Elsa Punset

Writer and educator

"Be your children's emotional trainers and let them express all their emotions"

See the full video here.

We should return to what the word education means. It basically means to 'drive or guide'. Over centuries, humans have driven or guided the next generations in order to transfer knowledge. This can be done very informally by the family at home, through life itself, which guides and educates along the way, or it can take place at specific locations, as has been the case for a long time for those in the upper echelons of society. The biggest change in the last century was that we suddenly wanted to make education professional, so we created schools, which is where we send our children year after year. But, what do they learn here? Basically, they learn the skills required to live in an industrial society, which is a world that has all but disappeared. Following the revolution in technology, we now live in a society that bears practically no resemblance to that of the industrial era. It's probably one of the faults of our system that we keep trying to train, educate and guide our children to be predictable. What is true is that education is the greatest social leveler, virtually the only tool we have to try to offer the world the same opportunities. What do we need instead of predictable, punctual and obedient children? The problem is that we've never experienced such rapid change. Furthermore, the changes that are taking place are generating a lot of challenges. Our creative ability is soaring, so we need very creative children. Children who live in such diverse societies have so many options to travel, find out about the world and collaborate with others, which is why they need the skills to be able to cooperate and to see diversity as an asset. We are full of different identities: gender, we are born in one place, live in another and love a different one. We are mothers, fathers, children, brothers and sisters, we love nature, you name it. All this is a series of identities that make us rich, and these new generations have to learn to enjoy them. These generations also have another very important skill, which is the capacity for critical thought. As I mentioned earlier, we've never had access to so much information. So, we need to know how to evaluate this information and how to check, validate, compare, understand and apply it to our lives. Another important consideration is that we've never had so much capacity to do good or bad. That's why we need to teach our children how to make responsible decisions and to be able to understand each other. It is now more important than ever for children to be able to understand and relate to others so they can continue to strive for what humans have done for centuries, which is to spread empathy, help others and gradually make this world a better place. This, for me, is education.

"98% of children up to the age of five or six are geniuses in divergent thinking. As the years go on, we lose creativity"

The contribution of technology to education will help to make education more effective and more customized at a much lower cost. Classrooms will be completely different in ten years time. Technology can help us understand children better. It helps us to know the benefits of knowledge, the ages in which children are best prepared, the times of day, how they have to learn and how they can consolidate learning. All of this will become like physical hygiene. We still have a long way to go, and technology will be able to help us understand how to navigate the route better.

We have a brain where reasoning and emotion are not in conflict, but work simultaneously. We have discovered that our emotions are trainable, like a muscle. This means that children can learn about other concepts at school as well as language and math, which are the skills that have been considered most important until now. We can teach our children about self-control, optimism, joy, serenity, etc., and about the fact that these emotions have a powerful impact on intelligence, because a child that is stressed or sad learns much worse than a child that is at peace emotionally. Emotions leave a mark on everything in our lives, including our memories and ability to learn.

It is important to teach children to be able to deal with life's ups and downs and to learn something from each situation. We must give them the tools they need to cope with difficult times, so they can learn how to 'be' and enjoy the miracle of life. After all, it's quite extraordinary, some might even say a miracle, that we're here at all. We are all winners just for having got this far; it's incredible.

Writer and communicator, director of content of the Laboratory of Social and Emotional Learning (LASE), graduate of Philosophy and Literature, Master's degree in Humanities by the University of Oxford, Journalism by the Autonomous University of Madrid and Secondary Education by the University Camilo José Cela. Ms Punset has written successful books such as ‘Una mochila para el Universo’ ('A backpack for the Universe'), ‘El libro de las pequeñas revoluciones’ ('The book of small revolutions') and ‘Felices’ ('Happy'). Elsa Punset is a renowned expert in emotional intelligence.