“A new world needs new schools”

Looking back at the 1st International Education Symposium from 3rd to 6th October 2013 in Tamera

An unusual start – more than 100 people gather together at the Stone Circle – for a special greeting ritual: At the request of the children, an „impulse“ goes through the crowd reminding us of our own childish core, the big drum calls the supportive universal forces, the three-day educational symposium is now open.

"Within the conditions of trust and mutual respect, learning follows life's natural energy flows. Children and adolescents all have big questions. If they are allowed to ask these questions and find truthful answers they will develop confidence and find their own motivation to learn – with great joy and competence.”
(in: Key-concepts of Escola da Esperança - School of Hope)

The objective of the symposium was exchange within the theme Learning, both from a scientific point of view and from the direct world of experience from free schools.
Emerging innovative projects should be encouraged, by helping their interconnections. Among the audience were lots of Portuguese teachers and parents who debated with the international specialists about learning systems which allow schools to become places of trust, as well as “locations of creative happiness” for all who participate in them.

The symposium began with a committed speech by Hélder Guerreiro, the vice-president of Odemira regional council. Through his commitment with a life-like learning, which is expected to take place in school networks and teaching institutions of the whole region under the motto “Odemira: educational territory”, he established a broad basis for plenty of innovative and bold ideas in the field of education.

José Pacheco, founder of the well-known autonomous school “Escola da Ponte” in Northern Portugal, is currently working in Brazil. The day before the symposium, he spoke at the neighbor school “Escola Aviador Brito Paes” in Colos in a public speech for the teachers and some other guests from Tamera and from the region. During the symposium, with his words “Unite and start by doing whatever you can do”, he encouraged the listeners to be active and be the ones to contribute to the change. Unfortunately, the representatives of “Escola da Ponte” couldn’t take part at the symposium themselves, as the start of the new school year fully monopolized them.

In a rather intimate way, José Pacheco told us about his contact with a strongly traumatized child in Brazil. Contact spread through the room and the situation of many of the world's children became present. Through the reports of the specialists from Kenya (Dr. Karambu), Malawi (Mugove Nykia), Mexico (Pi Pao project) and from the social hot spots in Berlin (Gertrud Graf) and in Switzerland (Ruth Oechsli), the current political context in which it is necessary to rethink the assistance to children who often come from difficult social situations, became visible as well.

On the day of the “Learning theories and concrete school models”, Professor Burow, from the University of Kassel, presented the thesis: “People are not happy because they are successful, but they are successful because they are happy” (S. Lyubomirsky, Univ. of California) to the room, referring to that respect “how we can create learning/teaching situations in which we learn with joy and can even experience happiness, at times.

António Caetano, head teacher of the school in Colos, reported about the models of concrete approach from his public school, which he has implemented with a great deal of personal commitment.

In the afternoon, the representatives of the schools, such as the study workshop “Lernwerkstatt Pottenbrunn” from Austria and the SOL (School for Open Learning) from Switzerland, gave us some insight as to their 20-year experience into learning in “Open Learning Spaces”. These very successful long-term models were able to create in the participants the trust in the fact that holistic, open learning forms turn into very efficient and joyful learning.

Escola da Esperança, the coming community school in Tamera, was presented by the project coordinator, Oskar Eckmann, and teacher, Silvie Bossert. Already today, the youngest children in Tamera are taught through distance learning, based on the concept of an “Open Learning Space”. With the guided visit through the furnished learning rooms, a possibility of concrete implementation in site became discernible, rising plenty of questions as far as to interchanging, as well as to the idea of starting the first teacher trainings in the learning rooms of Escola da Esperança. At the Sunday matinee, Tamera's co-founder, Sabine Lichtenfels, spoke about a necessary change in the learning system, as well as about the social alterations as a basis for that to occur. In that sense, the Peace Research Center has been developing those bases, having become an important international training venue.

An adolescent from Tamera, Maria Kessler was the initiator of the youth group, “Education Youth,” which acts in parallel. In her speech concerning her experience of being brought up in a community, she pointed out how important it is for children and adolescents to be able to trust adults: “I can trust adults when they allow us to ask questions and when they themselves ask questions which really matter. Questions about the world, a meaningful education and above all, about everything which is truly important for our world at the present time."

On the last day, Paula Soares, Professor at the University of Évora, developed an “Open Space” for the creation of networks with her speech "New Paradigms, Innovation & Networking in Higher Education".

Many committed initiators of already existing initiatives for the implementation of an open learning in Portugal exchanged ideas and strengthened their networking. At a closing “Global Circle”, young mothers showed all their motherly strength and commitment towards a living school, which is fully relevant for our future.
The concept of Escola da Esperança reflects the idea of “networked intelligence” of schools and regional projects, as well as a permanent exchange of researchers in the field of learning and school models at a world level. At the end of 2013 it is expected a first follow-up- working session with the network partners.

"Accompanying children requires a willingness to change oneself. Schools can develop if the people in and around them are actively engaged in their own development and self-reflection. The schools of the future will continually develop on the basis of cooperation with each other and in response to new scientific insights.”

We thank all the guests, experts and specialists, as well as the congress team from Tamera for all their support.