Pedagogical principles of the Swiss School from Curitiba
Since its existence, the Swiss School from Curitiba has been committed to a teaching and learning tradition based on the ideals of Heinrich Pestalozzi: To learn and to teach with the head, the heart and the hand – with this, the famous Swiss pedagogue wanted to suggest, already at the beginning of the 19th century, that teaching and learning should not only fill, in the sense of intellectual training, the impressions of sense with meaning, but that the habitual training of the fostering of values as well as physical training, whether participating in a camp or in an art class, are indispensable for an integral development of the personality. Expressed in modern terms, this means: thinking as a whole – convincing as a personality – acting responsibly. What does this mean for our school?
Integral thinking means that thinking in school subjects and creating multiple learning possibilities in interdisciplinary fields inside and outside of the classroom. Alongside cultural techniques (reading – writing – calculating), knowledge of subject and factual knowledge, this creative problem-solving thinking is involved. Such opportunities offer modern teaching methods. The textbooks we use reach all human senses and are age-appropriate. They show the content with pictures, graphics, and visual descriptions. With manipulative materials, games, puzzle-solving, and instructions for self-experiments, they stimulate diverse activities for the student, making a comprehensive reference to the student’s world, and arousing curiosity. Throughout the school year, we place several strong points for the formation of integral thinking: in Study Week, in projects for the Knowledge Fair, in the bazaar, in study trips, in exchanges with other grades or schools, and in intercultural contact with people of other languages and cultures. Integral thinking alone, however, is not enough to survive in today’s world.
In addition to the head, the heart is worked on. Self-confidence, a sense of community and responsibility, communication and group skills are the social competencies of a convincing personality, which complement an intellectual production. Learning should not occur unilaterally in a cognitive way, allowing itself to degenerate into a mechanical hammering in the head. Learning, as we understand it, also comprises the affective field. Learning can and should be fun. However, it is also clear that learning is an active process and is also a life experience. Emotional interest in the object of study and the learning process are guidelines for the formation of a convincing personality – a personality that trusts itself, develops a sense of collectivity, accepts responsibility, can communicate clearly and make appropriate contributions. They are role models that have a lot to do with experiencing, experimenting and observing. The teacher as an example, peers of the same age as a group, through which the student gains security and authenticity.
For the school this means: training is not a process, which produces immediate results. Our students are not learning in the first instance for the exams, but for their lives. They learn learning techniques, they learn to think in an integrated way, they learn what modern authors have called “emotional intelligence”. This is why teamwork is of great significance for the student. And that is why we do not want to compete with the abundant content of other schools. Our specialty is the quality of the education, which comprises the cognitive, affective and psychomotor fields. For this reason, disciplines such as music, physical education, and manual work are part of our educational proposal, and that is why study weeks, excursions, knowledge fairs, study trips, and school parties are great learning opportunities during the school year.
Learning and teaching with the head and the heart are not yet an integral procedure with lasting effect. Also the hand, the handle needs to be included in the learning process.
To touch man in his totality, it is necessary that thinking as a whole and convincing as a personality go hand in hand with acting (action) responsibly. What good are creative ideas, logical suggestions for solutions, if they cannot be put into practice. On the one hand, the willingness to act and on the other hand, the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own action. Willingness to act has a lot to do with willingness to take risks. Those who are active make mistakes. Mistakes are not sins, but they give us important guidance in the learning process. Mistakes are necessary. Without mistakes no learning takes place. More important than mistakes in a dictation is the joy of writing, the playing with language. Those who play with language also learn correct spelling. Those who are afraid to write dictations will run away from writing, develop avoidance strategies, and consequently will underachieve in learning.
What does this mean for our college? It means that we encourage students to act. This happens through guided performance. Students should not be assessed unilaterally for results, they should be guided on the path of learning, in the emergence of a product, where the process is also assessed. This is especially the case when students develop projects. The more they are involved in planning, executing, directing and evaluating, the more intense is the experience of the training process, the greater is the student’s autonomy. In subjects like crafts, art education, but also music and physical education, students deal more intensively because they produce something. These disciplines are a compensation for disciplines in which a lot of knowledge is absorbed in a receptive way.
In 1999, preparations began for the introduction of the International Baccalaureate (IB). Teachers attended specialization courses aimed at preparing them for the new training cycle. At the end of that year we received authorization from the International Baccalaureate Organization for its implementation. In the school year 2000 our students studied for the first time under the IB concept.
Pestalozzi’s concept of training with head, heart and hand will be reinforced with the introduction of the International Baccalaureate. Integral thinking, a convincing personality, and relating with self-responsibility will be fostered, in that within the IB framework the subjects will be reduced to groups of academic subjects, thus greatly facilitating interdisciplinary work; that learning by discovering and self-research will be systematically built up from the early grades; and that with CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) and TOK (Theory of Knowledge) will be required and encouraged decisively for relating with responsibility and developing for a strong personality.