International Educational Perspectives_2

The first International Education and Educational Technology Meeting was opened by Marcos Teles, from Mentat, who introduced, welcomed the international guests and announced the common structure to be covered: context, main educational indicators and best practices for application of technology in basic education of respective countries. Denise Aguiar, the grand-daughter of Amadeu Aguiar, Bradesco Bank founder, gave a brief overview of the Foundation’s mission. Nivaldo Marcusso, Bradesco Foundation Chief Innovation Officer showed the main areas covered by the Bradesco Institute of Technology (BIT) and its partners (Microsoft, IBM, Cisco) I have found a slideshow in English of a presentation given in Leicester earlier this year. The other presentations will be available for download on the Bradesco site as from next Friday.

Paula de Waal, from the University of Padua in Italy, questioned the validity of the criteria created by the OECD for International Student Assessment (Pisa) to measure the performance of students. She explained that the results are based on national averages and do not take into account the cultural context and the particularity of the educational systems of the different countries being evaluated. The Italian educational system, for instance, is decentralized, schools serve their local communities and are totally autonomous (though there is a common Government exam at the end of each cycle) and the curriculum develops according to the cultural needs of each region. The Italian model is unique in Europe as it is the only one that still follows the humanistic tradition and was not adapted to the industrial development (geared towards economic aims and values).  Middle/high schools focus mostly on languages, arts, a sound cultural background and concentrate on social inclusion and cohesion, inter-culturality and personalization, which may, in part,  explain the poor average results in science and mathematics obtained in the last Pisa survey and the huge disparity between the different regions.

Regionalization (adapting the educational/cultural content to each region) may be a good model for  Brazilian education so as to cope with the enormous differences in needs and development/professional disparity.

Professor Ishihara gave a quick historical statistic outline of the profound changes experienced by the Japanese society after the war and how this has impacted education. As most of the food is now imported and the manufacturing of products is being outsourced to China and India, there has been a dramatic growth in tertiary service. The latest reforms in the Japanese educational system have brought a crisis – the reforms are being criticized for having dampened interest–and national strength–in hard sciences and academic studies with its emphasis on creativity and yutori kyoiku (less pressure and relaxed style).

Statistics also show a growing lack of motivation and interest in studying. Poor results in the international achievement tests have triggered so much dissatisfaction and worry among parents and educators that many suggest a shift back to instructional and content based teaching. However, a recent survey, called “International Survey of Six Cities” and conducted by Benesse, showed some surprising results as to the attitudes and values of young school pupils (5th grade – between 10 and 11 year old) in six cities worldwide: Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Helsinki, London, and Washington DC.

Professor Ishihara points to constructionism as a means to engage children in learning and points to Lego, games and robotics to motivate them . He mentions the Kids on Campus (pdf file) initiative as an “optimal learning” environment. Without any doubt, learning by doing, experimenting and reflecting among experts, adults and learners of different ages and competencies reverses the traditional sage on the stage model and contributes to deeper learning, more collaboration and a healthier and more significant interaction.

(to be continued)

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