On the Future of Learning and Progressive Education

Students, teachers, and parents continue to fight for school reforms in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. Last week, they organized a networked simultaneous strike in Sao Paulo, Mexico City, La Paz, Santiago, Bogota, Lima, Santo Domingo, and Buenos Aires, in which millions of people occupied both physical and virtual public spaces. Their voices, in official and indigenous languages, are resonating across local and national governments, and reverberating in alternative and mainstream media. The latest demand of the transnational school reform movement is the transformation of abandoned shopping center buildings into inclusive spaces of learning, experimentation, and making.

The transnational school reform movement has been at the avant-garde of  more relational, sustainable, and communal ways of living. During the past decades, the movement has been able to push several progressive policies in order to make education and learning more equitable. In the Latin American context, particularly, they have  been able to interconnect the struggles of multiple actors and communities that until recently remained separate. Leveraging digital tools and networks, in all their sizes, power capacities, and qualities, indigenous, women, afro-descendants, and mestizo populations, with the help of private and public organizations, have built a decentralized autonomous movement that keeps inspiring solidarity across the region. Their major achievement has been to prove that their ancestral indigenous worldviews and languages can be used for expanding learning opportunities, and exploring other modes of non-exploitative relations in the planet Earth.

Languages such as Aymara, Quechua, Tupi-Guarani, Zapoteca, and Waruunaiki, for instance, have become accessible to wider populations thanks to the use of artificial intelligent and natural language processing tools. Their wider accessibility has helped redefine some of the values and ontologies of western civilization that for many years dominated the region. They have empowered youth of all races and genders to start imagining and practicing sustainable futures that rely in cooperative forms of living and recognize the interdependence  between all human, non-human beings, machines, and nature. Social and community projects that value the coexistence of multiple worlds, and support radical equality have emerged in rural and urban areas across Latin America. Once ancestral knowledge became more accessible to a wider population, it was quickly adopted not only by the school reform movement, but also by scientists and entrepreneurs experimenting with alternative and ecological modes of development and growth.

It was precisely within the educational sector where indigenous languages and worldviews encountered a fertile terrain to disseminate across multiple affinity groups and communities of practice. Progressive teachers, parents, and students groups had spent decades building networks of solidarity, adopting new technologies, and pushing for the dismantling of a more than a century old industrial educational system. For several years, they had tried innovative pedagogies based on situated learning, discovery, inquiry, interdependence, and radical participation, and have adopted digital tools and networks to transform formal and informal learning environments. Progressive educators and learners had leveraged the networked communication environment for supporting collaboration, peer learning, and building transnational networks of support. They were, for instance, the first in appropriating social media for educational purposes, and engaging in learning at scale, creating and taking Massive Online Open Courses. These groups, as part of the school reform movement in Latin America, were open to establish bridges and create communicating vessels with ancestral worldviews and languages when their revitalization became more visible in their countries. The school reform movement found in the ancestral indigenous worldviews and languages a source of energy for promoting and implementing radical pedagogies. Using technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality for translating and disseminating ancestral knowledge, the movement was able to incorporate them in their struggle, and leveraged them in order to foster inclusion, collaboration, diversity, co-design, and the respect and understanding of multiple worlds.

Achieving equal access to opportunity has been an engine for social, cultural, and technological transformation. First, in terms of access to education, and later extended to economic, cultural, and political participation, the school reform movement has embraced this goal in order to lead multiple transformations. Teachers, students, scientists, and technologists, for instance, have co-designed and deployed socio-technical systems of support that promote formal and informal learning for all, across contexts, and intergenerationally, boosting the levels of educational achievement and employment among youths and adults. Leveraging mobile devices, digital networks, intelligent tutors, and digital fabrication, students have been able to connect with economic and academic sectors and to collaborate in the solution of community problems. Moreover, the development of a decentralized credential system for managing educational certifications and credentials on a blockchain has dynamized the workforce, diversifying it, and opening multiple paths of opportunity to everybody regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, and age.  

The transition to a culture of lifelong learning and opportunity in which anyone can participate, in any language, and with any knowledge, is helping to create the conditions for disassembling the structures of exploitation, destruction, and inequality that for centuries were imposed in the Latin American region. As vast sectors of the population that remained excluded and marginalized encountered opportunities to participate, express their creativity, and develop their local knowledge(s), multiple spaces of collaboration are emerging across urban and rural territories. This spaces are transforming old factories, libraries, parks, and other public and private infrastructures, into laboratories of communal living and social innovation that foster relations of reciprocity, and facilitate creative and autonomous exchanges. It is precisely in this learning laboratories where new tools and systems that are respectful of the Earth, ancestral worldviews, and life cycles are being co-designed by youths and adults. This spaces prove that is possible to build in societies where many worlds fit, and where the the “Buen Vivir” (well-being) is nurtured in an ecological, relational, and non-hierarchical manner. Although the transitional pathways to new societies might be long, irregular and serendipitous, we are imagining, designing, and making them in cooperation with a network of humans and non-humans, and in harmony with the “Pacha Mama” (mother Earth).   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *