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Another kind of school : An education of happiness explained by Antonella Verdiani
an article by Marie PÔris, Terrafemina

Antonella Verdiani, PhD in Education, will be signing her book "These schools make our children happy ," in bookstores on September 26th. The book describes "pedagogies and methods to educate joy"which she has observed in France and around the world, including at UNESCO which is responsible for education issues in the UN System. The book provides details and arguments to explain the various alternative pedagogies and their values.

click on photo to enlarge

Our conversation.

Terrafemina : What can be criticized in the traditional French education system ?

Antonella Verdiani : First , it is far too rigid. The various subjects seem unrelated to each other ... And learning by heart is the center of the system , without giving children the opportunity to express themselves. Discipline, by itself, is useless ; if one is to advance, discipline should be joyful. The Italian system for example, that I experienced as a child is much more based on oral instead of written instruction ; in philosophy, all courses were conducted orally.

TF : How can one imagine school evaluation without tests ?
A. V : Traditional schooling is based on competition which requires testing. With testing, we forget cooperation. It's like capitalism. Instead of this, if we use the method of Free Progress, the children evaluate themselves, which is much more positive.

TF : In various alternative schools that you mention in your book , what are the educational elements that "make children happy"?
A. V: First, the child is placed at the heart of education, and everything is based on freedom, not only freedom for children to express themselves orally, but also physically ; it is not required for them to be seated, for example. These methods also give importance to the body there is a balance between the mental and physical development. Without addressing religion, these alternative pedagogies are open to the existential dimension of life; we should not be afraid to address the issue of death, for example, faced with a child who loses a loved one. A place is given to emotions, unlike traditional school where the child must not cry or laugh too much.

TF : What personal experience do you have of the school, as a former student and mother?
A. V : As for me I went to school in Italy, which was already much influenced by the Montessori system. When I had children, I had the opportunity to see different methods through their choice of schools : my first child went to a public school in Paris, the second to a new school functioning similar to the Freinet system, and the third to the alternative school Brockwood Park in England.

TF : In your opinion, how do you see the future of the alternative education systems that currently exist ?
A. V: We're at the beginning, but there are already a lot of experiences that take place in the field of alternative pedagogies, and also at the university. The problem may be that these initiatives are too isolated.

TF : How do you see the future of the school in France ?
A. V: I hope that the school reform now being instituted by the government will move in that direction ... I'm confident of this since there are some representatives of alternative schools among the experts who reflect on the reform. We'll see what comes of it ...

"These schools make our children happy ," Antonella Verdiani , Actes Sud - Domaine du possible 22 euros.

(Click here for a French version of this article)


Question(s) related to this article:

What is the best way to teach peace to children?,

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Maria Montessori believed that peace was innate within children. Her timeless educational philosophy was developed around this basic understanding. Perhaps all we need to do as teachers is to provide stimulating learning environments that validate this knowing and understanding and nurture it. We may not have to actually teach it,  Sharing peace-building stories gently attends to this. Strong, creative and imaginative peace-building characters who focus upon win-win and have faith in peace being possible are at the centre of the story plots. In Hassaun Ali-Jones Bey's (Boundless Gratitude ) unique and mesmerising story, Black Ink is such a character who bravely crosses the universe seeking validation of what he knows in his heart. The magical character also models all the important peace-building values, understandings and actions needed for peace-building. I believe also that peace-building must be modelled and the whole teaching-learning environment should reflect similar values, understandings and is the primary focus of the Save the Children Australia UN Global Peace School Program upon which I am presently fortunate to be working. . ...more.

This report was posted on May 2, 2014.