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The transmission of knowledge within the school setting has been a question of communication of the subject through disciplinary objectives. Teacher-led teaching is still most common.

New Pedagogical Models

However, pedagogical models have evolved considerably – especially in pre-school and primary school. In this teacher-led teaching; the teacher stands in front of the students and it is he who transmits knowledge and directs the activity. This pedagogical model came from an age when people believed that the student “receives” knowledge from the teacher’s lesson. If that were the case, distance education would have been beneficial. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), teaching is not limited to a presentation.

On the contrary, it is, first of all, delicate alchemy that allows the learner to develop skills of great value and more difficult to quantify. Still, its simple evocation makes it possible to understand its limits and consequently the difficulty in which the school finds itself when it no longer allows – in this case, because of a health crisis – a meeting between the teacher and his apprentices or students.

The fundamental question that arises is, therefore, the nature of knowledge. Should we continue to consider the subject as the center of learning here and there, a few touches of awareness of soft skills, or should we now place greater hope in teaching soft skills and using the subjects as a pretext for these new acquisitions?


Switzerland is a mountainous Central European country, home to numerous lakes, villages, and the high peaks of the Alps. (Population 2019: 8.545 million)

The study plan in French-speaking Switzerland focuses on traditional subjects while general education and transverse capacities gather to form an arrow that symbolizes the student’s overall curriculum.

Figure from the Plan d’études romand [1]

Collaboration, communication, creative thinking, reflective practice

The objectives related to transverse capacities (collaboration, communication, learning strategies, creative thinking, reflective practice) seem pretty clear to form a body of skills that will allow students to integrate effectively into a transformed society. Once again, the disciplines must not disappear. On the contrary, they should be included in the service of the acquisition of transversal capacities. General education (information and communication technologies, health and well-being, personal choices and projects, living together and exercising democracy, interdependencies social, economic, and environmental) for its part also remains quite fundamental. It should be the exercise ground for acquisitions made in the field of transversal capacities by disciplinary areas.

The didactics of the disciplines now incorporate the idea that a learning sequence is not necessarily articulated around a teacher’s presentation but can also be organized, for example, around situations where the students construct their knowledge and skills. These activities take more time than the so-called frontal teaching, which remains a succession of exercises and corrections to reinforce a notion. They are often less practiced in favor of “the advance in the program,” which does not want to say that learning is more in-depth. In recent years, several initiatives have thus been born – sometimes viewed negatively by the world of education. These new initiatives propose parallel sequences and contribute in a very relevant way to the exercise of fundamental skills. These basic skills are called transversal capacities. This transversal capacity is just one example. We can find that organizations help students develop critical entrepreneurial skills and mindsets to turn creative ideas into entrepreneurial actions. These are undoubtedly vital skills for all young people, supporting personal development, active citizenship, social inclusion, and employability.

Entrepreneurship is not a regular part of educational circles. This kind of initiative has often been considered as an attempt to intrude the economy into the school. Today, none defends the idea that a school is a closed unit that is sufficient in itself and which alone is authorized to define the outline of the “finished product.” Education can no longer afford to keep at a distance what ultimately constitutes the labor market, which will allow the integration (for the vast majority) of students following their schooling into the society of tomorrow.

Taboos in the Didacicts

I push the line on purpose, but I defend the idea that we now should lift these taboos. On the one hand, didactics and, perhaps above all, interdisciplinary sequences must turn to teach focused on transverse capacities. For example, it is necessary to put aside specific specialized knowledge but in favor of ambitious skills that will have been acquired and developed in innovative situations. This new requirement made essential by the radical changes induced on Industry 4 that we are experiencing will undoubtedly be accompanied by “stratospheric” changes in the assessment of student work. Never mind. A reform of the evaluation of student work and thereby a new questioning of the values ​​that public schools must convey and the role of the teacher will be beneficial.

The effects of the digital revolution on jobs are not yet well known, and venturing into this area is still a matter of prediction. What is certain is that the worker will quickly have to reinvent himself and learn how to bounce back to insert himself into another context; this skill will be the source of its success. We have to forget the idea of a linear career that started in one company and end in the same company after more than 40 years of loyal service. Therefore, it is useless to base an apprenticeship on the only acquisition of a subject and a knowledge, which we know – by the way – that they can quite easily be found anytime on the web. Allowing an individual to understand how to bounce back throughout his life will require a much stronger consideration and much more developed teaching of skills, interpersonal skills, and soft skills. Each course must put at the center of its practice no longer the subject itself (this reasoning has its limits for specializations at the tertiary level), but skills with high added value on the labor market or simply in the context of integration into society. Knowing how to manage your emotions, lead a group, manage conflicts, understand uncertainty, learn to learn independently, etc., so many skills are essential skills. The list of which is by far not exhaustive, that everyone will be able to reinvest in a society where flexibility and the unknown will irremediably be the two primary development components.


[1] https://www.plandetudes.ch/per

Lucubrate Magazine July 2021

The picture on the top of the article: Adobe Stock

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Laurent Feuz
Laurent Feuz

Vocational education and training (VET) policy expert at FeuzConsult (www.FeuzConsulz.ch) focused on innovative training strategies.

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