“The root of the problem is in one place: the deseducation system”

In the 39th episode of the Isto Não é Pera Doce podcast, we welcome Professor José Pacheco and psychopedagogue Ludmila Duarte Pereira

“The root of the problem is in one place: the deseducation system”
Fígura de ondas técnologicas azul

In the 39th episode of Isto Não é Pera Doce podcast, we welcome Professor José Pacheco and psycho-pedagogue Ludmila Duarte Pereira. The name José Pacheco will certainly be familiar to anyone who is at all interested in the field of education. As an educational designer, he is an inescapable reference, having coordinated the "Fazer a Ponte" project - from 1976 to 2004 - which eventually had an impact beyond borders. Ludmila Duarte Pereira, psycho-pedagogue, lecturer and educational consultant, is a Brazilian educator who coaches teachers in public and state schools using the methodology of Professor José Pacheco.

They both believe that children and young people should be protagonists in the learning process, pursuing the dream of exploring new educational possibilities. What are the weaknesses of the current education system? Which model do our guests prefer? Watch this surprising conversation in full:

An illiterate system 

Thinking about an education system means thinking about the learning process, a journey designed by teachers, educators, headmasters and pedagogical coordinators to promote student success, starting from the earliest years, with pre-school. It will therefore be a continuous journey that will ideally prepare the child to enter higher education. However, one of the most frequently asked questions is whether the school is actually offering the right educational project, taking into account technological advances. 

For José Pacheco, there is only one answer. The system is not educational. Recalling his experiences as a teacher, José Pacheco recalls the experiences of the colleagues he worked with, who already reflected what he sees as the problem with the current education system: a snowball that has been building since the first steps of children's learning.

When I was at university, I'd hear my classmates, my teachers, say that they were ill-prepared, that secondary school hadn't done anything for them. And we'd ask why. "Secondary school doesn't work". When I worked in secondary schools, I heard my colleagues say: "The problem is basic education, they come ill-prepared". When I was in primary classrooms, I'd hear them say, "They come from home, very poorly educated, very poorly prepared". [...] The root of the problem lies in only one place: the education system. I don't call it the education system, it's the de-education system.

Hierarchy, authoritarianism, moral corruption and a lack of ethics are some of the characteristics that José Pacheco identifies in the current education system. He uses a practical example to explain why:

When a teacher gives a test - which assesses absolutely nothing in cognitive terms, it assesses the ability to retain information in short-term memory, to vomit and forget that you haven't learnt, a test doesn't tell you what you've learnt - a teacher who is in a classroom on a test day is there on the assumption that those students are potentially dishonest. He's there to monitor, to prevent them from cheating. In other words, he is transmitting values, because a teacher doesn't teach what he says, he transmits what he is. He transmits values of disloyalty, lies, falsehood and corruption. This is what happens every day in the classrooms of this country. Bad education, ideological falsehood, everything else.

According to José Pacheco, a test does not evaluate anything. According to the law, he says, evaluation must be formative, continuous and systematic. A test is the opposite, he says, contributing to a system outside the law.

A test is not formative. It's not continuous, it's periodic. It's not systematic, it focuses on a piece of knowledge in a subject. In other words, schools and the system are also outside the law when it comes to assessment. I'll say it again: the system is outside the law.


«We need to rethink what we call evaluation» 

When we talk about assessment, we inevitably think of end-of-term tests or university entrance exams as primary example. Ideally, however, assessment should take place throughout a student's school career, from the first to the last lesson of the academic year. But does this really happen? For Ludmila Pereira, we need to rethink the assessment process, because what is happening now are objective assessments that encourage competition between students.  

The evaluation processes are extremely objective because they are easier to correct and are based on a model of competition rather than real evaluation. They don't evaluate, they encourage competition to see who can score the highest. This is not an evaluation process that will lead to the educational development of the students themselves. […] When you turn an educational process into a free-for-all, I already know that the colleague next to me, in front of me or behind me is my enemy. I have to eliminate people in order to have a position, and the scale of education itself thinks that higher education is for the few, so this is also a discriminatory process on a social level that is very serious.

But it's not just about testing; the very terms we use to talk about education encourage this need for change, explains Ludmila.

In fact, the very terms used in education today are terms that alienate the process of education. When I say student, I'm talking about someone who has no light, so I'm already putting them in a place of submission to the person who is going to educate them. So these are all processes that we need to think about. Our vocabulary imposes many realities. We need to rethink what we call evaluation.

Assessment can't just reflect a student's ability to retain information in short-term memory, it needs evidence that learning has been consolidated, that the knowledge imparted has been given meaning.

It's about building other tools, not just the test itself, a test. They are valid and necessary, but they are not unique and they are not qualitative. They are a reflection of a single moment. It's a photograph. When you talk about assessment, you are going to look at the journey of that child, that student, that learner - if we are going to use a more appropriate language for today - because we are all learners - from that moment on, when we have a mobile phone in our hand and we have all the information we want, we don't need anybody to tell us, we just need to have a question and we will find an answer. But we need mediation with others to make sense of that answer.  So to talk about assessment is to build evidence that shows us what skills and competences have been consolidated. It only makes sense if I find meaning in what I'm learning.

In Ludmila's words, the school is still stuck in the model of placing 21st century children - who have enormous linguistic ability and technological intelligence - behind each other. This model is unsustainable and needs to be rebuilt.

It's not possible for there to be a relationship in this process of getting to know, not even with the teacher who stands in front of us and not in a horizontal relationship with this child, because the relationship is now horizontal. I no longer need the encyclopaedic teacher. I no longer need to consume the curriculum, I need to build the curriculum.


 «They don't go to school. They are at school»

But what would this new curriculum look like? How would it work? We dismantle the concept of the lesson, the lesson, the teaching time, the curriculum plans to be fulfilled. Pupils will arrive at school and what will they find? What is waiting for them?

Schools are people. They're not buildings. So they don't come to school. They are in the school. Schools are people - this is the basic axiom of the new social construction - who can be in buildings. And what are people?  Their values.

According to José Pacheco, a new social construction requires people with values and a new vision of the world, different from the one imposed by the system. In his words, the system imposes an educational model that is outdated, obsolete and unfounded. From this point of view, we think of the school in a strong relationship with the initial university training and with the public authorities, which establish a dialogue.

When we really think like this, about a new vision of the world and society, we think about bringing together family, society and school - the state through the school. We think about linking the school with public health, the environment, art and culture. So schools are people, people are their values - in an axiological framework - where are these values? In the school projects. In other words, in the principles of action. That's why we have to combine the paradigm of teaching with the paradigm of learning, the subject of learning, in the dignity of choice, participation and meaningful, integrative learning. It's important to realise that we need to focus not on the teacher or the student, but on the quality of the relationship. We need to humanise.

In the new educational system advocated by José Pacheco and Ludmila, no one is alone, because a teacher alone in the classroom is an epistemological scandal, says José. So what can teachers do to change their practices? Ludmila explains:

I have to think about what I am doing. I can't accept the idea that science is supreme in what it brings me as knowledge or information. There's a lot of confusion between information and knowledge. When I receive information, it's not knowledge until I give it meaning. As long as it doesn't bring meaning, we are talking about attitudes, feelings and use.

José Pacheco adds: 

We have to go and find those teachers who are quiet - because it's really hard to change them - and look after them. Get parents and teachers together. Talk with headmasters. Talk with the university. Talk with the government. Get this government to agree to talk about education in parliament, because what has been talked about is something else called education.

In the new education system: 

Assessment must be aligned with learning. Assessment is inseparable from the whole learning process. Assessment is not classification. There is no need to compare people on an ordinal scale. Assessment is linked to a theoretical and moral framework, etc. What we are proposing is a different kind of education, one that goes beyond what the Escola da Ponte has achieved.


People don't fall asleep one day in a totalitarian regime and wake up the next in a democratic one. That we should take care to democratise education and transform the educational system, because otherwise the school will remain a cradle of totalitarian temptations and petty dictatorships.

Watch the full episode on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes or Google Podcasts.



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