Students must learn to continue learning

Socio-emotional competencies have become an agenda item. That is why several experts, such as Alejandro Adler, director of International Education at the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania, recommend promoting them.Education has become the seed of hope to rebuild the country. That is why in the time of the Agreement, access to quality training is the fundamental opportunity to guarantee a sustainable peace that ensures a dignified life project for all Colombians.

Under this premise of building the citizen we want to face this new context, Education Week will celebrate the Leaders for Education Summit 2017 , the most important event in the education sector.

The Summit will take place on September 20 and 21 at the Colsubsidio Cube in Bogotá and will have the participation of national and international experts who will discuss the state of education in the country and in the world.One of the most recognized exponents is Alejandro Adler, director of International Education at the Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Originally from Mexico, Adler holds a degree in Psychology and Economics, and a Masters and PhD in Psychology, all from the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently one of 60 members of the United Nations International Expert Group on Welfare – a group of international experts from different disciplines working with the United Nations to implement a new development paradigm based on well-being.

The expert works with the governments of Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mexico, Peru, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Jordan and Colombia, among others, and their projects infuse in the school curricula of these countries skills for life based on positive psychology . In addition, they measure the impact of these programs on the well-being of young people, their academic performance and other positive life outcomes. According to Adler, “to enjoy a Colombia that flourishes we have to plant the seeds of positive education”.

Semana Educación interviewed him to learn more about the importance of social-emotional skills and positive education.

Education Week (SE): What is positive education and how can it contribute to the development of future citizens?
Alejandro Adler (AA):It is a model that teaches life skills and well-being, along with traditional academic performance such as mathematics, science, literacy, and other disciplines. This integral formation allows each individual to develop to its maximum potential, and therefore the whole society to flourish. In a world like today, the need to have citizens with values, attitudes, skills and knowledge to take the best decisions for their own lives and for society as a whole has been born. The last decade of studies have revealed that life skills and academic performance are not mutually exclusive, quite the contrary: welfare enhances academic performance and, eventually, work. And not only that, but life skills increase the well-being of the human being and promote prosocial behaviors, better physical health, and greater citizenship in general. In conclusion, we can say that good citizens create the fertile ground for a civil and educated society. SE: Why is it so important to bet on the development of soft skills and socio-emotional skills now?
AA:The world is changing at a vertiginous pace that is unprecedented. In addition, most of the knowledge we have today will be obsolete within ten years. What will never be obsolete is the repertoire of life skills that each person carries, including social and emotional skills along with cognitive skills. The essential thing is that today’s students always learn to continue learning through critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, leadership and other skills, adapting to a world that will continue to change at an increasingly accelerated pace. We need an educational paradigm that complements the development of skills for the whole life.

SE: Decades of research have allowed identifying what life skills contribute to increase academic performance. The examples of countries like Bhutan are famous. How can we apply the methodology of positive education in Colombia?
AA:Something that has taught us decades of studies of cultural psychology is that humans from different cultures have more in common than what distinguishes them. In other words, humans are human, regardless of whether they are in Bhutan or in Colombia. Of course it is absolutely essential to adapt any program or intervention to the context and local culture, but the skills for a full life and for the improvement of academic performance have turned out to be the same, be it in Bhutan, in Mexico, in Denmark or in Colombia. What changes is the packaging of these universal and perennial skills. While the skills for life and for academic and professional success – such as effective communication, resilience, critical thinking, decision-making, gratitude, and so on – are the same around the world,

SE: The issue of resilience is very significant for the context in Colombia. How to talk about resilience in education so that it can be implemented?
AA:Over the past 20 years we have seen that resilience allows young people fortunate to face the challenges of life with greater wisdom, and on the other side, young people who have come out of armed conflicts to reintegrate in a successful in society, preventing future recruitment by armed groups. Resilience is the ability to face the challenges of life and to be able to bounce off them. This applies to a daily challenge such as a disagreement with a friend, even something as traumatic as being exposed to war for years. Fortunately, there are cognitive, emotional and behavioral skills that increase the resilience of the individual and society, and these can be taught and learned at any age. Since every human being will face challenges in his life, It is essential that resilience, along with other essential life skills, be taught with the same seriousness as that given to mathematics, science and other academic subjects in schools. Our studies have found that when people are taught how to become more resilient, a greater proportion of people who suffer trauma manage to capitalize on their experience and grow from it. Post-traumatic growth occurs with greater incidence in young adolescents who learn the cognitive, emotional and behavioral abilities of resilience. Our studies have found that when people are taught how to become more resilient, a greater proportion of people who suffer trauma manage to capitalize on their experience and grow from it. Post-traumatic growth occurs with greater incidence in young adolescents who learn the cognitive, emotional and behavioral abilities of resilience. Our studies have found that when people are taught how to become more resilient, a greater proportion of people who suffer trauma manage to capitalize on their experience and grow from it. Post-traumatic growth occurs with greater incidence in young adolescents who learn the cognitive, emotional and behavioral abilities of resilience.

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