The features of a 21st century education.

The impact of traditional education based on transmission of knowledge from teacher to student.

Why did we spend 12 to 16 years in school to come out with 6%? Why are we still asking children to study in the same obsolete model of education?

We need to do a lot better for today’s children. We need to give them the kind of education that has real impact in their life. The kind of education that will help them thrive in the 21st century life.

Learning has become an essential skill. The 21st century will be the equivalent of the last 20.000 years of progress. Every 5 years the list of top skills necessary to be successful at work changes. Life is increasingly harder and more complex. Fortunately, the science of wellbeing and thriving is constantly bringing new discoveries. Alas, most of these never make it into schools which are still following curricula from the past.

Today’s generation will never graduate from learning. So it is our duty to ensure they are ready for the life that awaits when they leave school while at the same time ensuring that they are capable of constantly learning and transforming themselves.

At Colina Learning Center we are taking on the responsibility to provide the education that is useful for the entire life of the whole person, not only to pass an exam at 18. We are doing this by carefully selecting the best approaches in global education and in leadership of great schools.

Learning will be our way of being. We are creating a dynamic learning community in which adults are active participants and learners themselves. Your child’s teacher will constantly improve. So will every parent.

Traditional education
21st century education
Student as subject of teaching
Student as agent in own learning
Content, information and basic skills
Competencies, life skills and mindsets
Focus on mind
Focus on whole person (mind, body, emotions, spirit)
Definition of success: college-ready
Definition of success: life-ready
All students learn at the same time the same thing
Personalized and self-paced
Theoretical, abstract
Authentic, impact in the world
Assessment of knowledge through grades and standardized tests.
Assessment of competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) through qualitative and quantitative assessments
Classrooms and fixed furniture (walls and rows)
Innovative learning spaces, open and flexible
Silos (‘classrooms’, ‘age groups’)
Open and flexible grouping (interest, level, project)
Technology limited or banned
Technology integrated and blended models
Teacher as leader and authoritarian
Teacher as facilitator and coach
Micromanaged, teacher in control
Collaborative, trusted classrooms
Parents as guardians of homework
Parents involved in learning, school as a learning community

Why do we need to all learn together?

Because children deserve the best teachers and the best parents. And because we all deserve to learn how to thrive in life.

Colina Learning Center will be the school where we will collectively enable children and ourselves to thrive.

Mastering new skills. Not memorize.

Traditional education has focused on information and memorization. Although necessary, these are but a small and insufficient part of learning.

If you look at the neuroscience of learning, a learning cycle is complete when we have actually mastered a new skill. We do not only “know” something in theory, we are capable of using the information we have learned in practical, applicable situations. This approach to learning is focused on ‘skills’ or the wider concept of ‘competencies’ (which encompass information, abilities and attitudes).

The ‘Schools of the Future’ should have the educational content built upon skill acquisition. There are many different frames, one of the most popular ones being the 21st-century skills, which include creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

Some of the most powerful skills for long-term learning and long-term success are called ‘executive functioning skills’ such as working memory, flexible thinking and self-control.

If you had to distil everything we know to one essential executive skill that leads to success in education and later on in life, that is the ability of focus and self-control. More important than IQ or socio-economic factors, self-control is the one royal skill that will maximise chances of a successful life. No child should graduate until they pass the marshmallow test :)

In the end, each school should choose their own set of skills of reference given their own cultural and social context. But no school should lack educational objectives formulated as skills, this is essential.

A unique and tailored way of learning for each and every child

We learn more easily what we like, what is relevant to us and what is taught to us in the way we enjoy the most. In an education that works, children are asked about their preferences and areas of interest. They can influence and choose ways of learning that suit them the most. Resources and ways of teaching are multiple and allow for different styles of learning from visual and auditory to kinaesthetic and social.

Each student should have a personalized learning plan and it should be changed and adjusted together with the student according to their changing level of energy, areas of interest and ability. School buildings and activities should be modular and flexible providing enough opportunities for personalization and flexibility.

Students as agents, active and responsible for their learning

“Education will take you anywhere you want to go but it won't replace you as the driver.” If learning is to be useful for the whole life of the student, it needs to enable each child to choose the life they want.

How do we know what children want if we never ask them? Worse, how will they know what they want in their own life if they are never asked this question while growing up?

Modern schools move away from “do as you’re told” to “‘voice and choice for each student”. Children get to choose activities, resources, spaces, times and responsibilities. They will learn to answer the question “What do you want?”

This is a profound question that requires personal awareness and responsibility. It is not about our fluctuating daily wants, but it is about the bigger and harder choices we need to make a fulfilling life. Only when children have a choice on school activities, can we expect them to do the hard work. Discipline, grit, resilience, these are all the results of focusing on what we really want.

Children will be able to choose the type of projects they want to create and also the impact they want:

‘What do you want to learn and where do you want to make an impact?” They will be fully aware of their choices and responsible for their consequences, just as they will be when they grow up.

High standards for every child. At their own pace.

Effective schools have high standards for each and every student. The science of learning has repeatedly proven how powerful high expectations are to drive success. It is called “the Pygmalion effect” and it works, but only if education is personalized and relevant for children.

Since they get to choose the way they learn, we can expect them to excel. Not all children need to excel at the same things at the same time, but they will be expected to develop areas of mastery.

They will need to find their own way of reaching a personal outstanding achievement. The definition of ‘outstanding’ will also incorporate how they reach the educational objectives, their approach to learning not only the ‘performance on the day’.

The type of assessment used will match this approach to learning. They will not all take the same test at the same time. They will have more sophisticated and personalized assessments than grades, such as mastery-based assessment (for example, Mastery Transcript). Together with the student, the teachers will define mastery for educational objectives and competencies and whenever necessary, the student will receive support and extra-time to reach the high standard.

Success in life, not at exams.

This is the only time students are in school. In this precious, unique time when they are safely learning, it is our responsibility to ensure students gain the essential life skills that will enable them to thrive as adults. So let’s make sure that time spent in school is worthwhile for the whole person and for their entire life.

Our learning model is holistic and long-term, focusing on all the key areas of development in life: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.

Achievement is not about passing exams or taking high grades. We measure success by the impact on our students 10 years after they’ve graduated. We look at the 26-28 year old. Until 26 we are still capable of developing essential emotional and mental skills that will enhance our chances at a successful life. What do they need to thrive at 26 and later? Once we have identified these key competencies, we will start to develop them from the first steps in school.

As young as 2 years old, children embark upon a coherent learning journey that leads them all the way into adulthood. Children will know why they learn, what the impact is on their life. As grown-ups, our graduates will be able to connect and articulate their success to the experience in school.

Authentic learning. Impact in the real world. Now. Not ‘after graduation’

No more purely theoretical learning. Theory is a part of learning, but school doesn’t need to be isolated from reality. As they learn and study, children can and will make a difference in the world.

Learning is project and problem-based. We still have educational content objectives, but they are part of the learning, not the only reason for the learning. We start with what students care about. Then we invite them to create school work that is relevant to them, the community and the whole world.

The approach is no longer focused on a sterile approach to learning. If education is not immediately relevant to reality, how will we know that it ever will be? Actually we do know. Most adults cannot find a practical application to a big part of their learning.

Not anymore. School mirrors life and work. “It means that classrooms must enable children to try different solutions and compare results to iterate and build on others’ ideas, rather than focusing on identifying one correct answer. (World Economic Forum )

Children will be solving real world problems with a similar approach to real work: collaboration, creativity in finding solutions, accessing various disciplines. They will make cross-curricular connections through passion-projects and coursework to develop essential skills necessary for 21st century living.

Dynamic contextual curriculum, evolves at the pace of science and society.

21st century schools need to develop their own curriculum, incorporating the best and latest in curriculum practices from around the world. Their approach needs to be dynamic and continuous. This requires high degrees of trust and professionalism of teachers who work together to constantly create great work.

They include new methodologies and approaches, they constantly hunt for best practices.

Every day around the world a school or a system discovers a better and more powerful approach to learning. The curriculum may include standards from a variety of approaches such as Reggio Emilia for Preschool, Australian standards in Science, Singapore in Maths, local, national standards in Literacy. Education needs to have updates similarly to the way your computer does.

Our school makes the commitment to responsibly and coherently incorporate new approaches that maximise the learning for each child in our care. There will not be a learning revolution every year, but a gradual and ongoing adoption of innovation, using approaches such as the 80/20 rule (every year we bring in 20% new and better approaches). Each new generation and each new school year will continue to get better and better.

From teacher to learning facilitator

A close relationship is key to the success of education. Children learn best from adults that care about them and take time to get to really know them. Teachers in our school will understand that building the relationship is their first obligation. Individually and collectively, in their teaching teams, they will get to know children holistically, to truly understand what motivates them and what helps them learn.

Furthermore, they will move away from the role of transmitter of knowledge to facilitator of learning.

The responsibility of the teacher will be great learning design. By carefully choosing spaces, resources, activities and topics, the teacher will create a context that will lead to powerful learning for the student. Learning is no longer ‘poured’ directly into the brain of the child (repeatedly proven to be an ineffective teaching approach). Learning emerges from the experiences, spaces and activities that children engage in.

“Who does the work does the learning” (Olimpia Mesa). In our school children will be engaged in work and teachers will be there to support and personalize learning. There will be some directive activities and frontal teaching, but it will not be the norm.

Walking around our school, you will most often see children involved in various activities with the teachers among them. In smaller groups or individually, children become self-directed learners who are aware of rules and parameters for behaviour and feel responsible and engaged in doing school work.