Prof. José Pacheco’s visit to Odemira

On the 26th and 27th of May, we had the honour to host a very special guest: Prof. José Pacheco, a visionary, one of the pioneers of “Escola da Ponte”, a public school located in the north of Portugal which follows the principles of democratic education since 1976. At the moment, José Pacheco is living in Brazil where he supports the development of free schools like “Projeto Âncora”, in São Paulo.

In the context of his current trip, visiting several projects in Portugal, he was invited by the local government to gather with teachers, educators and people responsible for the different projects connected with education in the municipality of Odemira. The aim was to talk about solutions to address the difficult situation in education. His words were radical and moving: “A child who doesn’t want to learn is sick – or the child’s school is sick. Today, in the 21st century, students are being taught by teachers from the 20th century, according to principles from the 19th century.” In his view, lessons are useless and harmful; school holidays, classes, exams and grades, all belong to an obsolete educational system; as do teachers who have to stand alone in front of a class, faced with a wall of silence. “In my schools, everyone learns – including the teachers, including the community. There are no walls shutting out the community, and the schools are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
On the second day, during his time in Tamera, the team from Escola da Esperança had the all morning for inspiring conversations and talks about the legalization process of the school and to receive advices from José Pacheco. It was a creative exchange with many ideas for future collaboration. During the afternoon, the community, some teachers, parents and interested people were invited for a larger gathering. Silvie Bossert (teacher of Escola da Esperança) started by presenting part of the pedagogical concept of our school. Then, José Pacheco began his intervention with his classic question: “What do you want to know?” Showing that what is important, in education, is to answer the specific questions which interests the students and not to give answers to questions that were not even asked. A space was opened for answering our real questions. Later on, in a smaller circle with teachers and educators, José Pacheco shared more about his vast and interesting professional experience. These two days were very inspiring and rich of radical thoughts and statements, spiced with the sense of humour of José Pacheco.