“Changes are happening more often, and the traditional academic content is no longer valid.”

Luisa Tristán, Managing Director of Cognita Spain, explains in an interview with national newspaper La Razón (11/06/2018) that everything is now available online, leading to the challenge of teaching students how to use this information and develop the skills that allow them to adapt to a world that is constantly changing.

The international education group, Cognita inaugurated BSB Nexus, a new Pre-University education centre for Sixth form students that forms part of The British School of Barcelona, in Castelldefels, Barcelona.
The centre aims to connect education and the real world through a teaching method that revolves around projects that strengthen the students’ 21st century skills.

What challenges does the current education system face? Is the traditional education system outdated? What situation do we currently face that requires the education system to change?
The main challenge is that the world of education and the real world are often out of touch. In the real world, changes occur so frequently, and the most traditional academic content is no longer valid. We must prioritise skills and abilities, such as teamwork, communication, resilience and critical thinking. The traditional education system restricts these skills that students naturally possess when they are young and then they are placed in a system that was designed during the Industrial Revolution to produce very similar students, where the teacher was the expert that taught students and just wanted to see what they had retained. That is no longer the case as everything is available online, or on our phones, so the challenge we now face is teaching students to use this information that is available and to develop skills for a world that is constantly changing.

If this is the case, how must we prepare students of the 21st century?
The most important aspect is preparing them to adapt to change as we do not know exactly what the future will look like; the only thing we do know is that it will be different. If we look at current labour statistics, most of the jobs created are in sectors that did not exist five or ten years ago. Therefore, it is important to prepare them to be independent, to learn how to learn, adapt to new situations and develop teamwork and communication skills. Essentially, we must prepare them so that they are able to adapt to change, which is the opposite of what the traditional education system does, as it is predictable, and students have little independence.

The BSB Nexus was opened in this context of change. What are the main ideas and principles of its educational programme? What changes does it bring?
It is not just about the academic excellence, but we also see that this complements personality development and the skills that are acquired through educational projects. The students have a lot of independence and decide how to study, apply their knowledge to complete projects where the teacher acts as a coach that helps them reach their goals. A third pillar that I would highlight is the global mentality of the facility.

How does it differ to other educational projects or systems? With what additional values do the students enter university or the world of work with?
The teaching method is what makes it stand out. The student is at the centre of the teaching model and is responsible for their own learning. The student is key to the learning process. The teaching method is based on projects connect to the real world and where the teacher acts as a mentor.

Given its British essence and origins, is the British Curriculum taught here?
There are several pathways. At the end of their education, students either finish with British qualifications or the International Baccalaureate qualification. Nevertheless, they share facilities and core subjects, which differs it from traditional British schools. Additionally, the students can validate either of the qualifications for the Catalan “Bachillerato” qualification and there is also a course for talented students that perhaps do not have a high enough level of English to do the British course but that after a year-long acceleration course are able to access either programme.

What kind of students is the centre aimed at? What requirements must they fulfil?
Academic grades are important and the students’ level of English should be high, but as I mentioned there is also the acceleration course for those whose level is perhaps a bit lower. It requires that the students are motivated and interested and use the skills they possess.

Why did Cognita choose Barcelona for the BSB Nexus? Is it the first centre of its kind? Are there any similar models or references?
It is the first of its kind that we have opened in Spain. It is part of The British School of Barcelona and we thought the teachers there were ready to take this step. We have similar Pre-University centres in other countries, such as England, but this one is unique. It is the first centre with 21st century skills at the core. Our references came from many areas, not just schools. BSB Nexus is the result of conversations with businesses, students, and both curriculum and teaching experts. There are initiatives all over the world that are heading in the same direction as people are slowly realising that there is a gap between education and employment.


See online interview in Spanish newspaper La Razón here.

For offline version, click here.