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Inspiring Best Practice 19 September Sep 2017 1059 19 September 2017

From tablets to Feng Shui classrooms and the abolition of teachers’ desks: presenting Italy’s top five schools

Five high schools have made it through Ashoka’s international selection process and now form part of the global network of “changemaker schools”

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The Istituto Ettore Majorana in Brindisi, the Istituto Comprensivo San Giorgio in Mantua, the UWC Adriatic in Duino (Trieste), the Città Pestalozzi school in Florence, and the Liceo Attilio Bertolucci in Parma. These are Italy’s five best schools; those that have made it through the tough international selections process of the global network of “changemaker schools” set up by Ashoka, the non-profit organisation that pools together the world's leading social entrepreneurs. Five institutes of excellence - four public and one private - that have distinguished themselves for their vocation for change and digitalisation, for their innovative teaching methods, and for their creativity. The schools will be rewarded on Saturday, 16 September, in Milan, and will be included in Ashoka’s ranking of the 200 most innovative schools, situated in over 30 countries worldwide.

These are Italy’s five best schools; those that have made it into Ashoka’s global network of “changemaker schools”.

“The over 500 Ashoka Fellows involved at an international level in the field of education show how important it is to transmit the value of empathy from an early age, to encourage students to participate in teamwork and shared leadership, and to put them at the centre of education, helping them to be - and to view themselves as being - an active part of the change. This is why we felt it was strategically important to launch the Changemaker Schools programme in Italy,” explained Alessandro Valera, director of Ashoka Italy. “It took two years of hard work to identify these five institutes of excellence. The next goal will be to make their good practices go viral”. The five schools are set to become the new ambassadors of change, in an attempt to bring other schools and Italy’s policy makers round to their way of thinking.

The institutes were selected in the wake of a mapping process that began in 2015, adopting a snowball analysis technique based on interviews carried out in 200 institutes reported up and down the country for their innovative capacity. Interviews with school directors, teachers and families who strive to change the school system on a daily basis, working from the bottom up, amidst a thousand difficulties.

To understand how these five schools work, we have to set aside traditional educational methods. Conventional lessons with the teacher standing at the front of the class are abandoned in favour of debates and peer education. Text and exercise books make way for tablets and other technological devices. The Istituto Ettore Majorana in Brindisi, the first school to use the Oculus Rift virtual reality system, has even gone so far as to abolish the teacher’s desk. The Liceo Attilio Bertolucci in Parma offers extracurricular activities such as a fab lab, 3D printing, coding, and also a school vegetable garden. The Istituto Comprensivo San Giorgio in Mantua even has a Feng Shui classroom, purposely designed by an architect. Because you can’t have education without wellness and innovation.

Conventional lessons with the teacher standing at the front of the class are abandoned in favour of debates and peer education. Text and exercise books make way for tablets and other technological devices.

And then there’s the schools’ cross-national outlook. Students in Mantua can take part in an Erasmus programme in middle school, and in Parma in high school. Also, more than 180 students from 80 different countries live and study together at the UWC Adriatic in Duino (the only private school out of the five).

This international vocation will help these institutes in their future as changemaker schools. The establishments will be put in contact with other schools selected abroad, with a view to sharing ideas and good practices. Thus, they will become the bearers of change in Italy, in an attempt to influence headmasters, teachers and also politicians. “Ashoka sets out to create a network of changemaker schools, promoting innovation and contributing to a fundamental change in the educational system,” explained Lorenzo Newman, Education Manager at Ashoka Italy and coordinator of the project. “The aim is to work from the bottom, so as to create a new educational paradigm in our country with the involvement of every stakeholder, from families to national institutions”.