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An Integral Approach to Education. Interview with Sofia Valdivielso
'We are living complete changes that cause new situations we have never had to face before. What we need to deal with now is to find a way of integrating the different forms of knowledge within an integral approach which, far from excluding them, will incorporate them within a broader and more ordered vision. This new perspective assumes that a human being is not just reason, passion, culture, or history, but all these simultaneously, all of them at the same time'.
Interview with Sofia Valdivielso on the occasion of the launch of Development 53.4 'Education for Transformation'.
LFM: Can you summarize the difference between the positivist paradigm and the critical paradigm of education?
SV: The positivist paradigm understands reality as something given; the critical paradigm considers it as something socially constructed. The first thinks that culture is a closed packet of knowledge that has to be transmitted from one subject, the teacher, to one object, the student. The second assumes that culture is something constructed through social interactions and therefore it is always under construction. The positivist paradigm considers people as isolated subjects: they only need to be able to cope with any given type of situation. The aim of this paradigm is to help people to adapt and function in society. Neutrality, transmission and adaptation are key words in this paradigm. The critical paradigm considers people as interrelated subjects and consequently, it put the focus on comprehending the context and the dynamism that emanates from inter-subjective relations. The aim of this perspective is to empower participants and to transform the reality in which they live. Ideology, construction and transformation are key words in this paradigm.
LFM: Why do we need an integral approach to education that includes the concept of individual consciousness?
SV: Because we are living complete changes that cause new situations we have never had to face before. What we need to deal with now is to find a way of integrating the different forms of knowledge within an integral approach which, far from excluding them, will incorporate them within a broader and more ordered vision. This new perspective assumes that a human being is not just reason, passion, culture, or history, but all these simultaneously, all of them at the same time. Individual consciousness has much to do with our sense of being and existing in the world, which in turn is rooted in our personal identity and very closely related to our biographies.
LFM: Why do both the positivist and the critical approaches fail to address the gender dimension?
SV: Because patriarchal societies have been thought and organized by men. In these societies women are invisible, while the main doubts expressed by the critical paradigm in relation to the positivist approach to education are based on the fact that the latter takes reality as a neutral factor. The critique we would make from the point of the view of gender analysis, and which we may direct at both those paradigms, is that they consider gender relations also as a neutral factor. Both paradigms in constructing a generic social subject have excluded women. In doing so, they fail to address the gender dimension. At present, we are beginning to witness a more complex approach to gender which, without denying equality between men and women, at the same time incorporates the difference between them.
LFM: What do you mean by the term of global consciousness and how can we attain it?
SV: Integral education may be looked at in terms of different levels of wholeness. Each level is oriented towards the development of a corresponding level of consciousness, which evolves from the particular to the universal and every higher level of consciousness comprehends the lower levels. Global consciousness refers to the processes of globalization that demand worldwide interest, a worldcentric ethic that is focused on the well-being of humankind as a whole. The objective of integral education will be to build the feeling of belonging to a global citizenship, of belonging to and loving the human family, and of profound respect for the planet earth.
Interview by Laura Fano Morrissey.
Sofia Valdivielso teaches Social Education at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and is an active member of the Gender and Education Office (GEO) of the International Council of Adult Education (ICAE).