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By Educate Magis
Apr 17th, 2019

In this interview, the Education Delegate of Ecuador, Fr. Fabricio Alaña E. SJ, Mg. shares the steps that schools in Ecuador have taken to implement their Innovation Plans. In addition, he explains the importance and challenges that may arise during the creation and implementation of an innovation plan in Jesuit schools. The interview closes with a motivating message for those schools that are in the process of discerning their path to innovation.

The Delegates commit to engaging a process of Ignatian discernment that will lead to a plan of innovation for each school and a periodic review that corresponds to the local context and our tradition.” Action #4. Action Statement – JESEDU-Rio2017

1. For schools that are just beginning to work on this topic, could you tell us what are the first steps you have took in the schools in Ecuador (or in one specific school) to implement an innovation plan?

Thanks to the contact we had with the sisters of Nazareth from the Monserrat school in Barcelona, Spain, through the director of Fe y Alegría, since they have one of their centers in Quito.

As Education Delegate, I was lucky enough to talk with them and to send our pedagogical adviser from the network office to a seminar that Sister Monserrat gave at the Catholic University of Quito on the subject of innovation. Then we met with their team to deepen what they were doing in terms of educational innovation and how it differed from what the Catalan Jesuits are doing with the Horizon 2020  project which was interesting as the Horizon 2020 project is 10 years old and the one that Sister Monserrat is involved with has been running for over 20 years and above all has been interested in getting to know and understand the proposal of the Harvard Project Zero as well as the Harvard Institute of Neurosciences. Which is why they decided to study H. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences further. From there they have been innovating and consolidating the educational proposal that they are promoting around the world.

To finish our conversations, they invited the Jesuits of Ecuador, the Schools Network and me, as Education Delegate, to visit their educational centers in Barcelona, Spain to participate in a week-long seminar where they explained the essential components of their innovative proposal. For this, I convened an assembly of school principals along with the provincial and the education office and we began to discern the need to get to know the proposal of both the sisters of Nazareth and the Catalan Jesuits, since both were in the same city. Along with the financial support from the CRISFE foundation of the companies of the Pichincha group of Ecuador, we made the necessary arrangements for this trip to Spain in 2015.

We went, we saw, we were convinced and we committed ourselves to accept the training package that the sisters of Nazareth offered us (to transform an educational center in three years). We accepted it since the Catalan Jesuits did not have a similar offer. From there we set up a project to strengthen the educational proposal of the Ignatian network of Ecuador for three years with three major components:

  1. Innovative pedagogical curriculum, where the fundamental structure was to train our 700 teachers in three years in three modules in each school as well as the school leaders. As we trained, we were also implementing.
  2. Guarantee the Quality and Spirituality of our educational tradition that now opens up to the world of innovation. To do this, we assume that all Jesuit schools enter to train and implement the school quality management system of FLACSI. We created a training plan in: Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality with three modules 1. Ignatian vision of God, of the World and of Man 2. Ignatian accompaniment 3. The practices of innovative pedagogy and Ignatian Pedagogy.
  3. Institutional strengthening of our school leadership teams. Look for a management model which focuses on innovation.

This project has a total cost of two million dollars, of which 70% is covered by the CRISFE foundation and 30% is covered by the Jesuit education network in Ecuador.

We have worked at a network level and at the level of each individual school to specify, to contextualize all this training, and to create our own innovation project which we have called INNOVATION XXI CENTURY. From there each educational institute prioritizes, deepens and develops its own project, its own road map. We are working to evaluate the work being done in each educational institute unit as well as in the educational network, RUEI, to make the project sustainable after the 3 years of training.

For this reason, we have asked for input from other advisors such as Xavier Aragay (Reimagination Lab Education) and with them we have seen the need to differentiate between advanced experiences of change and transversal experiences. The advanced experiences of change are understood as those that are made, simultaneously and systematically, the 4 transformations at the same time:

  1. Methodological, curricular and evaluation transformation.
  2. The new role of the teacher and the student.
  3. Institutional organization.
  4. New learning spaces.

2. What do you think is the most important thing for schools to keep in mind when they begin to create an innovation plan?

From my experience, as Principal and as Education Delegate, it is the same thing that is asked of any businessman, apostle of Jesus Christ: To be a dreamer where he has the horizon to follow. Transmit this to your management team and empower them in this dream. I learned this from St. Ignatius of Loyola when he sent St. Francis Javier to the Far East [go and conquer this world for Christ, you will see how to do it but do it now, dare to take the first step]. I also learned from the Jesuits of the missions of Paraguay like San Roque Gonzales who, in order to evangelize the Guarani Indians and speak to them about human dignity because they were sons of God, cultivated the arts. This is why we have the music, painting and architecture of that time, recognized by the great historians today. Likewise, and simultaneously they knew how to organize the arts in their way of living and in their mode of production. For that reason, they came to have what was called the Republic of the Jesuits of Paraguay which provoked the envy and persecution of those who held power. Innovation is therefore synonymous with creativity and courage.

3. What do you think is the biggest challenge in creating or implementing an innovation plan?

The change of mentality, the unlearning and leaving the comfort zone in which many school leaders and teachers find themselves.

4. Why do you think it is important for Jesuit schools around the world to work on the topic of innovation?

Because faced with a world of globalization and technology we can either innovate or sink.

5. Do you have any message you would like to share with schools who are in the process of discerning their path towards innovation?

The same message that Fr. Arturo Sosa gave us when he assumed his role as our Father General: “let us dare to embrace the audacity of the impossible, not only of the probable”. The same thing that he told us in Rio de Janeiro, the root of innovation is in our Ignatian tradition. It is not foolish or crazy, but meaningful thanks to research, systematization of good practices and the creation of professional learning communities that we must turn into APOSTOLIC LEARNING COMMUNITIES. Because as Father Rivadeneira, Ignatius of Loyola’s education delegate pointed out, the future of humanity is in the education of our youth. To which I usually say: “Humanity only has a future if we remain young in thinking, creative, disruptive and productive”.

What do you think about this interview? If you would like to share you experiences please share them in the comment´s section below. Thanks