Manifesto: Changing the world through education

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Antonio Gramsci

A world in search of meaning

We live in a pivotal time. We have never been so rich, but we have never been so numerous either. Artificial Intelligence is developing and may soon exceed human intelligence. The production-driven system, whose foundations were laid at the end of the eighteenth century and whose sole vocation is the accumulation of wealth, is starting to show its limits. The succession of rational behaviour leads to irrational consequences, which the Invisible Hand does not suffice to correct. We live in an era that sees the consumer society reach its climax to the point of reversing ends and means, like when it only offers excerpts of films between advertisements or when whole lives are dedicated to finding a medicine that can cure diseases we ourselves created. A time when it is finally understood that our development in the West can no longer be built in our own little corner, without taking into account the interests of those who now have a window on our world.

Our access to information has also transformed our vision of the world. Visible injustices become glaring and unbearable, as do intolerable inequalities. The irresponsibility of dehumanized organizations that concentrate a power they do not control seems to be an outdated model. Faced with this, short-termist policies – dictated by the media frenzy of an image-driven society – seem powerless when it comes to providing a satisfactory answer.

Thanks to this globalization which emancipates as much as it re-examines the foundations of our identity, we become citizens open to the world. Nourished by this conviction that something is not right, many of us are inhabited by a quest for meaning. It will push some to tense and fall back on themselves, while others will seek the means to act.

“It’s not a crisis, it’s a change of worlds.”

Michel Serres

A level of knowledge that changes our relationship with the world

Our quest for meaning can be nourished by a body of knowledge, access to knowledge and interconnections between human beings that have never been equalled. Thanks to these assets, which enable us to realize that we are at a key moment, we are sufficiently able to reflect on our collective sense, our common aspirations and even our future.

Education appears as a solution

Our world seems to be built, in part, around myths and stories that our level of knowledge now allows us to deconstruct. Thus, our ability to compare disciplines with approaches of different level allows us to perceive world problems with better judgment and refinement, too often fuelled by misunderstandings or false social constructions.

Accepting that at least some of the inconsistencies and misunderstandings of our world result from these conditions is already a step to putting education at the heart of our society. It is about making school the problem, and therefore the solution to transmit this feeling of belonging to the same human community.

School needs to better meet the needs of our time

Although it has evolved, school has changed very little since its creation.

It is based on two-century-old system, inspired by the military model and the ideology of the Enlightenment years. Its organization is based on a rather impersonal form of pedagogy, pursuing a normative and bureaucratic logic inherited from the French Empire, in which the pupil receives from the teacher a form of knowledge that is cut off from life. This pattern becomes untenable as soon as instantaneous access to knowledge no longer puts the teacher in the position of ‘the one who knows’, but rather that of a “guide” in the transmission process.

School cannot solve everything, but it must feed on social evolutions and embrace the needs of our time.

The purpose of education must be re-examined

In the light of these convictions, it is necessary to question the meaning, the very purpose, of education. What is, and what should be the “outcome” – the final product – of our educational models? To ask what an individual must know is, finally, to ask the fundamental question of our individual and collective becoming: what world do we want? What changes are needed? How can education contribute to the emergence and prosperity of this new world?

Hence it appears that the goal of school is not (only) to form the individual – as the workpiece of a wheel would be shaped – but also to meet the needs of the industrial and consumer society. If school is to be well prepared for the world of work and the exercise of citizenship, school must first and foremost prepare for life.

“The very essence of man is the desire to be happy, to act well and live well.”

Baruch Spinoza

To decide to change school is to make a social choice. The choice of another enterprise. It’s about deciding to remove the focus from the liberal economy society that ensures wealth increase, and direct it to one that also cares for the increase of happiness, thus putting the latter at the very heart of our values.

A happiness that most especially imposes to free oneself from being conditioned, through an education which tends to show the metastructures and invites us to “leave the cave”.

“Ose frayer ton propre chemin à travers le champ des possibles. Vois par toi-même. Sens par toi-même et juge selon des critères qui n’appartiennent qu’à toi-même. Ne te réfère pas aux tables des lois communes, mais pèse chaque chose comme si elle se manifestait pour la première fois et sans référence à une règle dont tu ne serais pas l’auteur ou l’interprète souverain.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Another school is possible, responding to new needs to meet the challenges of tomorrow

Another school is thus possible, with the ambition to give everyone the keys to becoming an individual who is both happy and responsible for his environment, fitting at best into the human community. A school that invites us to meet the other, where everything becomes possible, so that our children can embody “the change we want to see in this world”.

“Each generation, no doubt, believes itself destined to remake the world. Mine knows it will not do it again. But its task is perhaps greater. It consists in preventing the world from dying”

Albert Camus

Our beliefs

1 . The child must be an autonomous actor, placed at the center of education in a rich and caring environment

New research on human development science, particularly in neuroscience, provides important fundamental laws governing human learning and development. The lessons of this research suggest that the child learns by “his autonomous activity, in a rich and safe environment, with children of different ages, and guided by an individual and benevolent support” – Céline Alvarez.

For this reason, it is necessary to free oneself from the impersonal and masterly teaching which too often remains the norm, in order to place the child, through active methods, at the centre of education. The pupil is thus placed in a position where he will be helped to find a solution by himself and where he will be able to understand that knowledge is not only a descendant, but also comes from his own experience.

In other words, it is a question of going beyond “teaching” to focus more on “learning”, by adapting to the needs and the desires of each one.

“In each child, we forget that an intuitive aspiration to become considered a (grown-up) person is born and develops. That child would also expect us to treat and respect him the same way as we would do an adult. And he is right”

Françoise Dolto

Finally, horizontal transmission must be favoured to emerge from this mode of “domination” which blocks the future faculty to learn. Children are full-fledged people and should be treated as such.

“What must be the foundation of education? What unites and liberates”

Olivier Reboul

2 . Education must not format but liberate

Each person is different. To impose the same solution on everyone is not necessarily the solution.

While the role of school is partly the transmission of common knowledge necessary to make society, it must be able to do so while emancipating more than by formatting. To transmit is not to assert truths presented as absolute. On the contrary, it is a matter of feeding the “absorbing child”, giving him a taste for learning and the means to learn for himself. From the multitude of choices of experiences and opportunities, through mixed and reflective multidisciplinarity, the true source of freedom is born. The objective is thus to allow each one to conquer his freedom and to recognize, and even construct, his own singularity.

3 . Each child has enormous potential that school and society must develop by valuing all forms of intelligence

Education as it has been based for two centuries, surfacing and over-valuing logical-mathematical intelligence to the detriment of other forms of intelligence, creates winners and too many losers in the academic battle. With victories all being relative, since even the winners do not necessarily find themselves happy or end up where they would want to be.

While all children have enormous potential, too many adults, in retrospect, recall how they have been “crushed” by school. The system tends to annihilate the creativity of these intelligent children, and deny that they have the right to do so because they are too rigid and focus on failures rather than successes, by stigmatizing individuals who do not fit within this framework.

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on his ability to climb a tree, he will spend his life believing that he is stupid.”

Albert Einstein

A genuine education must thus give the opportunity to develop all talents, nourish passions and incite dreams. It must also transmit the keys to social and emotional intelligence, in addition to classical cognitive functions.

“A human being is always interested in something. Always.”

Françoise Dolto

4 . The skills needed for the society of tomorrow must be strengthened

The advent of new information and communication technologies is changing our relationship to knowledge. What do we need to know, since access to this knowledge is instantaneous and at hand? The aim of school is not only to give access to knowledge, but to stimulate our senses, our critical thinking, our curiosity, our cognitive abilities and our imagination.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Steve Jobs

It is also about strengthening skills such as critical thinking, or the ability to sort information, in order to convey the keys to understanding.

Finally, the rise of artificial intelligence requires developing and cultivating added value that is specific to humans and based on intuition, creativity, the ability to collaborate and reflection.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

5 . Openness and empathy have become essential qualities

Understanding the complexity of the world demands to forge a certain level of thought, to acquire intellectual agility and to be able to question oneself. Intelligence is then to have, like a prism, several grids of readings, allowing to judge.

“I get up on my desk to never forget that we must look at everything from a different angle.”

Dead Poets Society

From then on, openness and empathy make it possible to understand that there is not only one valid way of thinking. The understanding of others and the ability to cope with uncertainty become essential qualities.

“An ability to relate all the diverse, even antagonistic, aspects of the same reality, to recognize the complexities within the same person, the same society, the same civilization.”

Edgar Morin

6 . School must fully fulfil its mission of general interest by participating in the re-founding of society

School can reform society in depth. By giving life to the republican meritocratic ideal, it must promote social justice through the establishment of true equal opportunities, which frees potential. It can promote diversity by valuing the contributions of diversity and building a collective narrative. It can promote by its teachings equality between women and men, and more generally among all human beings, without distinction of origin, social condition, “race or religion”. Teach the respect of every individual regardless of their position in society. It can also make people understand the need to commit to society.

School must fully play its role of civic and moral education. It is therefore a matter of inculcating a value system that will help build a better world, in particular through solidarity and cooperation.

Finally, education can prepare and contribute to future changes (Ecology, Climate, living together, identity issues due to globalization), thus helping to meet the major challenges of our time through, as Edgar Morin explains, “the realization of the community of destiny that actually unites all humans and the sense of belonging to our terrestrial homeland”.

“Every human group acquires its wealth in communication, mutual aid and solidarity aiming at a common goal: the development of each individual with a respect of differences.”

Françoise Dolto

Who are we?

The founder

Born of immigrant parents, Lionel SAYAG – despite chronic difficulties to comply with the rigidities of the educational system – was able to follow the Republican path of French meritocracy by reaching Paris Dauphine University, followed by Sciences Po Paris, before preparing the contest of the ENA (the French National School of Administration). As a result of his studies, he had varied professional experiences in both the public and private sectors, leading to his last position as a strategy and organization consultant.

Curious about everything, he constantly questions the rules and the world around him. His many encounters, his expatriations in Africa and Asia, and his long solo trips to encounter very diverse cultures, were the occasion to nourish his reflection on what belongs to the ‘innate’ and/or the ‘acquired’ in individuals, and also what fundamentally constitutes individual and collective happiness.

In fact, since his youngest age, his desire to defend what he believes is just gave birth to a constantly renewed vocation for the elaboration and implementation of the general interest. These experiences in the political, administrative and associative fields formed part of this trajectory.

Lionel founded the L’Autre École project in April 2016, with a deep love for children, with whom he has been able to create a privileged bond. He is now convinced that education is the most effective lever for making the world a better place. While pursuing further training in the educational field, he plays a coordinating and animating role which he owes to the variety of his expertise and skills.

The Headmistress

Laurence LASCAR was born in a multicultural environment, additionally to a German mother and a French father she appears to have polish origins. Laurence LASCAR has studied both in private and public educational system before entering university to become a bilingual teacher.

Thirty years ago, she became a teacher in a well-known bilingual school in the 15th district of Paris where she taught courses in English and in French. Soon after she took the responsibility of directing a 400 students school with kids from preschool to year 4. After 15 years as the head of the structure she entered the admission bureau for all establishments of the same school which became best school in France for many years. After these diverse experiences, she concretized her idea to open a school, a new kind of school: she thought it was unfair that children could not integrate a bilingual school due to a small number of slots available.

Laurence LASCAR started her project upon substantial basis. By welcoming children starting from preschool she wants to guaranty strong foundations for their development and future education by delivering the basis of learning and essential habits required for the children to grow as blooming adults.

Donald-Woods Winnicott said “It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self”.

Warm, patient, sincerely altruist and provided with a sharp sense of justice, Laurence LASCAR has put at young age her interest within education especially when supervising summer camps. Laurence LASCAR drew her cultural resources from her passion: music, cinema, art and travelling in order to build an educational project suitable for every child. In 2017, she met Lionel SAYAG, after endless discussion about their project to renew education they decided to come together in the opening of their first school in Boulogne Billancourt.

Laurence LASCAR is eventually the mother of two kids and the grandmother of a 2-year-old boy whom she aspires to see joining the school she is currently creating so he could grow in a benevolent environment to develop his full potential from his youngest age.

Chief Innovations Officer

Lea DEKKER is born from a French-Swiss mother and a Dutch father. She entered college to complete a degree in sociology and travelled across Asia and Africa during her youth. She has begun her career by integrating a temporary class for « problem pupils », a structure that gives dropout kids a second chance and renew with their faith in school system. She has become down the line teacher and has specialised in cognitive disorders and behaviour but also in individuated pedagogy.

Her interest in the mental-handicapping world has grown fast and has made scholar inclusion the cornerstone of her career. She never stopped enhancing her knowledges especially through her experiences in the United States, in Canada and also France. She has been given the chance to have a huge pedagogy freedom and has been abled to put into practice the product of her researches and observations. She is participating to innovation in matter of pedagogy and is taking an interest in digital use for Education.

Her will for big societal changes and to accompany children in becoming adapted citizens for tomorrow’s world is leading Lea to take part of L’Autre Ecole project. She is also the mother of a young boy whom she has put into an alternative school at his youngest age.

The education council

In order to feed the project of L’Autre École, an education council will be created. This multidisciplinary council made up of teachers, pedagogues, neuroscience researchers, child psychiatrists, philosophers, parents… and children will initiate a co-constructed reflection on the pedagogy provided.

Teaching at L’Autre École will particularly focus on the extent of old and new knowledge, with specific attention paid to positive and alternative pedagogies centred on the child (Montessori, Freinet, Steiner).

Our inspirations

To better understand our innovative approach, you can consult some of these books, speeches, documentaries and reference films:

Ken ROBINSON, The element : How finding your passion change everything

Françoise DOLTO, The Major Stages of Childhood

Frederic LALOUX, Reiventing Organisations

Maria MONTESSORI, The Absorbent Mind

Rudolf STEINER, The Education of the Child

Célestin FREINET, Freinet’s Techniques for the Modern School

Isabelle PELOUX, L’école du colibri – La pédagogie de la collaboration

Pierre DEMERS, Expanding Consciousness Through Education