“The medium is the message”. This is the most famous quote by the philosopher, professor and Canadian theorist, Marshall McLuhan. This erudite is commonly studied at Journalism and Communication schools. One decade later, however, we need more than our memory to remember his most famous aphorism. Perhaps, after so many exams, it would have been hard to remember even one month later. Luckily, mobile devices and the Internet make it easier to remember.
“Until recently, you had to look it up in a book”.
With this example for his interlocutor, Luis de Lezama seeks to elucidate what happens with the training and educational methods used on the young today. “We are very concerned about this. We are living a brutal digital divide“, he reasons. On the one hand, he says, the old educational systems “are no longer fit for purpose“. He is referring to the type of teaching “based on books and memorising texts, on developing a person’s memory rather than their intelligence”. On the other hand, he presents a generation that is “completely different, with other ways of life and who evolve with the digital transformation”. “Today, the educational system, as is happening with the system that we have implemented in Santa María La Blanca de Montecarmelo, in Madrid, is digital. A system that has much more to do with individuals managing their knowledge and discovering, through their skills, what they are capable of doing and creating. This implies a deep evolution in the method of teaching”, he explains.
Luis de Lezama Barañano (Álava, 1936), is a priest, journalist, hotel entrepreneur and author. Committed to young people who find it difficult to adapt to their professional careers, he has always been convinced of the idea: “don’t give a man a fish, rather teach a man to fish”. It is sufficient to read his CV to find a long career in the world of training and employment. He is also the president of Eurodhip and the alma mater of Grupo Lezama, which bears his surname, and that manages restaurants, hotels, catering schools and even a business incubator. Luis de Lezama is also the president of the Santa María La Blanca School – linked to the Iruaritz-Lezama Foundation -, that he established in 2009, which offers an innovative educational project (EBI) based on ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and that has been acknowledged in the PISA report.
“Andreas Schleicher, the director of Pisa for Schools, has just published a book and says that, indeed, after all these analyses and external assessments, Finland, Singapore and Santa Maria La Blanca are the three best systems. And, Andreas says that he cannot understand why some people in Spain go to Finland to copy the system when they have it in Madrid“, he explains. Through the EBI project, and his innovation team headed by Arantxa Garay-Gordovil, they have reached a collaboration agreement with the Central Washington University (15,000 students) to exchange teachers and students. They are also cooperating to implement the style of this innovative system there.
“United States is a jumble”
– Right now, you are in Rovinj (Croatia), with a beautiful sunset over the Adriatic. You are there to attend a conference on responsible education.
– We have come to work to change the education system. It is more than just working on projects. Human memory fails. Artificial memory fails less. If you look up McLuhan, Google not only tells you his most famous quote but also who he is, his biography… How am I going to educate students who only trust their memory, if there is an artificial memory out there today that is much more powerful than the natural one? Then, we cannot base the education system only on human memory but on managing knowledge, which leads you to artificial memory. Technical elements, technology enables you to manage your knowledge even better than human memory can. But it depends on human memory. Because if you didn’t have intelligence and willpower, you would not know how to turn on the computer to manage that knowledge. This is the change in the educational system.
– And not through the Government.
– In this country, they are bent on creating education laws but they do not realize that laws are no good at all. That it is systems that change education. If there are no systems, there is no change. There have been six laws, and the rules of the Ministry of Education only accumulate subjects, homework, rules but they do not awaken a feeling of personal education through knowledge management. You have to put students in a trance to be able to demonstrate their skills. These are the major problems of business schools, universities, higher education institutions… of Education.
– But they say that young people are hooked on gadgets…
– An educational model based on rules does not educate and does not generate freedom or the will to achieve something among young people. And an educational model based solely on the good use of technology works. In our classrooms at Santa María la Blanca, where there are 2,500 students this year, there are many children aged twelve and over using iPads, computers, and even their phones as if they were their personal blackboards, their notebooks, their source of research or, perhaps they are listening to music as they write a literary essay. Why would I forbid them from using a phone? It is nonsense. You can’t stem the tide. Are educators who base their systems on forbidding things crazy? When a school has to resort to rules as the means of authority, it means that the teachers have failed to earn that authority.
– You are suggesting students should specialise like in the United States.
– No, the United States is a jumble. There is good and bad education, a bit of everything. It is a Spanish cliché. Things are not good because they are done by powerful countries like the USA, but because when you assess them for what they are, even the poorest countries can have good education systems. A good education does not only depend on technology. Innovation is not about having access to WIFI and having digital displays. Innovation is in the heads of the people, of the teachers. And sometimes with less, you can do more things than with lots of means. I know private schools that are crammed with computers, electronic screens, projectors… that do not offer a new type of education, quite the opposite. They have changed the equipment, which soon becomes computer scrap. Because certain devices change from one year to another. The educational system should not depend on technology; it should depend on the innovative spirit of the people.
– So technology is necessary, but not essential.
– It is a process. But, what you have to change is the mentality. And when you change the mentality, you will start to use the appropriate tools. At the beginning, it may be a blackboard and a piece of chalk, later an iPad or computer, or whatever you have available because tomorrow there will already be something new.
– You are from Álava. What is your opinion on the level of education in the Basque Country?
– It has to evolve, it is not enough to speak three languages. Speaking three languages is not a system, it is not a method, it is a logical aspiration. To speak Basque, which, after all, is our mother tongue, as well as Spanish and English. But that is not a change toward an innovative system. You can learn three languages and still use a method based on memorising or on teachers who memorise and fail to create that key relationship with students that is all about managing their knowledge and developing their skills.
“Training and jobs”
– Grupo Lezama offers various types of training (ESAH, from the merger of SEAS Estudios Superiores Abiertos, Grupo Lezama and the Escuela de Hostelería de Sevilla, Gastronómica Internacional…) for Spanish students, students from Miami and even the thirty-two states of the Mexican Republic, the Hispanic community of the United States and countries in Central and South America. You have 30,000 students of all ages right now in your “online” school.
– It keeps growing every day, it’s uncontrollable. Because it is all over the world.
– And what about employment? It seems to be a difficult issue for young people.
-What happens is that those who are restless and are willing to work find jobs. Then, there are many others that show you their qualifications and think that is enough to become general managers. In business, you increasingly have to start at the bottom. Have you seen how the politicians are all trying to have masters’ degrees? There is nothing more ridiculous. And the same thing is happening in businesses; businessmen are already suspicious of people who submit CVs that they have not had time to accumulate. At 24, 26 or 28, there is no way you have had time to gain experience at any of those places. Permanence in a job is what provides experience. There are a lot of people going from one job to another all the time. One month here, another there. You can’t learn anything in a month anywhere.
– Sometimes they ask for that type of CV and experience before they have it.
– Those are usually companies that have capital or economic means or means for developing but lack ideas and they want others to serve them those ideas à la carte.
– And what about the conditions? They are often unstable and young people wonder whether it is worth their while to study.
– I fully agree because the growth and development processes in the world of business are still extremely capitalist. Every business needs profits to be sustainable, but some have understood an aspect that has happened quite frequently in recent years, which is quick business, that an idea can quickly produce economic capital. Therefore, many companies are fishing for ideas in the minds of young people.
– What would you say to young entrepreneurs?
– Entrepreneurship is always important but it has to be thought out and not the fruit of a brilliant idea that cannot even resist a SWOT analysis. Feasibility and opportunity and sustainability. You cannot create simply because you had a brilliant idea this morning in the shower and you want to implement it. You have to study, work, compare. And, above all, do it with a team.