What have you learned

4 minute read

This post includes an audio version. If you prefer that you can listen here or on the JAL Audioblog Podcast

In this post, I’ll explain a simple lesson that I did learn lately about education.

These days I have been visiting new schools for my 12 years son Pau. It is time for him to change to a new school and start high school! Since Pau is very dyslexic, we have been trying to help him as much as possible to choose the right school. But in the end, it is his decision that matters. We won’t decide for him.

Visiting the schools

On our way to choose the right school for Pau, we visited several schools. In fact, that is a job that started last year. Even in the middle of the pandemic, we visited several schools, mostly private schools. In Spain, public school is acceptable in general, and what we notice is that it is the best option if you have a kid with learning disabilities. In general, private schools do not care about this type of kid. I guess they are just looking for kids that shine with no effort. Please notice that it is my opinion based on visiting just several schools and in my area. It may be not the case in other places or even in other schools that I did not visit.

Visiting a school has several parts. On one side, parents participate in explanations about the philosophy and goals of the schools. Meanwhile, the kids are taken on a tour around the school by other kids already studying there. That approach works well since you get the administrative information, and they get the feeling of the school.

One interesting topic is when every school explain their approach to technology. I honestly do not care about that. I want them to learn how to be humans and not how to use technology. They will learn the latter without help.

During one of those visits, a science teacher explains that one of the kids’ exams will only have one question: “What have you learned?”. That shocks me. Initially, I found it brilliant because I thought it went to the root of learning. It says, “I won’t test your skills, instead tell me what have you improved over the latest lessons”. I feel like it gives the student the responsibility for their development and not the other way around.

But then I realize that every answer is valid to that question. Saying just “Nothing” is a valid answer to that question.

Notice also that it is an exam not only for the student but also for the teacher. Here, the answers evaluate how much the students were able to study and how well the teacher performs in terms of students’ engagement.

That exam is an excellent experiment from which much information can be obtained.

How education should be (IMO)

Nowadays, it is unfortunate that education has shifted from learning to getting the maximum score. It is a competition against the others instead of a path to self-growth and improvement. And of course, exams play a significant role in that approach.

The scores should indicate whether things are going well, but never be the primary goal. Studying is about discovering and learning new things and, in doing so, achieving individual growth and improvement as a human being.

The curiosity for new things has been replaced by a competition to enter another school where the contest will continue.

I understand that many teens are completely demotivated and willing to quit with this scenario. Instead, those years should be the most mind-expanding experience of their lives.

Education is about learning and not about the scores. Unfortunately, society forgot that.

Institut Baix a mar

Going back to our story of seeing schools, we did visit a small one called Baix a Mar. That school is not considered the best in the area, and it is not located in a fancy part of town. It is neither beautiful nor glamorous, but a science professor shows us around while guiding us on tour. She was talking about how they do to help the students learn and how they focus on making it exciting and engaging for the teens. When queried about exams, she highlighted the learning experience and how a good exam can help grow. She never talks about scores or about preparing them for College. It was all about learning.

I know it was just a professor, and that does not represent the whole school. Also, It is improbable that Pau ends up taking lessons for her. But among all the nonsense, that professor gave me hope.

Now that I read it, it sounds naive, but it was the only one that resonated with us after all those visits. I see no reason to go anywhere else. After that visit, Pau told me: “I can’t wait to next year. I want to go to this school.”


[Institut Baix a mar Revista de l’institut Baix a mar](https://agora.xtec.cat/insbaixamar/)