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Titolo Articolo

Holistic Education, a Conversation with Eli Eisenberg

with the mind, the arm, the heart, Part 2, by Ascensione Maria Santoro

follows the first part

We met with Eli Eisenberg in June 2018, at the EVBB (European Association of Institutes for Vocational Training), annual Conference held this year in Sofia (Bulgaria). And we had the privilege of walking through the city and sipping coffee while interviewing him.

Here it’s the second part of our conversation with him.

Titolo Articolo

Holistic Education a Conversation with Eli Eisenberg Part 2

What are the challenges for implementing this Holistic vision of the Education today?

This question is very important.

You could think that knowing each student at 360° will take a lot of time and will put excessive demands on teachers, requiring them a lot of effort, well beyond their time constraints that are dictated by teaching. In fact this is not so. We now have very good technologies, digitalized technique also based on Big Data, so why not to use them in Education in the same way as we use them in Health, in Finance, in Agriculture? Given such technologies, for a teacher willing to switch towards a holistic approach, it is enough to spend half an hour per student twice a year.

What are the basics of this approach? After listening to the student, then we’ll listen the parents, basically on two questions only: “what is good in the school?” (not “what is bad?”) and “what do you require from the school?”. We also ask the same questions to the educational staff. As a result, we obtain the picture of the student as it arises from different sources. Then we move to Big Data.

Big Data help to go beyond student “transparency”. By “transparency” we mean “looking through without seeing”, a sort of blindness as far as specific qualities are concerned. In Industrial Education most attention is given to weak students or to problematic students, on the one side, and to the most gifted ones, on the other side. Those who are average, or passing are considered ok and therefore do not receive much attention, they are really just expected to progress from the first day of school to their degree without the need of receiving too much attention, so their specific skills are “transparent”, they do not appear. But what about the other dimensions? They could have talent in music, in sport, in drama, in mathematics, in whatever else, but these qualities do not get mapped in the standard industrial education model, students are usually not put in a position to show these skills and abilities really, they are transparent in this respect.

Titolo Articolo

Holistic Education a Conversation with Eli Eisenberg Part 2

Coming to your question, yes going beyond transparency can be done.

We did it in the last eight years in eight municipalities. Using the short interviews and the Big Data (that provide a lot of micro information on his family, personal history, etc..) jointly provides the picture of each student immediately. Moreover, the students are put in the context of their class in an easily understandable way. The result of the computer program is not just numerical information, it is a graphical output, with images and colors: you can see a student, you can see a class, you can see a school as well as the whole student population of a city. This allows to save a lot of time and also, which is more important, to adopt the right treatment to the right student. It’s not like taking a program from the shelf and letting the students choose whatever they want.

Titolo Articolo

Eli Eisenberg talking at the Sofia EVBB Converence, June 2018

Holistic Education a Conversation with Eli Eisenberg Part 2

Could you please give us an example of this method? And you have told about Big Data, how do you collect big data and in what way do you use Big Data?

It looks beautiful, what are the difficulties? What are the failures? What are the barriers?

Let’s start with the barriers that we had to overcome. We had to create a spirit pf partnership. We had to go beyond the ego system we live in, where everyone would like to be in the center. In order to make the program work, to make this project happen, you must take your ego down and understand that you have to work in an eco system. This also means you have to implement the system “across the board” not only in the school, but in the town, with the Municipality where the Health Department, the Social Affairs Department, the Consultancy Department and the Educational are willing to provide the data and share them by working together in order to have a full picture of each student. This where and how we gather Big Data.

This implies that one very important success factor is to have the City Mayor as the leader. If the Mayor is not a leader, if he doesn’t create the same language, the same culture, a holistic information gathering will not be possible We cannot rely only on what the student tells us, we need to blend it with the other data.

Titolo Articolo

With the mind, the arm, the heart

Holistic Education a Conversation With Eli Eisenberg Part 2

Having said this, the Principal of this school will gain a lot from a successful mapping. He will be not only able to understand his students, but he will also be able to better identify the qualities of his staff, the strengths of his teachers. If there is a mathematics teacher that could be fantastic in music, why not to-use him? And the teacher will feel much better, if he will be recognized not just as a mathematical teacher, but also as a very good teacher for music, etc..

So, partnership and leadership are key

Then comes a further step. We have to change the mindset of the teachers, understanding that teaching not just about transmitting cognitive skills, it has to do a lot with so-called “soft” and “emotional” talents or difficulties, or weaknesses or strengths, understanding that the child is not working only with the mind, he’s working also from his heart.

Titolo Articolo

With the mind, the arm, the heart

Holistic Education a Conversation With Eli Eisenberg Part 2

You are saying we need the heart

Yes, to be holistic is combining the mind, the heart and the hand. You see: nutrition, sport activities, sleeping hours have an impact on the achievement of students. We really need to combine the hand, the physical aspect, the emotional aspect and of course the cognitive one. In order to gain this understanding, we have to change the mindset of the teachers, which is also very challenging work.

Have you ever failed?


How did it happen?

Of course there is no success story without failures. We learn from failures.

In order to succeed in many situation, even in a startup, you have to work hard, sometimes you fail.

I can tell you, there were two municipalities where it was very difficult to create and develop the same language because the Mayor was not keen to do it. So, we took some more time, we had to make some more meetings but at the end it went very well.

Failure is one good step toward success.

Thank You Dr Eli, with the heart..

My pleasure…

Ascensione Maria Santoro

Ascensione Maria Santoro, Laurea Magistrale in Editoria e Scrittura presso L’Università La Sapienza di Roma con tesi in giornalismo di inchiesta. Attualmente si è focalizzata sulla branca dell’ Educational Reporting.