Grupo SI(e)TE Educación (2021). La calidad en la educación [Quality in education] (José Antonio Jordán)
Grupo SI(e)TE Educación (2021).
La calidad en la educación [Quality in education].
Horsori. 166 pp.
In this era of standardisation and improvement in all areas of personal and collective life, it is especially necessary to discuss the topic of quality in relation to education, just like quality is demanded in the fields of health, food, communication, transportation, etc. This is even more important, if possible, when it comes to education, given that the aim is to optimise the possibilities of human development and communal living. Therefore, we are pleased to welcome a work that seriously addresses the topic of quality and offers specific proposals to education professionals. In this book, each chapter is penned by a different author, analysing important aspects of the complex structure that is quality education.
The first, signed by Professor Antonio Colom, provides a historical overview of the main authors and ideas that have undoubtedly influenced today’s conception of quality education, noting how concepts that have actually been in use for a long time often seem to be revived as if they were novelties. For example, within the New School movement, the methodological proposal by Montessori, which arose in the slums of San Lorenzo (Rome), is now “the latest pedagogical trend in the most exclusive settings of Manhattan or California”, among other places. At the end of his text, Professor Colom perceptively notes that today “Pedagogy seems to be devoid of its own model of educational quality”. Without falling into useless pessimism — because the scholarly institutions of our time do indeed fulfil their purpose and, “they apparently don’t do such a bad job” — it is also true that “the commercialisation of knowledge cannot be considered educational quality, despite what international organisations would have us think, given that a quality educational system should not focus exclusively on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), as certain generations of technocrats seem to be demanding […]. And the reason for this is quite simply that their fundamental commitment should continue to be educating with a focus on values and the moral development of people.
The second chapter, by Professor Gonzalo Vázquez, focuses on the concept of deep learning, which includes distinguishing between action and activity, noting that the former is of a prior, more profound, nature because it exceeds mere activism in learning, for example. Thus, deep learning, defined as “authentic learning of higher-order cognitive processes”, can be achieved. It also enables the learner to think for him or herself and to gradually obtain wisdom, which goes beyond mere knowledge to become the “most elaborate fruit of education”. The chapter goes on to discuss numerous other highly topical issues: the role of technology, the selection of valuable learning, the evaluation of learning from a competency perspective, etc., revealing the complexity of these times and the need to reflect on the fundamental issues of so-called quality education.
Chapter three of this book brings back an old topic of debate and updates it: the role of learning objectives in a quality educational process. With remarkable clarity, Professor Sarramona outlines the background of the debate about behavioural objectives, going so far as to precisely detail the current conception of competency objectives as the integrating feature of the trio composed of knowledge, skills and attitudes. This chapter also sheds light on a fundamental topic: justification of the proposed objectives, which is sought in more personal needs as well as in social needs. The chapter offers detailed theoretical reflections as well as practical guidance, following this author’s sensible custom.
In turn, the fourth chapter, by Professor Petra María Pérez, focuses on an aspect that is no less relevant in quality education: the “comprehensive well-being of the stu dents”, which is a key matter both for their own good and for their academic success. Her contribution mainly relies on data arising from analyses of the PISA tests. However, other equally important issues arise from the criteria argued by this author and others about the positive effects of student participation seen at diverse levels of the educational institution, given that institutionalised education aims to prepare students to actively participate in democratic, and therefore participative, society.
In his chapter, Professor Touriñán discusses the need to distinguish the concept of quality of education from other similar concepts, such as quality in education, emphasising the expert status to be given to education professionals, who are clearly involved in the educational processes, and this involvement represents an activity that is shared with the learner. The chapter outlines numerous pedagogical criteria put forward by the author in other publications, as can be seen in the bibliographical references, which converge in this text about the concept of quality.
Chapter six focuses on quality in relation to university institutions. Here, Professor Alfredo Jiménez starts with the legislative framework from the 1990s and continues to provide a detailed account up to the present time with a view to revealing initiatives and ways of putting into practice very specific proposals for improving quality at university level, focusing on the European framework that Spain is part of. In this regard, special emphasis is placed on the evaluation system in our universities, detailing regulations and aspects that are linked to this evaluation. On the whole, the author recognises that there are benefits to accreditation processes for university institutions but he warns that certain critical aspects have not yet been considered, particularly as regards teaching activities themselves, both inside and out of the classroom.
The high point of the book is found in the appendix that Professor T. R. Neira devotes to José Gaos. The text was originally presented at a conference given at the Ateneo de Gijón in early November 2020, the last academic act performed by the author before he died. The author was quite familiar with Gaos and, on this occasion, focused his attention on the concept of individuality as the basis for presenting his own views in this regard. The text is an example of Professor T. R. Neira’s unique way of expressing himself, always using quotes from relevant contemporary authors on the subject matter at hand for support, while at the same time presenting his own views clearly and in a bold manner. Here, the topic that he touched on the most was the reaffirmation of the substantially individual dimension of the person, which we know was one of his primary concerns in recent years. This text affords added value to the book by contributing one last demonstration of the strong analytical capacity and worth of Professor Teófilo Rodríguez Neira, who will always be remembered.
Besides the contents mentioned above, the book also contains an introduction expressing the authors’ desire to pay tribute to Dr. Teófilo Rodríguez Neira, who sad ly died from COVID in November 2020 and was an active member of the SI(e) TE academic group, which is composed of highly reputable professors of Spanish universities working in the field of Theory and History of Education, most of them having earned emeritus status for their age, even though they have all made numerous significant contributions to Pedagogy today. The preface offers a perfect description of the group’s motivations and characteristics, in addition to showing heartfelt appreciation for the fondly remembered Professor Teófilo, as everyone affectionately called him.
José Antonio Jordán ■