Educational Meaning of the IEP
The Institutional Educational Project is a legal document that must be developed by all schools. In it, the institutions define their principles and goals, their pedagogical model and how the entities of the community are connected to achieve these educational purposes. The Ministry of National Education states:
“According to article 14 of Decree 1860 of 1994, every educational institution must prepare and put into practice, with the participation of the educational community, an Institutional Educational Project that expresses the way in which achieving the aims of education has been decided by the law, taking into account the social, economic and cultural conditions of their environment. The Institutional Educational Project must respond to the situations and needs of the students, the local community, the region and the country, it must be concrete, feasible and evaluable.” (Law 115, article 15)
An IEP is not a development plan, nor is it a curricular construction; Rather, it is a simple and understandable roadmap for the entire community, which allows schools to orient themselves in their pedagogical and administrative actions, through very well-defined horizons. Nor is the IEP a substitute for the Living Regulations although the latter, of a more normative and less visionary nature, is included in its annexes (See ANNEXES). The IEP documents that need to be constantly updated, need to be renewed at least every ten years, according to institutional changes and the requirements of the law. The different voices of the community, teachers and directors, parents and students, must be included in its preparation and must be approved by the Board of Directors of the Institution, in our case, by the School Directive Council.
The process of the IEP renewal
The IEP responds to the fundamental change that occurred in the country’s educational policy due to the General Education Law (Law 115 of 1994) and the Regulatory Decree 1860 of the same year. Before this date, schools were not required to have a legal document that traced its routes. In the case of the Gimnasio Moderno, in its more than one hundred years of history, the main sources of inspiration had been the texts of the founders: the books of Agustín Nieto Caballero, especially, Una Escuela ( A School) and Los Maestros (The Teachers) ; the writings of Tomás Rueda Vargas and Ernesto Bein; the Statutes of the school, not to mention the decisive contributions of students through media such as El Pichón, El Huevito, El Aguilucho – the oldest uninterrupted magazine in Colombia -, Gimnasio Moderno Radio and La Raqueta Televisión. Only in 1997 the school had its first IEP. This IEP was revised in 2002 with the drafting of a new document, Volver a la Madera (Going back to the wood), which was in force in the school until today. Flight to the Bicentennial: A formative journey towards freedom, democracy, leadership, ethical values and innovation, is the third version of the Gimnasio Moderno Institutional Educational Project. With it, it wants to show the full validity of an educational idea, in addition to the goals of a school that wants to provide its students with the skills and character that allow them to take on the global challenges of the 21st century with responsibility and joy.
The Gimnasio Moderno as a school of leaders and world citizens
The Gimnasio Moderno is not a conventional institution. More than a school it is an idea of society that has not been fully realized, much more free and more creative. A dialogue between generations on the role of knowledge in transforming the world and, in particular, Colombia. It is also a confidence in the critical spirit, even towards the school itself, in which children and adolescents can be responsible and happy, even if there are no rewards or punishments. Finally, it is a commitment to the role of teachers in the construction of democracy.
In 2014 the Gimnasio Moderno turned a hundred years old. Its contributions to the country’s history and education have already been recorded in education books and in schools of pedagogy throughout Latin America. Perhaps because the school does not have owners, all those who have passed through the Gimnasio, students and educators, workers and parents, have felt part of this dialogue. In reality, people and not buildings, have safeguarded the validity of an idea. The vitality of the Gimnasio Moderno is in its interaction. This is the reason for the two words in its name. Mauricio Nieto, a former student and historian, writes in the book Flight to the Bicentennial:
…perhaps it is appropriate to reflect on the name of the Gimnasio … A modern institution, by definition, must change all the time. Modern is something or someone that is part of the present time, not because it is fashionable or passively changes in the face of circumstances, but because it is an active part of contemporary transformations.
A school that is not afraid of change, that does not submit to being a museum but feels like a living organism, supposes a commitment to constant dialogue. The challenge is to prevent these purposes from being paralyzed by custom, from losing sight of the societies and children for which they were intended, and which have not stopped changing in so many aspects because they are beyond any age. They are, as Rimbaud said, contemporaries of the future.
Flight towards the Bicentennial
This new IEP has as its main antecedent a project that at the time was called Flight to the Bicentennial (2012). A space that sought to recover institutional dialogue and form a working team that was as skilled as it is diverse. This was the directive of those who believe that a centennial school is a collective achievement, and that if it intends to last another hundred years, it is because it knows how to orchestrate different voices and dreams.
Teachers from different areas and students, directors, alumni, experts and parents, met for six months to think about the school of the future. An initial discussion table, called “First Hundred Years,” intensely discussed the foundations that the school could never abandon, precisely because of its validity. The second discussion table, called “Global Trends and Education”, studied the challenges towards which the Gimnasio should aim for the next hundred years. From the beginning the purpose has been to think what the role of a school that wants to continue training Colombian leaders, but also citizens of the world should be.
The conclusions of these working groups were published in a book that today guides school policies. Flight to the Bicentennial, implied the need to modernize our curriculum according to these guidelines, in terms of structuring why to educate with how to educate and evaluate, and make this possible both outside and inside the classroom. This was how a group of experts was convened to better define this first question and a video campaign was launched that is now published in all the school’s digital developments, such as the Teaching Gazette, the virtual medium for teachers; the App for mobile devices; and of course, on the school’s website. This IEP review, the first step in our curricular modernization, is also the roadmap that will allow us to carefully evaluate our results based on a quality cycle and a very rigorous process of international accreditation.
None of these changes could be done without teachers. “What the teacher is, the school will be,” said Agustín Nieto Caballero. These purposes are only possible if we contribute to dignifying the profession of the teacher. For this reason, in 2013 the School of Teachers was formalized in the life of the school. A dream delayed by Don Agustín, who spoke of the good teacher as a student who never stops learning. We want active teachers, that is, they understand what happens with the development and learning of each of their children. Integrative teachers, capable of bringing together the formative and the academic, the local and the global and the contributions of the disciplines. That same year, with the coordination of the Psychology Area, the School of Parents was founded with the purpose of linking families in this same effort
The “leaders’ summit for education” and the world’s great educators
The Gimnasio Moderno, perhaps like no other school in the country, is a pedagogical proposal of its own and with worldwide resonance. The school has not only educated some of the most outstanding leaders in academia and journalism, politics and business, the arts and sciences. It is also this school, the first representative of the so-called New Schol in Latin America, and a meeting point for cultural and pedagogical exchange that has never stopped looking at what is happening in the world. We would like to make this dialogue more and more intense, to strengthen relations with other countries and pedagogical models, as a necessary and consequent way to broaden our own reality.
In 2014, the year of the Centennial, the Gimnasio Moderno held, along with Semana magazine, the “Leaders’ Summit for Education”, an encounter that brought to the country some of the greatest current exponents of this constructivist pedagogy, focused on the person who learns. The objective was to contrast experiences for the education of the 21st century, review our concepts in the light of the present and learn strategies to implement changes in a coherent and successful way from these experts.
Among the many proposals from our guests, the following contributions stand out: David Perkins, founder of Project Zero, from Harvard, stated the importance of creating Intelligent Schools, of articulating conscious educational processes with the processes of understanding students, and he also spoke of our responsibility towards others. Daniel Wilson, Dean of Education at Harvard, confirmed that our founding purpose, that of forming leaders, is as important today as the quality of education. To achieve this goal in the 21st century, Wilson stressed, we would have to provide less traditional learning environments in the classroom.
Rodolfo Llinás, a former student and scientist, emphasized the importance of teaching from questions that pose real problems, always within a context that gives them meaning. Howard Gardner, creator of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences and winner of the Prince of Asturias Award, gave a video conference on new technologies and the help these applications provide in the exercise of a more differentiated education. Furthermore, he spoke of the importance of understanding that true education rests on people and not on electronic devices which, used without criteria or clearly established purposes, are no more than simple instruments. The Argentinean Hugo Pardo Kuklinski, shared experiences of creativity on the web and talked about the need for students to develop a digital awareness to protect their privacy. Germán Doin, director of the documentary Forbidden Education defended a more critical education, designed to create other types of relationships. The way of working through projects that we follow today is an indispensable complement. Julián de Zubiría, former student of the Moderno, called for making education something truly meaningful for teachers and students, something close to their daily lives. An education for human development and not only for learning.
These contributions are now a reality in the Gimnasio Moderno, where for the first time in one hundred years, bilingual students are being educated with constant opportunities for exchange experiences in international forums and congresses. In Mathematics and Science, a great debt of the last years, with the projects of Environmental Sustainability and Mathematics integrated with other areas, such as the financial system and programming, a former dynamic is being live. Just like the school had in the times when Henry Yerly, Ernesto Bein and, more recently, Edgar Obonaga were teaching, but with the invaluable contributions of new technologies to active pedagogy, in which the school has already carried out several researches and trainings and is more and more a reference of this subject in the work through projects and in virtual platforms. In the arts and humanities, the school continues to be a reference point for creation and autonomy, and thanks to its Cultural Agenda, it has been visited by the most renowned voices of today, including several Nobel Prize winners and some Pulitzer Prize winners, who have inspired our students to look at the world outside. We have never forgotten that educating for a global perspective requires a detailed understanding of local designs and their connection to other realities. This is why we have recovered the spirit of field trips as a source for recteation, but above all as a form of education, not to mention the discussions that the school has given in order to establish a Master Class on Peace, which will allow it to continue educating for empathy with others and the fostering of emotions, historical memory and conflict resolution. Hence, as students learn more easily if they interact directly with things, if they have the opportunity to discuss and share, to live the school and not just survive it, we think that world citizens can be educated through dialogue and constant dynamics.
The School Before the Challenges of a Diverse and Global Society
Agustín Nieto wrote in his book Una Escuela:
It has been our norm within this institute to never make a determination because this was done again, but because we think so in the present hour, guided by our own experience, and in the light of the justice that we want to have with us always … We support the previous procedures when we see that they retain their effectiveness. When we see that the same traditions are moldy or harmful, we do not hesitate to eliminate them..
Many challenges have changed as a result of a more diverse and global society. What has remained intact is the vocation to educate happy and safe children in the face of change and service, leaders that are capable of innovating and defending freedom and democracy in all circumstances, that are honest and responsible. Likewise, this vocation calls us to educate children and young people who, through their self-awareness, the construction of their individuality and the strengthening of their particular tastes and skills, achieving personal well-being that permeates their relationships and allows them to serve the community with security and commitment. Today’s school, like the one from a hundred years ago, seeks and establishes different types of connections and relationships so that our young people can create true spaces for dialogue and the construction of other types of relationships with knowledge and with others, wherever they may come from. It is increasingly evident how our students perceive the difference, rather than an obstacle, as an opportunity for learning and complementarity.
We believe that these centuries-old foundations, classic because they remain in force, retain their coherence and vigor. In times of economic, environmental and social crisis, of very diverse and serious violence, the school continues to be an important contribution so that these citizens of the future learn to assume uncertainty with responsibility and joy through collaborative work and constant commitment to their own improvement. “Learning to expect the unexpected,” said Heraclitus 2,500 years ago. We believe that these words are not just that, words. Only in language is the past shaped, and through it we project a future that we hope is better and different.
This IEP is the result of an extensive discussion and synthesis exercise, representative of the different voices of the community, and a navigation chart for our day to day. It is not the result of the work of a single person or a small group, but the product of several years of discussions, contributions from students and parents, directors, alumni and education experts who have given us their support to think about the school of the future. The teachers, either through their areas or their sections, divided into focus groups or in the spaces of the Teachers’ School, have discussed the document point by point until this final document that we are putting in their hands today was achieved. To all, our thanks.
This post is also available in: Spanish