Tried, inclusive education
A conductive school for all
The latest version (February 2016) of the 'educational concept' of Fortchritt Rosenheim's private inclusive school at Oberaudorf-Inntal came on line last week:
This document describes the underlying philosophical and ethical principles behind a school that seems to manifest successful synthesis of conductive tradition with expressed Western liberal-educational values. It offers vital demonstration that such synthesis can be realised in practice. This may not be the only such synthesis to have been arrived at around the world but I am not aware of another so well and publicly articulated.
The original document is in German. This important educational concept should be more widely accessible so, as well as I can understand it, for English-speakers at least, this is what it says –
This page shows in brief the essential elements of the school's concept.
This concept is being developed further on a regular basis.
The image of man
We are guided by the humanistic image of man, that all men are equal and learn from each other. In neither objectives nor methods do we distinguish specifically between children with disabilities and those without. Each child is considered a valuable human being with skills that need strengthening.
The aim of our pedagogy is furtherance of independence for learning in everyday life. This is realised by self-determination, and by acting and learning cooperatively within open learning. Skills learned are implemented consistently in everyday life, even if this is time-consuming. The pedagogues help as much as necessary, but as little as possible.
Other cardinal objectives are permanently to receive the joy of learning and to further individual talents.
Building blocks of pedagogy
Education – Movement – Encounter
These three elements are closely linked – the children move while learning and learn with movement. They meet their diverse classmates and people from the community. They learn openness and self-confidence.
The school operates throughout the day. Morning and afternoon activities are conceptually related. Lessons and programmes with different focal points (motor skills, cognition, leisure, self-care, etc.) alternate within the daily routine. This model ensures continuity, for staff, pupils and spaces for groups, and allows a meaningful rhythm to the day. Concentration and relaxation, rest and exercise, 'top-heavy' and hands-on learning, teaching and fun, form a perfect balance.
We say farewell to the illusion of homogeneous groups: the differences in development in so-called 'homogeneous' year classes may be up to three years, and we have no diagnostic instrument that reliably predict school-readiness. We make this difference in learning fruitful and have learning groups mixed by years throughout the primary-school stage (school years 1 – 4).
Inclusion – diversity as opportunity
The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities came into force in Germany on 26 March 2009.The convention specifically addresses the enforcement of universal human rights, not the introduction of special rights for the disabled. It encourages conversion to an inclusive society.
ALL CHILDREN ARE DIFFERENT: diversity is enriching – not a hindrance.
Orientation towards potential, and furthering talent
Everyone benefits from individual classes. Talented children especially often have difficulties with a fixed, predetermined pace and an equally rigid learning content. Children who are bored because they can already read when they start school or who have special skills expected of them, will not be with us! We support the joy of learning, bring the children together and teach them all in a way oriented towards potential. Special interests and talents can be deepened, even if this goes beyond the sum of curriculum content.
Pető's Conductive Education
Our educational concept is based on Pető's conductive upbringing. The Hungarian physician and pedagogue Prof. A. Pető founded 'Conductive Education' about sixty years ago. Originally developed for children with cerebral palsy (brain damage), its scope has been successfully expanded.
This holistic approach is good for all children.
For the first time, we offer Conductive Education for all, including among other things the following elements:
holistic approach, practical orientation, furthering independence and self-determination
simultaneous furtherance of motor, cognitive and social skills
learning in movement
healthy and regular exercise, consistent motor upbringing
daily physical education with sports scientists
additional sports projects (skiing, climbing, swimming, horseback riding)
correct seating (back-friendly, loose pillows, custom seating
living and learning in movement
Time and space for exercise and physical activity are an essential part of the daily routine. A sports scientist and conductors lead daily inclusive physical education. Movement and self-activity are provided in all learning situations.
Different kinds of services (project outcomes, portfolios, group work, among others) are recognised as equivalent. The learning pathways and their results are documented on suitable forms (for example, logs, learning diaries, portfolios). In this way grading will be avoided. Rather, performance-evaluation is based on each individual child's own performance.
Children who want to transfer to a grammar or technical school after the fourth grade, can do so – as long as no state approval is required – after passing the sample lesson. Their preparation is versitile and intense. The learning content is known to everyone, because the entire teaching is based upon the Bavarian curriculum.
State recognition will be possible at the earliest after five years of successful operation, which will be in the school year 2018/19. We shall decide in the fourth year of operation, according to educational criteria, whether we shall apply for this national recognition.
Reading the above it is hard not to feel the wind in the sails. I remember that lovely feeling.
A major step for Conductive Education
I have followed Fortschritt Rosenheim's development from afar for some years now, and went to its excellent Petö und Inklusion congress in 2012. I do not think that I have too rosy a view of what it is doing and its implications.
Aspects of this Geman school's liberal-educational philosophy will be familiar to many in the English-speaking sphere who recall the world as it was in many countries before the heavy hand of centralised control – repression even – responded to pedagogic excitement and advance by preventing it. In the nineteen-eighties education in England was still sufficiently free to permit grass-roots hope and optimistic starts with a view to transforming the bigger picture of public education. It was in this spirit that thirty years ago the movement to internationalise Conductive Education began. It looks like Germany has managed to maintain an educational and political culture sufficiently at ease with itself still to allow variability and initiative. Without possibility of permitting individual discretion in educational philosophy and practice, it is hard to see the possibility of such imaginative and well-placed conductive projects.
The message from Fortschritt Rosenheim's private school is particularly strong because its 'concept' is not just an idea, a pipe dream. This school is actually up and running and has already extended up from primary into secondary school. When the Bavarian regulations permit the Fortschritt to consider closer incorporation into the state's education system, it will then decide itself what to do in its own time, according to its own educational philosophy.
In societies that are too repressive to permit such educational initiative, too educationally nsecure, and too strapped for cash, what are advocates of Conductive Education to do about it? What will happen if one does nothing? Where is it headed? What are the possibilities for the future?
Whatever happens in the future in Germany or elsewhere, the private inclusive school at Oberaudorf-Inntal has secured its place as a milestone in the history of Conductive Education.
Private Schulen Oberaudorf-Inntal (2016) Konzept, Rosenheim, FortSchritt Rosenheim e.V.
Revising history (a footnote)
A couple of historical quibbles arise from the document above:
- 'Originally developed for children with cerebral palsy (brain damage), its scope has been successfully expanded.' Not so – quite to the contrary.
- 'Prof A. Pető founded Conductive Education about sixty years ago.' Not so – the foundations of what we presently know as Conductive Education had already come together by the late nineteen-forties, and he was not a professor as we nowadays understand the term.