By Fernando Macías Aranda, REYN member and researcher at Roma Studies Group / CEA Research Center – University of Barcelona.
Schools as Learning Communities is a project based on a set of Successful Educational Actions aimed at social and educational transformation. The project, which began in compulsory education in 1995, has at present more than 190 Schools as Learning Communities in Spain, and 160 in Central and South America. There are Schools as Learning Community from different educational levels (primary schools, secondary schools, adult schools, etc.) and in different contexts (depraved areas, urban areas, rural areas, middle-class and upper-class neighbourhoods, etc.).
This educational model takes into account the international scientific theories about learning process, which highlight two key factors: the interactions and the community involvement. Actually, the Successful Educational Actions (INCLUD-ED Consortium, 2009) has been identified and studied under the Sixth Framework Programme’s Research of the European Union “INCLUD-ED: Strategies for inclusion and social cohesion in Europe from Education” (CREA Research Center, 2006-2011). The Successful Educational Actions are the most effective educational practices and actions to improve the student’s learning and also to solve the conflicts and improve the relationships.
The International Scientific Community has already demonstrated that the students learning not only depend of the interactions between teachers and students, because the students also learn beyond the classroom: in their houses, in the streets, by Internet, etc. Considering that, one of the common factors of the Successful Educational Actions is the involvement of all persons who directly or indirectly influence in the learning and development of the students: teachers, family members, friends, neighbours, members of associations, neighbourhood organizations and local volunteers, among others.
This community involvement or family participation is one of the success’s key of these schools, which are being a real opportunity to Educational Inclusion to vulnerable groups in general and Roma people in particular. This family participation goes beyond going to school to participate only on informative or cultural activities. In the School as Learning Communities, the Roma families participate in the learning of their children inside the classrooms; they participate in the School’s decision-making process; they participate in programs to improve their own knowledge and abilities; and they also participate in evaluation activities of the School results and outcomes. In summary, the Roma families have both voice and choice in these schools, because their participation is decisive, evaluative and educative.
There are many Schools as Learning Communities in Spain which give us evidences about the educational success of Roma students thanks to this kind of family participation. In one of the poorest areas of Spain and Europe, “La Milagrosa” Neighbourhood, has a School as a Learning Community from 2007: “La Paz” School. Before this year, no one in the neighbourhood was obtained the Secondary Education Certificate. Nowadays, we can talk about the second promotion of students who have achieved it, and most of them are continuing in post-secondary studies. Besides this, this area was famous for the conflicts between neighbours and teachers. Now, the families not only are participating in the school; they are improving their social and employment conditions thanks to the educational family programs of the school.
“La Paz” School’s transformation has been explained in the article “Turning difficulties into possibilities: engaging Roma families and students in school through dialogic learning”, published in the Cambridge Journal of Education, and which has been selected as the 2013 Best Paper Prize by Cambridge for collect the social impact of this experience.
The educational success of Roma students and their families is a reality in the Schools as Learning Communities, because these schools are counting on them, without prejudices and with the highest learning’s expectations. Because the teachers and other educational professionals know that they cannot achieve this success without the community. And because now, the Roma families feel that these schools want the best for their children, coming true their dreams.
AUTHOR CONTACT INFORMATION
FERNANDO MACÍAS ARANDA
Roma Studies Group / CREA Research Center
University of Barcelona
Edifici de Llevant – Campus de Mundet
Passeig de la Vall d’Hebron, 171
CREA Research Center – University of Barcelona (2006-2011). INCLUD-ED. Strategies for inclusion and social cohesion from education in Europe. Brussels: INTEGRATED PROJECT. Priority 7 of Sixth Framework. European Commission.
INCLUD-ED Consortium. (2009). Actions for success in schools in Europe. Brussels: European Commission.
School as Learning Communities’ Website: http://utopiadream.info/ca/
Flecha, R., & Soler. M. (2013). Turning difficulties into possibilities: engaging Roma families and students in school through dialogic learning. Cambridge Journal of Education, 3(44), 0305-764X. doi: 10.1080/0305764X.2013.819068. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0305764X.2013.819068#.VOxm-_mG_A9
All the pictures used here were obtained from the public video “Colegio Público La Paz (Albacete)” (SM, 2013) retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT_xcy9oVOg