There, all the classrooms are on one floor, inside small blocks that communicate with outdoor corridors, like a miniature village. In the background, you can see the mountain and the banana trees. In a third class, they talk in a circle about the Down's SyndromeOn that day everyone wears a sock of each color to symbolize what is different. The teacher asks them if they know what trisomy is, talks about pairs of chromosomes and about some children who also have a trio. His features and his way of feeling are more pronounced, he details. One of the students interrupts her: "Borja is also different". One of the children, quite taller than the others – he takes them two years – and with magnifying glasses, raises his head, they are talking about him. "Borja -continues the teacher- has a delay in learning and that's why he learns slower than the others, right Borja?", He throws. In this educational center there are no taboos, everything is spoken, without exception.
This is the fifth year that the Canary Islands has taught the subject Emocrea (Emotional Education and for Creativity), a decision that at the beginning was controversial because it was the sixth autonomy with the highest dropout rate, 20.9% in 2018 compared to 17.9% of the average for Spain (still far from the 10.6% of average of the countries of the EU). That means that one out of every five Canaries from 18 to 24 years old has no more studies than ESO.
The approval of the Lomce for the PP in 2013, it gave the autonomous communities the possibility of including free-of-charge subjects in their academic programs. The Government of the islands, at that time formed by the Canary Coalition and the PSOE, decided to dedicate two 45-minute sessions to emotional education and, for this, they subtracted one hour of Mathematics to the students of 1st and 3rd of Primary, and one hour of Language to the 2nd and 4th. "The most academicist tradition holds that there is more time devoted to Mathematics and Language, but we decided to take it away so as not to marginalize more humanistic subjects, such as Music, Plastic or sports. The faculty has given us the reason, "explains Antonio Gómez, technician of the Ministry of Education in charge of supervising the program.
Only two EU countries provide emotional education as a compulsory subject: United Kingdom and Malta. The OECD He is already working on that line and developing a new framework to evaluate students not only in mathematics and reading comprehension, but also in social skills. It's what they call Global Competences. "There is a very strong scientific basis on the relationship between the ability to learn and the emotional state. What matters most is that you make a change of view and take into account how children feel. We have focused education on content for too many years ", explains Verónica Boix, researcher at Project Zero of the School of Education of the Harvard University, where about 40 experts develop new innovation methodologies.
"Now we live in a much more complex world, with more difficult emotions. The issue of immigration, for example, generates strong emotional responses: fear, insecurity … we can not de-link it from education, "says Boix, who is part of the team that develops the OECD's measurement system. The curriculum should include two new challenges: "cultivate the potential of the human being", in reference to social, intellectual, moral and ethical capacity, and give value to personal relationships, how we communicate with others. "You have to teach children to investigate, why they feel this way, name their emotions, recognize and accept sensations that are not always pleasant," Boix continues.
Precisely, the new tool of the OECD -in the test phase and still undated for its official launch- seeks to analyze how students take perspective on global issues such as climate change, how they understand the positions of others and how they consider the possibility of passing to action. "In all of that, emotion control plays a role," adds Boix.
Global phenomena have an emotional impact on children and schools must accompany them. In an investigation in 500 schools in the United States conducted by John Rogers, professor of Education of the University of California, it was shown that students are not "immune" to political hate speech. "The country's climate reaches children in the form of aggression against fellow migrants, inability to dialogue through differences … the aggressiveness of the Trump era also creeps into schools and must be treated from the emotion," says Boix .
The work must begin with the training of teachers. In a study of one of the Project Zero teams in The Angels, it was found that teachers often have authoritarian or aggressive reactions towards students from lower socioeconomic classes.
The idea of the new curriculum of the Canary Islands was Antonio Rodríguez, professor of Educational Psychology of the University of La Laguna (Tenerife). In the nineties, he focused one of his research on comparing the psychology of the Canary child with that of the rest of the autonomies. "Historically, we have been one of the regions with the highest rate of illiteracy, that influences the self-esteem of students and how they see their future possibilities." The results of the tests to more than 2,500 kids of different autonomies confirmed the Canarian tendency to "self-devalue". "The fragmentation of the different islands and the disconnection are factors that affect", says Rodríguez. Years later, he and his team developed along with a committee of teachers, the lines of emotional education and the parameters to evaluate those skills.
A review of 500 international studies published on the subject has confirmed that these programs improve academic achievement by 13%. At the moment, in the Canary Islands they have not measured it because they have to wait until the first generation of students reaches the sixth grade of primary school. The emotional part is evaluated every year, with questionnaires to students and teachers. Questions such as: "When you feel anger towards a partner for picking up some of your material without permission, how do you react?" Or "when you get home, does your family receive you with a hug?". "They learn to recognize the signals that the body emits, to decipher the corporal codes associated with emotional states. They understand that the phrase 'I am not shouting, I speak like that', it is no longer useful, "says Rodríguez, who has just launched his book Educaemoción: the school of the heart (Santillana), a guide for teachers with 100 activities. They are taught that they have the right to be angry, but that there are limits, they can not shout or hit a partner. That emotion always has an effect on their behavior and that before acting, you have to stop and breathe.
"The limbic system, the part of the brain that deals with emotions, has an automatic response. With training, you learn to manage it, and the smaller you are, the more potential for change, "says Rodríguez. The indicators show an improvement of all those skills. In the school La Laguna, of Los Llanos, they affirm that prevents the bullying. "We can not say that they are children's things, they have to gain confidence in themselves to say 'I do not like you to call me that' or 'I do not like you to touch my head in that way,' says Mónica Viña, director of the center . Leaving class students does not solve anything, defends, because they will not know why they have behaved like this or how to stop it. The subject of emotional education is the only one in which the students can be silent and not intervene if they do not feel comfortable that day. "They decide".
The Government of the Canary Islands recommends, in its order of inclusion of the new subject, that it be taught by the tutors of each primary school course. In the last five years, 1,189 teachers have been trained (out of a total of 7,881). In the University of La Laguna, for the students of Teaching it is already an optional subject. "We do dynamics to manage our emotional wounds, first we have to solve our problems, and then we have to think about helping the students", says Alejando Dayekh, 3rd grade student. He believes that he is part of a new generation of teachers who no longer believe in the hegemony of "hard subjects", that he no longer follows the emotional stereotypes of gender and that he defends that any class can break into tears. "You do not have to be a psychologist to teach this subject, but be willing to talk about your inner world and that of others," says Rosi Marrero, public school teacher Las Mantecas, in Tenerife.
In addition to the experience of the Canary Islands, where school drop-out has fallen from 27.5% in 2013 to 20.9% in 2018, another 320 schools (50% public, 35% concerted and 15% private) have participated in a program volunteer offered by the Botín Foundation, which since 2006 has analyzed the inclusion of emotional education in 24 countries. "We believe that a single teacher is not enough, the whole center must be involved, and the subject must be transversal," says Javier García, director of the Foundation's Responsible Education program. They were inspired by models like the one in South Africa, where they treat racial conflict through emotional skills.
In these years they have trained more than 8,000 Spanish teachers, and the students from 1st to 4th grade of ESO who have tested their tools in class (more than 500 for the different levels) have improved 12 points in emotional identification – which allows them to know why they feel a certain way- and more than 25 points in creativity. Now they are developing together with a committee of experts from the University of Malaga and the University of Cantabria, an evaluation system with 10 variables, among them, one that measures the ability to unblock emotions through art, and at that point they are collaborating with the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale University. "Education in Spain has focused on the cognitive field: Language, History and Mathematics, we must be able to respond to the challenges posed by life, we are turning the page," says García.