Listen to the Voice of Children - Why do we have to change education?

On 27 February EPA's president participated at the Voice of Children – from communication to self-expression - Conference organised by Butterflywise and the Alliance forChildhood. While we had the opportunity to learn a lot about the way Butterflywise’s education system works, we could also learn a lot from the introductory speech of Christopher Clouder on how much we can learn from our children and how important play and playfulness are for their education. Noemi Paymal, a world-known anthropologist presented her Pedagooogia 3000 initiative and emphasised the need to change schools nearly fully to meet the needs and potential of the new generations that is proven to be a next phase in the evolution of mankind.

Cristopher Clouder used a lot of literary references from contemporary poets to Schiller, George Sand, The Little Prince and C.S. Lewis to make his important point to sink in easier. He was calling the audience’s attention to the importance of joy of playing, meaning that we play for joy and not for any utilitarian reason. Modern life endangers playfulness and for many people there is a need to re-learn the language of play. In many cases parents have difficulties playing with their children, but it is a dangerous feature. Research shows that serial killers have no history of play in their lives. A recent study, The State of Play, Back to Basics based on asking 2000 children shows that most children lack quality play time with their parents.

Cristopher called the audience’s attention to the fact that the world is changing rapidly and evolution can be fast (example here). The change is not only that today’s children are practically born with computers and smartphones in hand, but it is also a change of hormones and physiology. Puberty became about 2.5 years shorter than it was 100 years ago. In order to make the most of this short childhood schools should break with the deficiency model (that focuses on what the child does not know), and we should have to approach and build on the power, richness and curiosity the child naturally brings to the school. Love has an effect on brain formation, so education should be based on love. A Canadian programme, Roots of Empathy shows that ‘empathy cannot be taught, but can be caught’, namely merely watching a baby and its mother decreases violent behaviour of the observer.

Noemi Paymal offered a rich scientific basis for her argument that schools have to change 80-90% of both present method and content to be able to meet the needs and potential of present-day children. Her Pedagooogia 3000 initiative is aiming at an education system for personal fulfilment, co-building a new society and caring for the environment.

She says that “today’s children exhibit exceptional innate talents of greater perception and sensitivity in the physiological, emotional, ethical, behavioural, cognitive, social, psychic and spiritual realms. These qualities can also be found in adults and grandparents, but to a lesser extent. Therefore we have a student, at home or in our classroom, whose emotional and sensory equipment is already more sensitive. He is capable of perceiving energetic and cognitive spectrum that sometimes adults do not themselves perceive. So what characterises today’s children is not only their high cognitive capacities, but also their vast sense of perception in all environments, their keen level of empathy and their surprising psychic and spiritual openness, especially at a very early age. Their level of empathy is very high, this is to say, that they are capable of comprehending and experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experiences of others, without the need for speaking or even, in some cases, of being physically present. They are children whose faculties are multilateral, which is to say, that they can see different aspects of the same thing, and multidimensional; they can access various levels of consciousness.” The new characteristics and talents have to be attended in a way that suits them. You can find the details here.

In 2013 Noemi wrote a letter to Ministers of Education all over the world (I wonder how many of them have read it and how many of those reading it has started to do something) with a to-do-list for the future. If parents want to be the initiators of change seeing how inappropriate present day school is for today’s children, it is worth being familiar with this.

Briony Vanden Bussche, a parent with non-teaching background, was inspired by Noemi Paymal’s research and initiative when she started the Butterflywise school in Antwerp. She is active in the Alliance for Childhood and decided to co-organise this event to call the attention of wider audiences to the need to rethink education completely. The event was the first in a series but already offered a lot of food for thought.

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