Richard Gerver

Expert in educational innovation 

"We have to teach children to find what they are passionate about, and help them"

See the full video here.

I am greatly concerned about the state of education, not only in Spain but across the world. Any debate about education is polarized, with one argument on side and one on the other: traditional versus progressive, politicians against teachers, and parents against teachers, schools, politicians and everyone else. Right? The only ones who suffer are the children, because they get left behind. I believe that we have to stop shouting, because no matter where we come from, when it comes to education, we all have one thing in common: we care about our children. What is important is that we all fervently want the best for our children. Educational changes arise from adult, mature conversations. I believe we have a wonderful opportunity before us, perhaps to drive a change in our children's future, or perhaps not for them but for their future children. We all bear responsibility in the bringing up of children, not just so they can survive, but so they can thrive.

Children are bombarded constantly by celebrity culture; they see famous football players who earn vast amounts of money and watch celebrities on the television, and it seems that they have a wonderful life. We have to help them to understand how hard that footballer worked to get where he is, whether Ronaldo, Messi or Neymar. Those players did not just kick a ball around in the garden and somehow end up wearing a Real Madrid, Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain shirt, being told they would earn half a million euros a week. Those boys have to show immense discipline and commitment, and have to work very hard for hours, days and weeks on end, taking risks and being prepared to fail, learn and keep working hard. Small children have to realise that discipline is what is needed to be successful, and that applies to footballers, lawyers, artists and dancers. But we must remember that, as our children grow up, given the world they live in, the influx of information available to them and their surroundings, they begin to think about the things that concern us all from a very young age. When I talk to teenagers, I see how much they worry about the world. They worry about the threat of war, ecology, the economy, and foremost about saving the planet. I think they are deeply concerned, so don't worry too much.

Without teachers, schools and education we don't have anything. There would be no doctors, lawyers, technology developers or computer engineers, and no artists, dancers or anything.

"We need society as a whole to work together in creating an education system that prepares children for future challenges"

I still have to prove that traditional homework, where children get home and have to do exercises that are exactly the same as what they have been doing in the classroom, has any value. But actually, I am greatly concerned that it interferes with children's lives. Because it would be brilliant if when children get home from school they could be themselves, and I know many children cannot be, and have time with their parents. Some parents are very good at doing this, while others just want their children out the way. If you ask a child to get involved in something, it has to be important and be worth it. I do not think that homework in all its forms should be banned. I would like to know whether children are interested by what they learn, and when they go home they discover more about the subject, whether online or in a museum; they want to learn things. We have to respect children and given them their own time and space; they have to be able to pursue their own interests; they have to be able to spend time with their friends. These things are as important as the learning that takes place in the classroom. Because there is nothing like coming home, tired, and having their parents shout at them and their teachers threaten them to do homework, to make children bored and reluctant to study.

People divide education between useful and not useful things. One of the principal things I want to say is that we have to understand that learning is interdisciplinary; in other words, many of the skills needed in fine arts are similar to those needed in English and writing, and in turn similar to those needed in maths, music or sciences. People first must understand that the world is not divided into subjects, because our lives are a mix of interdisciplinary skills, behaviors, knowledge and experience. If we focus on fine arts, for example, first and foremost we need motor skills to hold a pen, pencil, crayon, brush or a camera. Whatever the medium, those skills are as delicate as those needed by a surgeon you trust to perform a complex surgical procedure. So training of motor skills is interdisciplinary. When you think of the artistic process, you think of creation and creativity. To create something, whether artistic, scientific or mathematical, you have to be brave, because creating something new requires bravery, since you have to be prepared to take a risk. The bravery to make mistakes, to learn, to try new things, to communicate with others and to hope to inspire the same way that you were inspired all means overcoming barriers. You need the same behaviors to be a great scientist, a brilliant mathematician, a dancer, a doctor or a lawyer. In my opinion, telling a child that they should not do something because it is not important enough is madness. I am reminded of a friend I had who never went out, never did anything or played any sport, and who spent all his time playing computer games. Everyone, including his parents, asked him to stop wasting time playing on the computer. He ended up developing one of the most complex pieces of software that is now used by Microsoft, and he is a multimillionaire. So the idea that you need to tell children what is important and what is not is ridiculous, because what I know about very successful people is that they are successful because they are passionate about what they do, whether it is science, maths, English, music or art. They are passionate about what they do, and that passion spurs them to overcome difficult moments, hard decisions, risks and failures. As a father, what I would say to other parents is that they should help their children to discover their passions and support them, because that passion will take them much further than your opinion on which subject is more important than another.

PhD in education, teacher and writer, he was awarded a National Teaching Award and named best head teacher in the United Kingdom. He is the author of books such as “Creating tomorrow's schools today”, "Education - Our Children - Their Futures” and “Simple Thinking”. Elite athletes and major organizations have engaged him to help them to understand his vision of human potential.