The international event MUN (Model United Nations) is a simulation in English of the United Nations debates, in which each participant from the different schools takes on the role of delegate of a country. The programme involves drafting resolutions and then debating them, with the objective of reaching a general agreement with the rest of the participants. Agora Sant Cugat International School was the first school in the NACE Schools group to participate in IMUN (Iberian Model United Nations) held in Lisbon in 2010-2011. An internal version, named AMUN (Agora Model United Nations), was then created at the school. The first event was in 2013, the following year Agora International School Barcelona joined the programme, and in 2015 they decided to “take the plunge” by extending the conference to all the schools in the NACE Schools group, under the name of NACEMUN.
Participants in the 1st NACEMUN after collecting their diploma
We had the opportunity to interview Elena Degollada, teacher at Agora Sant Cugat International School and creator of the successful international event, NACEMUN.
Elena holds a degree in English-German Philology from the University of Barcelona, though she combined her university studies with short and longer-term stays in the United Kingdom. She has dedicated practically her entire working life to teaching, which is also her passion. For the last few years she has combined the co-ordination of the MUN programme with her role as head of the foreign languages department at Agora Sant Cugat International School.
Q: Hello Elena. How did the idea of participating in IMUN on a school level come about? And the idea to develop AMUN?
A: Mr. Gandol, headmaster of Agora Sant Cugat International School, suggested that we attend the international event IMUN. I found it so interesting that I looked for a way that all pupils could participate in some type of United Nations simulation. The dual objective was that they were made aware of how a conference of this type works, and at the same time, it was training for the students who participate in other conferences in Baccalaureate. The experience was so successful that the next step was to take it to the entire international group and create NACEMUN.
Q: How many pupils participate from each school, and what preparation should they do in advance?
A: Around 10 4th ESO pupils from each school normally take part, as well as all the pupils from the same level at the host school. Before attending the conference they should undertake a thorough study of the country they are representing, they should prepare to draft resolutions, learn the procedures of Model United Nations sessions, and in addition, before the event they practice formal public speaking in English.
Pupils working together on drafting resolutions
Q: What benefits are there for pupils who participate in NACEMUN?
A: There are many benefits. It helps them to interact with pupils from schools in the United Kingdom, France, and other parts of Spain; they learn to use very formal English; they improve their public speaking skills and acquire knowledge about today’s world. Furthermore, in having to work on and try to find solutions for real problems, they learn to understand and empathise with issues they probably weren’t previously aware of.
Q: And what does it contribute to the NACE Schools educational programme?
A: The project encourages the values as the NACE Schools educational programme. It promotes the values of openness, solidarity, integrity, commitment to the community. Similarly, it teaches more than academic content, and encourages the idea of educational excellence, to the extent that it develops the pupils’ communication abilities and social skills.
Q: What do the participants highlight most from this international event?
A: What they highlight most, and at the same time what surprises them most, is what a good time they have, even though at the start it might seem like lots of work and little fun. They also discover that formality is not at odds with entertainment, and that they can have a really good time doing serious work.
Q: What has creating the NACEMUN programme provided you with on a professional and personal level?
A: On a personal level I feel that I have learnt a lot, met lots of people, and achieved the satisfaction of seeing how my pupils also come to appreciate this type of events. On a professional level, I have had to balance the day to day of classes with organisation. Though it’s hard work, it’s been worth every minute dedicated to it.
Q: What do you think will be the future of NACEMUN?
A: Who knows? I see NACEMUN as something which will grow. Therefore, I suppose that in future editions perhaps we’ll incorporate other bodies such as the Security Council. Being ambitious, we could perhaps invite other schools to participate in our conference, making NACEMUN an international event recognised even outside the NACE group.
Some of the pupils as chairs and co-chairs in the conference
At NACE Schools, we meet the needs of 21st-century pupils so that they grow up happy and are prepared to live successfully in a globalised world. The involvement of our entire educational community and the constant improvement made to our procedures and methodologies enables us to achieve the maximum quality of education, which we refer to as Platinum Standard.
Platinum Standard is a tool which evaluates the level and the quality of education of each school in the NACE group, and helps them to improve. Daniel Jones, Chief Education Officer at NACE Schools, created this system with the aim of helping the schools to evaluate the quality of the teaching they offer, and to find the right strategies to improve in all areas of the educational project.
Daniel Jones holds a degree in Spanish and French Philology from the University of Nottingham, and a Master’s in Education from Manchester Metropolitan University. He has worked in the world of education since 1992, in a number of different roles: teacher, head of department, and head of studies, among others. From among his roles, his work as headmaster of a British school which in 2014 was named best British international school of the year worldwide, and as chief inspector of British schools in Spain, stand out. He is currently the Chief Education Officer at NACE Schools.
In order to determine this quality of education, the Platinum Standard is based on five key areas: the capacity for leadership and management; the quality of teaching, learning, and evaluation; the progress of pupils; the development of the values, attitudes, and wellbeing of the pupils, which are fundamental at NACE Schools; and the implementation of our value proposition.
According to Daniel Jones, “a key factor in improving teaching quality is the training of teachers to support them in becoming more effective. To achieve this, this year we have focused on the following strategies”:
That every teacher has high expectations of all their pupils, whatever their abilities.
Applying question techniques which encourage reflection and more profound thinking, ensuring the greater involvement and participation of pupils in the classroom, and encouraging debate in pairs and in groups.
Creating motivating classroom projects with ambitious levels of challenge for different pupils, depending on their ability. A good example is the “EcoHomes” project carried out at Agora Portals International School, in which groups of pupils work collaboratively to design and build their own ecological house, and then give a presentation in English about their project. “The objective is to motivate and challenge”, says Daniel.
Carrying out tasks which measure the individual progress of the pupils in every session, to evaluate what they have learnt and see which aspects they should improve each day.
Creating “360 Feedback” methods between pupils and teachers so that communication flows both ways, and also among the pupils.
According to a number of studies, these strategies have a great impact on pupils’ learning in the classroom. That’s why they are being applied to increase and improve the quality of the education of each NACE school. Daniel Jones states that “the quality of the teacher is what has the greatest impact on the children’s learning”.
Similarly, Daniel points out that “every school should know which educational level it is at in order to know how to improve and what to work towards”. He explains that “NACE Schools is distinguished from other schools in its method of evaluation and support, to respond to the needs of both the pupil and the school. Key evidence of the Platinum Standard process is found in listening to the opinions of the pupils, parents, teachers, and management teams through interviews, surveys, and discussions. The aim is to create a 360º opinion system in which the entire school community participates”.
Finally, the four pillars of the NACE Schools value proposition define how we can achieve excellence in our educational project by building on what happens each day in the classroom”, Daniel adds.
Fig.1: The NACE Schools Educational Project Value Proposition
We’d like to welcome the 2016/2017 school year! Another year on and Areteia opens its doors again, filling the school with life with the arrival of the new academic year. The headmaster of the school, Luis García Carretero, talks to us about what’s new for this new phase, the objective being to continue to grow and advance.
First of all, the headmaster assesses the 2015/2016 academic year, and defines it as a period full of successes:
“This year saw the consolidation of the educational modality Basic Vocational Training, something fundamental in order to attend to the diversity of our pupils. The first year of pupils graduated in Managing Outdoor Sports and Physical Activities, and the school began with the Sciences Baccalaureate, both of which were experiences met with great approval.”
“Many important moments stand out from the last academic year, such as the celebration of Children’s Day, the Christmas festival with the awarding of prizes and diplomas, Peace Day, Arts and Science Week, the end-of-year festival, the graduations, etc. Also worth mentioning is the school’s participation in the NACE events: International Music Week in Barcelona, NACEMUN in Castellón, the Academic Games in Villaviciosa and the Olympic Games in England.”
“Events such as the 1st Former Pupils Meetup, which brought together more than 100 pupils who have left Areteia during the 25 years that we have been in La Moraleja, together with the 4th Educational Innovation Day and the 1st Parents Meeting, were three moments of great open mindedness of the school, of connecting with new realities and accepting new challenges, like the “Areteia Emprende” conference programme, which included some outstanding speakers who showed their reflection and commitment to the pupils in ESO, Baccalaureate and Vocational Training. Lastly, we highlight the award given by NACE Schools in July to our colleague Rosalía Gómez Manzano, from Administration, in the category of “our values”, for being an example of commitment, efficiency and self-improvement for all the members of the educational community.”
After such a positive year, we expect no less from this new academic year we are welcoming. The fundamental objective is to better attend to and understand each pupil to help them grow.
“For many it is a utopia, but we learnt a long time ago that utopia is good for moving forwards”, the headmaster assures us. In this sense, classes are divided into smaller groups in 3rd and 6th Primary to work in a more personalised way at both the midway point and end of this important stage.
In order to make the pupils the protagonists in the classroom, the school is developing the School Project, which will was presented in the Arts and Science Week in April: Mission GAIA, save the earth. This is a project which hopes to make Areteia an Eco school which is committed to protecting nature, our planet, and all the values this includes.
From among the most important new features for the 2016/2017 academic year, we emphasise the gradual introduction of new technologies as a way to improve learning. For example, through the platform Infantium via tablets which will be used in the classroom during the school day, as well as the new tablets model for 1st ESO.
Other new features this year come from the introduction of the LOMCE, enabling us to make the last few school years into phases focused on decisions about the future. The presence of a native teacher, to support the work of the teachers in the English Department and continue with the theme of a 100% pass rate in the Trinity exams last year, stands out.
There have also been some changes to our facilities. We believe that a school which is attractive and looked after is the first step in educating pupils to respect the environment and others. The Infant Zone has been refurbished with two grass areas, the pupils’ bathrooms have been improved, and we have planned the improvement of the pupils’ sports and leisure areas.
The new offer of the Excellent Workshops has been well thought out and planned based on the suggestions from families and pupils, and we have opted to expand our services in extracurricular activities, particularly in the field of psychopedagogy. In the second and third terms we will also offer certified training in the field of leisure and free time, which we will open up to schools in the area.
In short, the message is clear. Just as Luis García tells us: “Areteia is an opportunity for improvement, for growth, for evolution, for opportunities. Count on us: teachers, non-teaching staff, co-ordinators, heads of studies, management. We are at your disposal, we’re here for you, to make you better, freer, more responsible, fairer, more supportive, more competent. We are so glad that you’ll be forming part of the Areteia family. A new school year is a challenge, an occasion we cannot let escape, to be happier and to make others happier.”
We’d like to welcome the 2016/2017 academic year! Agora Portals International School opens its doors to the new school year with objectives and challenges, lots of motivation and a desire to continue growing together with all of you. The headmaster, Rafael Barea, tells us about what’s new this year and the targets set in order to continue advancing along the path of educational excellence.
Rafael Barea takes stock of the 2015/2016 academic year, remembering the most important milestones and the objectives which were overcome and which contributed great experiences not only for the pupils but for the entire school community.
“Noteworthy events include the 4th edition of the Fun Run between the track in Magaluf and the school (7km), in which this year there were 1,200 participants, a real milestone in terms of participation in fun runs in the Balearic Islands. Equally noteworthy was the gala for the 5th Rafael Nada Music Competition, which was attended by practically the entire Nadal family. On a school level, I want to highlight the incredibly high level of all the music concerts performed by the pupils, the excellent performances of the Agora choir, and the plays in English performed by pupils from different year groups. In terms of sport, this was the year in which most successes were achieved in varied disciplines, from among which the two that stand out especially are the football league and the team championship titles in both the Balearic Islands and Mallorca achieved by the chess club. Equally, from the last academic year I would like to highlight all of the events which took place among the different schools in the NACE Group: International Music Week, the Olympic Games, NACEMUN, the Arts Competition, and the Academic Olympics. In terms of pupil celebrations, I would highlight Sports Day, the Carnival parade, the Halloween celebrations, the decoration of our classrooms for Christmas, the Easter egg decorating and the Easter Afternoon Tea Party, the ceremony to announce the winning House, the end-of-year Summer Ball, and many other events in which our pupils were the true protagonists and enjoyed belonging to Agora Portals International School.”
“From this past year, the extraordinary academic results achieved in the different external tests taken by our pupils are worth mentioning in particular: the PISA tests for 4th ESO pupils (results which were higher even than the average achieved by schools in Finland, and much higher than the average for Spain and the European Community); extraordinary results in the Selectividad university entrance exams, with a 100% pass rate and the 5th best average score of all the colleges and schools in the Balearic Islands; and a 100% pass rate in all the external language tests that our pupils took (First Certificate, Trinity College – no more and no less than 111 pupils – and the Youth Chinese Test). All these academic results confirm that the work being done by the school is yielding results, so our pupils leave our school prepared to be happy in a globalised world.
To continue advancing along the path of educational excellence, and to overcome more challenges in the 2016/2017 academic year, Agora Portals International School has set some objectives which headmaster Rafael Barea explains to us in detail:
“We want the pupils to be at the centre of their learning, so we will encourage their active participation in all classes, focusing more and more on co-operative learning in which the pupils work as a team and all participate, contributing their skills. We want each and every one of the pupils to achieve their maximum potential while they develop their social skills. The school develops and implements a plan for continuous improvement in order to continue advancing in educational excellence, which is much more than just obtaining good academic results, so activities such as theatre performances and school debates (participation in NACEMUN, in the European Youth Parliament, in The Country of Students, in the BBVA Debate League, etc.) are possibilities we offer our pupils in order for them to develop a whole set of skills which are fundamental in our current society. In addition, the cultural exchanges with different countries and the possibility to spend a term or half a term abroad not only enable improved fluency in the English language, they also contribute, in an important way, to educational excellence.”
For this new academic year, we’ll also find many new changes which the headmaster of Agora Portals highlights below.
“The inclusion of Tablets to improve learning for our 5-year-old Infant Education pupils, with the platform Infantium, which enables pupils to develop diverse multiple intelligences, as well as extending the individual use of Tablets to 1st and 2nd ESO, and extending the innovative learning methodologies based on projects and problem solving to all years of Primary and Secondary Education. It is also worth highlighting the amplification and development of the subject of Computer Science in all years of Primary Education and the first years of Secondary Education. Equally, as a new feature, it is worth highlighting the possibility to continue studying German or French in 4th ESO, as well as the total incorporation of German as a language offered in the International Baccalaureate.”
Finally, Rafeal Barea welcomes pupils who are beginning the 2016-2017 academic year with a motivational message so that they take advantage of all the opportunities offered in this new school year.
“All the staff at the school will give the best of themselves so that our pupils are well, and happy at Agora Portals International School while they grow and develop. From here on I ask that they are aware of the magnificent opportunity they have in coming to this school, and that they therefore make the most of the time to educate themselves as people and to discover and develop, to the highest degree, their talents. We will be by their side to help them to achieve it.”
We want to welcome the 2016/2017 academic year! Agora Sant International School opens this school year with lots of energy and our batteries fully charged. The headmaster of the school, Vicenç Gandol, tells us about what’s new for this new phase which will enable both the school and all of you to achieve objectives while we grow and advance together.
The headmaster offers a very positive assessment of the 2015/2016 school year. During the last school year all targets were met, providing value to the pupils and to the school community:
“In the last school year our 71 Baccalaureate pupils obtained excellent results in the Selectividad university entrance exams and in the International Baccalaureate, with a 100% pass rate. In addition, it was the first year in which the 4th ESO pupils sat the PISA tests in the areas of Spanish Language, Maths, and Science. The results were brilliant, with average scores in all areas which were higher than those of countries such as Finland, Japan, England or the United States.”
The headmaster also speaks of the pupils being students who are linguistically skilled, and great people: “On a linguistic level, over 405 pupils satisfactorily overcame the external tests in the different languages taught at the school: English (TRINITY and CAMBRIDGE), French (DELF), German (GOETHE INST.), and Chinese (CONFUCIO). But as well as the good academic results achieved by our pupils, the students participated in different local, national and international charity events which strengthen our spirit of charity, empathy and collaboration, values which are undoubtedly part of the human training which the teaching and non-teaching staff at the school work on every day.”
It is also interesting to summarise some of the most important moments from the last school year:
“Though we take part in many events, if I had to highlight one it would be the organisation of the 4th edition of International Music Festival, in which more than 150 pupils and teachers from the different NACE Schools in Spain, France and England participated. These were enriching days of co-existence for all our students, when music joined everyone together. The collaboration of our host families ensured that the experience was a complete success.”
“What’s certain is that all the NACE events which are held each year in each of the schools (Visual Arts Competition, NACEMUN, Academic Olympics, Sports Olympics and the International Music Festival) offer our pupils a unique opportunity to build relationships and work co-operatively with students of their age from other places. During the 2016/2017 academic year we face the challenge of organising the II Academic Olympics in February.”
The objective of the 2016/2017 school year which we are just beginning is to offer all our pupils all the tools and resources necessary to guarantee their progression in their education as people and as students. That’s why the school invests each year in improving not only the facilities, but above all, those resources which can guarantee excellent pedagogical innovation which offers effective methodologies adapted to the pupils of today.
Of all the most interesting new features for this school year, we highlight the extension of the educational stages, starting with VOCATIONAL TRAINING in the fields of Image and Sound. The school has now finished the work in adapting the necessary spaces, and has the official authorisation needed to teach the qualifications, both at middle and higher level, for Sound Technician, Director, Producer and 3D Animator.
“We begin this new journey with great enthusiasm, aware of the responsibility in higher level studies and the connection with the working world.”
In addition, the school has worked intensively in preparing teachers to provide them with the training necessary for the inclusion of new technologies as a fundamental resource in the new educational methodologies, encouraging greater participation from pupils, co-operative work, and personalisation of learning.
Vicenç Gandol addresses the pupils of Agora Sant Cugat International School with a final message: “To the pupils I just want to say on behalf of all the teaching and non-teaching staff at the school that we await them with enthusiasm to begin a new school year after a long break, and that they should fill up their rucksacks with enthusiasm, effort, perseverance and curiosity for learning, because with all this they will surely achieve great results at the end of the school year. WELCOME BACK TO YOUR SCHOOL!”
Agora International School Madrid was host to the very first Academic Olympics: science and maths Olympics which took place from the 2nd to the 5th of February, with the participation of NACE Schools from Spain, the UK and France. This was an experience which encouraged both the international and collaborative spirit and the educational excellence which are characteristic of all the schools in the group.
Over the course of a few days, 2nd and 3rd ESO pupils from the different schools got fully involved in all the different activities included in these science and maths Olympics: Maths and Natural Sciences, including the subcategories of Biology, Physics and Chemistry. In addition, values such as collaboration and tolerance were an important part of all activities.
Throughout these science and maths Olympics, students were divided into groups of a maximum of 14 pupils from different schools: seven from 2nd ESO and seven from 3rd ESO. This was to encourage team spirit between the different age groups and enable them to learn from and assist each other, build relationships and meet fellow pupils with different points of view. At the opening ceremony, held on Tuesday the 2nd of February, the teams gave a brief introduction of their group, showed the logo and slogan which defined them and gave some interesting information about their school.
The general concepts worked on in these science and maths Olympics, were:
Biology: respiration, circulation, photosynthesis and nutrition.
Physics and Chemistry: velocity, the solar system and density.
Maths: calculus, equations, geometry and statistics.
This NACE Schools science and maths Olympics event was a great experience for our pupils. It was a week during which they learnt new ways of thinking, met pupils from other cultures and countries, learnt to live together, and discovered the city of Madrid. A truly rewarding way to have fun while learning.
Gustavo Martín, Social Sciences teacher at Agora Portals International School since 2011. He studied a Degree in History at the University of les Illes Balears and earned a grant to study for a year at the University of Salamanca. Married for two years, he is the proud and happy father to a little girl who was born in June 2015. His hobbies include reading, particularly books about history and political science, as well as Arturo Pérez-Reverte novels; he’s a lover of the cinema and good music (hobbies from which he often extracts observations and teachings in order to apply them in class); and he enjoys doing both individual and team sport and physical exercise. He’s also a black belt (first dan) in Kyokushinkai-style karate.
How do you confront the new school year? What challenges have you set yourself as a teacher?
Normally, the start of a new school year means vertigo. If you don’t experience vertigo with everything that you do, you’ve lost part of the enthusiasm with which you started on the first day. Every year, the same thing happens to me, I have vertigo. And I hope this never stops accompanying me each year on the 1st of September.
With regard to the challenges, the first and most important one is for the pupils to learn by having fun in class. And to answer the question more specifically, I would like to be able to set more group projects (since I started at Agora I have always tried to incorporate them into every group that I’ve had). It’s clear that through these projects, the pupils learn more, and better, since they are the ones who are creating their own content. As an example, last year the 4th ESO pupils did a piece of work in groups about WW2, expanding greatly on the information which appeared in the syllabus, and I’ve got to say that they really enjoyed it, and discovered things which they would never have imagined. I think this piece of work really affected them, and that they learnt about, and interiorised, everything that was the Second World War.
We’ve been told that you were able to attend the conference offered by César Bona in Palma de Mallorca last year. What aspects do you agree with in the “education boom” generated by his nomination for the 2015 Global Teacher Prize?
Bona, Master of Teachers, which is what I call him, is a teacher in the true sense of the word. In fact, he views himself as a teacher of life, and not just a school teacher. I really enjoyed seeing how he managed to capture the children’s attention – through the videos he put on – and how each day class for them was an adventure.
With regard to the education boom, it is precisely this boom which worries me. It reminds me of an explosion, of the bursting of a bubble which inflates little by little but which will explode and will fall into disuse or be forgotten. I believe that we have to influence the thousands of César Bonas and the thousands of María Acasos (author of the fantastic book, rEDUvolution) that there are in Spain, and support them on that path. Although with so many changes to the educational law I’m afraid this is almost a utopia.
What do you like most about your profession? And what do you like least?
What I like most about my profession is the team of teachers I work with, and above all, the classroom. Being with those pupils who are eager to know, to ask questions, to learn, seeing the astonishment on their faces when you tell them how Islam, in barely 70 years, managed to expand to the Iberian Peninsula from Arabia and cross the Pyrenees; or when you explain to them that in the 18th Century a group of good men tried to change the world with culture and education, and that they suddenly discover that many of the things that they enjoy today come from that time period. That’s what I like most, making them see that Social Science can be the best way, along with literature, to climb into a time machine.
Perhaps what I enjoy least about my job is the strictness of the curriculum we work with. Even so, there are always ways to leave behind the monotony of the curriculum, but, although it seems contradictory, continue to follow it.
How do you view the experience of being a finalist in the last Rafael Nadal Literary Competition?
Well, it’s interesting. You see, it all came from an explanation in class. I told my 2nd ESO pupils that they should try to write an account of something (funny, sad…) which had happened to them, and that we would then read them in class. I remember that at the end of that day at school I had to go food shopping, and it was then that I started to link one word after another until “The Tommy Hilfigher Girl” was created, and I thought that I could maybe enter it in the competition. I must say that the story was a bit sad, as I think that what I saw and heard from that girl made me think that she had been unemployed for a long time and didn’t have a job. But, about the story itself, my surprise was that I was chosen as a finalist. With that I was happy. I wasn’t interested so much in winning as in knowing that something I had written could be of interest to someone. After that, I read the story to my 2nd ESO pupils in class and one pupil told me that it could be made into a short film.
You’re a very active teacher. Tell us about the projects you have worked on in your career (literary contests, projects with pupils, activities outside the curriculum…).
I don’t know if I’m active or not, but I at least try to be. I normally set projects every school year. For example, in my first year with 1st ESO in Social Science I got the idea to expand a bit on the Punic Wars with a group of pupils. I thought that they could imagine that they were in Ancient Rome and that they were news presenters. It was hard work: suitable props (tunics included), investigation about the Punic Wars and using this information to then make a news programme, being war correspondents reporting from the field, filming it, putting it together, editing, adding music… it was a privilege to have worked with those pupils.
As another example, in 2nd ESO we carried out projects in the style of documentaries on the channel “La 2”. I remember that a group of pupils, the same ones who the previous year had made the Punic Wars news programme, created a documentary about the Route of the Conquest of James I. It was an amazing piece of work. A 20-minute documentary, with their involvement, music, outtakes… So much so, that in November last year I was invited to attend a conference at the University of les Illes Balears to talk about projects for high-ability pupils carried out at the school, and I took that piece of work as an example. I remember being very nervous in front of an audience of 300 people (including university pedagogy teachers) but in the end, between what I said, the video, and the questions they asked me, I think it turned out well. In fact, one of the attendees said to me “It shows that you enjoy what you do. We saw you laugh and smile many times during the video.” I think that was the best thing they could have said to me.
Finally, I don’t want to miss the chance to talk about how in the 2013/2014 academic year three 4th ESO pupils participated in an Amnesty International competition about Human Rights and Education, and asked me to be the teacher to offer them the guidelines to follow. It was a superb piece of work which was named the winner of the competition. The work is titled “The key to education”
Speaking of the curriculum, what is your opinion about the changes proposed by the LOMCE (Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Standards)? How do they affect your work and your pupils’ learning process?
Well, this is a tricky subject. Leaving aside the political interpretation I could make about how this law has been made, I believe that the LOMCE will not solve the endemic problem that Spain has. Over the last two centuries, Spain has often failed to reach the modernity which would have linked us culturally and educationally with the countries around us. The LOMCE is mistaken in placing little importance on Humanities subjects, such as Philosophy. I believe this limits pupils’ capacity for Cartesian thought, which this subject could offer them. This is just to give an example. In addition, there is a lot of conflict about R.E counting the same towards the average mark as Biology or History. I think it would be good if we had the subject History of Religions, as this would mean greater diversity when it comes to studying religion.
Furthermore, there are the exams which have been suggested in order to earn the qualification (although not long ago I heard on the radio that these may not become a reality), which I don’t think solve the problem with the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results. Often, when an educational law is created, it is done without observing what’s around us: a television of doubtful quality and exhausting working hours which don’t allow the pupils’ families to be with them after school. If these two things were fixed, we would save ourselves many future educational laws.
Changing the subject, what do you think of technology and social networks as another tool for learning?
I believe that we can’t deny a reality. Technology must form part of education, no question about it. However, last week a report came out in which it was stated that there is no correlation between a greater use of technology and social media and better results, as was happening in South Korea, where the average number of computers per pupil is less than Spain but where in the PISA reports they are among the first. However, even so, I believe that ICT is a fundamental tool. I don’t think that children are digital natives, but I do know that ICT is another tool in their day-to-day tasks. In fact, I now use a teacher and pupil social network on which I post videos that we look at in class, and they love it, which for me requires more work as I normally look for lots more things for them. Even so, I have a great time doing these things. And they do too.
What is your best memory or anecdote from the classroom?
I think there have been many. I remember that one boy wrote me a rap telling me about the life of gladiators. I really liked it, and he knew how to make history something more enjoyable. Another anecdote is something which happened to me last year, that a girl in 2nd ESO said to me “Mr. Martín, you always talk very poetically”. No one had ever said anything like that to me before, and the truth is that it was a complete honour that she thought that about my way of expressing myself.
What do you ask from the future?
Culture and education. You know about my passion for Pérez-Reverte and his books. The last one I read was “Hombres Buenos” which, as I already said in my answer to another question, was about the attempt of these men to improve the world through reason, ideas, culture and education. That’s what I ask for from the future, culture and education. Without these, there’s very little we’ll be able to do.
To conclude, and continuing with Arturo Pérez-Reverte, who is very active on Twitter. In a tweet he said the following: “We should triple teachers’ wages. Make them a well-paid profession, rigorous, and elite. They are our only hope.” What do you think?
As a teacher, I agree completely with the academic’s tweet. Sometimes I think that the vision society has of the teacher is negative, and full of stereotypes. In this sense, there has been a regression in terms of the figure of the teacher in general, I’m not talking about myself in particular, but about teachers in general. The problem with the work of teachers is that it is a background career, whose economic productivity (I dislike using this term) in pupils will begin to be seen from the age of 23 or 24 onwards, when they have finished their higher education. But it should be understood and recognised that this is thanks to each and every one of the teachers from Infant Education to Baccalaureate, it would be fair to admit and reward it. We take many hours away from our families in order to carry out our work in the best and most honourable way possible, to benefit those pupils who sit down in class every day.
In a global education, it is vital to have a qualification which incorporates and transmits values on an international level. With the International Baccalaureate (IB), this is definitely the case. The majority of our schools, known as IB World Schools, are authorised to teach this qualification. In this way, we promote the international education that our students need and that the current context demands.
What is the IB? The International Baccalaureate is a programme of study which offers a number of advantages. The curriculum incorporates a variety of good practices, which make pupils aware of the importance of taking care of the environment, and about the international community, and encourage them to develop critical and independent thought.
Furthermore, this qualification lays the foundation for pupils to access the world’s most prestigious universities. In fact, IB students can be confident in their ability to succeed in university studies. This programme offers an academic challenge, with final exams, which incorporates three core units: Theory of Knowledge, Creativity, Activity and Service, and the Extended Essay, as well as optional subjects designed to guarantee their study of language, social sciences and science.
International Baccalaureate students develop a set of unique skills, which are vital for an international degree. They acquire and develop cultural awareness, fluency in a second language, independent thought, rigorous analytical skills, team work and social commitment. All this enables students to communicate effectively with people from different cultures and countries, and fosters a sense of respect and tolerance.
What are the benefits for pupils?
They learn to think independently and to take control of their own learning.
They participate in education programmes which enable them to study at the best universities worldwide.
They develop their cultural sensitivity through learning a second language.
They learn to work and get along with other people in an ever-changing, globalised world.
The IB programme aims to teach students to be thoughtful and critical, and develop a proactive attitude towards their studies and a love of learning which will last their whole lives. The pupils show curiosity, they take responsibility as citizens and display an open mentality towards other cultures and opinions.
The most prestigious universities worldwide show a great interest in pupils who obtain the diploma programme thanks to their capacity for work and their levels of effort as well as their values as people.