Education for the future

Posted on 9th Nov 2018 in School News, Curriculum, Teaching

Alcanta International College in China is developing a student-centred program to meet the challenges of the 21st century, write Bob Darwish and Carlos Pallero...

Ever since the industrial revolution, students have been treated like empty glasses to be filled (with knowledge) – an educational model which progressive educators called ‘traditional’. This type of education treated the students as objects, passive receivers of knowledge. Alternatives to traditional education, where students sit in front of the teacher, have been proposed over the last several decades in the form of Montessori schools, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, Changemaker and so on. However, we believe, it was not until the Finland model emerged that the discussion has become a global phenomenon.

The development of artificial intelligence and revolution in technology has led to many successful business people to speak for change in how we educate our children. We believe that with the world changing so fast, the need for acquiring knowledge will become secondary to a more prominent need for skills building. The famous Chinese entrepreneur, Jack Ma, claims:

“Education is a big challenge now. If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years later we will be in trouble. The way we teach is knowledge based and we cannot teach our kids to compete with machines; [the machines] are smarter. We have to teach [our children] something unique…that machines can never catch up with...”

Having this uncertainty, the future, in mind, Alcanta International College (AIC) is embarking upon an exciting project which introduces an integrational educational model for our youth, our future. This education model, designed by Bob Darwish of AIC and Carlos Pallero of IE University, has a clear student-centered orientation, and originates from their experiences with traditional educational system – a system which did its best to kill creativity, critical thought, emotional intelligence, the ability to ask questions, one that treated all students in the same way, leaving many students behind by ignoring differences in their learning styles and personalities.

This educational model aims at empowering students, which will be done by helping them to acquire and hone skills which will enable them to deal with uncertainty, a changing world.

Teachers (facilitators) are asked to become vulnerable: to enter their classrooms having in mind and heart the important value of “respect”, to treat the learning community as equals. We believe that everyone in the learning space is of equal status but has different roles. So, in our classrooms you will see teachers guide, facilitate, mentor, coach and motivate, while students engage in creating meaningful experiences to achieve their full potential.

The self is at the center in this educational model. Before starting any co-learning, we believe it is important to prepare ourselves, both facilitators and students, since a good state management will lead learning to become more effective and lasting, one which will allow us to transform knowledge acquired into action and wisdom.

To materialize this, foundation knowledge is necessary. Students and facilitators learn about many different disciplines as well as about themselves. A good beginning is to learn about our learning styles, our personalities and become aware of our emotional capabilities. Having gathered this information, facilitators will then be better equipped with innovative tools to help create personalized activities, leaning experiences and assessment tools for their learning communities.

That is why it is so important to focus on the student itself, more than what the student is able to remember, to accomplish our mission to educate them, which in the words of Senador Pallero is: “to accompany Pepito to be the best Pepito that Pepito can be, and to support each Lola to be the best Lola out of the all possible Lolas.” To accompany and support each of our students, our learning community, we have at our disposal a resource of incalculable value, the emotional intelligence, to promote their personal and interpersonal skills through the five domains coined by Daniel Goleman: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

We aim to blur the lines between disciplines. As educators, our focus is on core skills and competencies as opposed to fact depositing. We do not offer Mathematics, English, Science, Physical Education as stand-alone subjects. Instead, we propose learning areas which are based on necessary skills to deal with uncertainty and change. We offer courses in emotional intelligence, learning to learn, communication, hero’s journey and wellbeing. Science, Math and Technology (SMT) will be taught using approaches which will integrate all three. This is done intentionally to move away from knowledge acquisition and to focus on core skills, such as collaboration, personal enquiry, team work, creativity and so on. This does not mean we do not appreciate the importance of direct teaching. In fact, we have allocated some hours to teaching foundational knowledge and ways in which knowledge can be created in different learning areas.

Learning can happen in many different ways, but we believe that a meaningful learning experience involves the learner in applying what has been learned. To us, learning is active and not a mere act of passively receiving information. Active learning involves the learner to further mere acquisition, leading them to experimenting through collaboration, discussion, practice, research and production. Reflection will be an essential element of all learning.

Student involvement within the community, their real life experiences, is another important element of this program. One of their final projects will be to propose a plan and to execute a community based service project.

A new educational model requires a new model of evaluation. Assessment in the form of traditional tests, quizzes, final examinations and daily homework by various subjects will not be part of this program. Assessments are creatively crafted to assess students, to allow to evaluate themselves and their peers focusing on their critical and creative thinking skills, collaboration and teamwork, self and peer assessments, and the ability to connect and extend ideas from various subject areas. In this way, personal autonomy, mastery, motivation and other such attributes will empower each of our students to become life-long learners and have the ability to cope with change and be able to solve problems of a world tomorrow which will have its own problems and challenges.

For any questions and enquiries regarding this program, please contact Bob Darwish at or Carlos Pallero at