MADRID – Anyone with children in Spanish schools will recognise much of what Zaragoza-born teacher César Bona thinks of education in his home country. He was voted one of the top 50 teachers in the world in 2015.
In Spanish schools the emphasis on the curriculum is so “barbaric” there is no time left to think or deal with important life matters. The Spanish teacher has just released his book Humanisation of Education. “If every two weeks complete chapters have to be discussed on subjects such as language, maths, biology, English … Do you still have time left? Having time is valuable”, emphasises Bona, who was interviewed by NIUS Diario. The recognition he received from The Global Teacher Prize is also known as the ‘Nobel Prize in Education’.
“We have to teach children to think for themselves”
The author of Humanisation of Education (publisher Plaza Janés) explains he does not reject the curriculum absolutely. “The material is important. Because the more someone knows, the more options he or she has. But the subjects must be related to reality and the daily life of the child. Now more than ever we need to teach children to think for themselves, to let them reflect on what they have done and what the consequences are. They learn to make connections between their thoughts, so they don’t just get carried away without knowing whether something is true or not. But paradoxically, there is no time at Spanish schools to think “.
Self-reflection after a bad grade
“Pupils take a test and get a seven or a three back the next day and that’s it. But they should think about why they got a seven and what it gets them. Or why they got a three. What did they not understand? And how can they make sure they understand the next time? “Bona cites as an example.
He wonders whether children themselves think the things we teach them will benefit them in their lives. And, “Couldn’t we first encourage their love for reading before we start keeping track of how much they read and how fast? Why do we as teachers have to deal with so much bureaucracy when everything ends up in some desk drawer, instead of getting together and sharing our experiences? Why do we talk about competencies but still think in terms of subjects? “
“In Spain, everything that is not measurable does not count”
“It is curious that in our society everything that is not measurable and therefore cannot be converted into a number, does not count,” said the teacher. He sees education as “the tool we have – or should have – to learn how we relate to ourselves, to the people around us, and to the world we live in. If one of these parts falls away, then we limp. “
Attention to physical and mental health
Topics such as physical and mental health are examples of issues that are important to him and shine through absence in the classroom.
Before the pandemic, there were “already many cases of stress, anxiety and sleep disturbances among children and young people and we will see that these will increase in numbers and intensity now and in the months or years to come. And still there are people who do not consider emotional education important, as if it were not part of us,” he regrets.
“Let me give an example: everyone knows what a PCR test is by now, but if we play with the first three letters we get CPR. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. How many people know how to perform CPR? Or know how to apply the Heimlich Manoeuvre or know what to do in the event of an allergic reaction? That saves lives. So let’s start with what we value most in life and that is our health”.
Bona also regrets the lack of dialogue on the subject in politics and notes with some anger education was only discussed about ten times in an eight-year period. Namely once every four years when the law changes after the elections, once a year when the PISA report is published (which makes education a kind of sports competition). Furthermore if there is further talk about it, “it is only from an adult point of view, because there are disagreements or because there is controversy. Period.”