new inter-institutional ties and has cultivated the existing ones through collaborations in different events. As part of internationalization and thus, forming a participation in academic networks, it seeks that students respond effectively to the social and academic challenges of the 21st century, and recognize themselves as leaders of change and promote new competences such as teamwork, collective leadership and the ability to generate changes in society.
To take on the challenges of such globalization, the Gimnasio Moderno is creating internationalization policies accompanied by intercultural education that is promoted in the classroom. In this way, students will have the opportunity to build cognitive skills for problem solving, and social skills that will allow them to interact with people from different national and international cultures. Internationalization will not be limited to teaching the international vision of an area of study, but will focus on topics of general world culture such as history, customs, economy and global news. In recent years, the Gimnasio has become part of international networks such as ASHOKA and IPEN (International Positive Education Network), which promote leadership, empathy, entrepreneurship, teamwork, flourishing, happiness, the development of character and teamwork, among others.
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