Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The education system in Slovakia has deteriorated over the last two decades of transition. Young people are trapped by inactivity and passivity in the classroom. Children need to be liberated from this indolence, yet require stimulation and motivation that is currently missing in the classroom. Without building cooperation, empathy, and teamwork as key values in schools, the educational system will continue to deny students the opportunity to learn and positively relate to one another. Martina creates a simple mechanism to enable children to think and reflect on valuable ideas, and then act on them together.
The primary and secondary education in Slovakia is deficient in terms of its promotion of independent thinking and student initiative, creative learning, updated teaching material, methods, and syllabi, which are often inherited from the former communist educational system. Due to these factors and low salary compensation, the number of qualified teachers is decreasing across Slovakia. Children are not encouraged to ask questions, form opinions, or discover the world around them. Successful education is correlated with passing grades, as individualism and competition are at the core of the official pedagogical concept. The result is a system in which teachers are trapped in a spiral of poor remuneration, social status, and lack of access to further education. Students and teachers do not find school to be a fun place to learn, let alone to exist. This deteriorating school-wide morale, learning environment, and student performance leads to more visible problems such as low school attendance, bullying, and an increasing prevalence of school dropouts. It also leads to a small, and elite percentage of kids who have access to the opportunities that exist for educational growth and development. According to official statistics, only 4 percent of children in Slovakia are so-called “talents.” This small group of children has the opportunity to represent their schools or communities at championships and competitions and receive dedicated support. SuperClass supports the other 96 percent of children and proves that every child is gifted, willing to learn, and full of potential and creativity.
Without the necessary emotional skills to master challenges and seek opportunities to grow, aggressive behavior, bullying and indifference are consequences that play out in the classroom. Schools, however, do not currently reduce bullying and aggressive behavior effectively, which further inhibits children’s learning and development of emotional intelligence. These emotional skills are also key for reducing the social segregation that continues to undermine fair education and employment prospects for marginalized communities. For example, thousands of Romani children are erroneously placed in special schools or segregated in Roma only schools across Slovakia. Martina’s idea is founded on the assumption that all people are naturally able to empathize with one another and create change, they just need to be surrounded by conditions that foster it. She believes the school system is the ideal entry point for activating change from within children, rather than allowing problems such as aggressive behavior, bullying, and social segregation to persist and become norms in society.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Through SuperClass, Martina is cultivating and spreading empathy in Slovakia, beginning with the educational system. Her idea is based on the premise that every child has the right and capacity to participate and shape the cultural life of society. Martina uses the Slovakian school system as the mechanism to actualize her vision. She has developed an applied model of inclusive pedagogy to transform educational practices in Slovakia that unites dialogue and cooperation, while simultaneously fostering community and social conscience. At the heart of her methodology, Martina incentivizes new values in the school system including participation, openness, and teamwork. Through new incentives, she creates an educational framework that values the unique qualities of every child. As a result of SuperClass, kids learn to act together when solving a problem and mastering a challenge, taking advantage of the unique set of skills in the group. Martina creates space for kids to express themselves freely, which for many is the first time they are recognized as part of a solution.
Through SuperClass, Martina insinuates the teaching of empathy, cooperation and changemaking behavior into the school system so that children learn these skills. She does so, however, under the guise of a competition, with language and performances familiar in Slovakian school classes and extra-curricular activities. Even though Superclass enters the school system looking like a competition, in reality it is non-competitive in its approach. Through SuperClass, Martina brings kids together to independently envision, plan, design, and create a performance around a particular theme. The competition theme varies by year, but always reflects current social issues and mature subject matters. These themes aim to increase the cultural awareness of children, teaching them to feel, think, create, and discover their talents. Every child, regardless of his/her background, race, ethnicity, or school, is ultimately a co-creator and a winner and receives recognition by SuperClass. Through its new learning experience and appreciative atmosphere, Superclass incentivizes kids to cooperate with each other and the teacher. SuperClass improves the social and communication skills of children, equips them with new perspectives for their private and professional life, and encourages them to participate actively in the community.
The Slovak Ministry of Education has accredited SuperClass, so all schools across Slovakia can add SuperClass as a voluntary activity to their curriculums. As a result, Superclass has entered the official Slovak school curriculum and spread on a national scale. Because SuperClass is active on the national level, it creates meeting points for children from a multitude of schools, regions, towns and social backgrounds. In SuperClass, all children are equal, whether they are from different ethnicities, rich or poor families, have disabilities or are young offenders housed in juvenile detention centers. Her new idea is successfully spread through engaged teachers within various subjects, especially including Slovak language, literature, religion, ethics and music. There is a growing interest by students and teachers to apply the methodology beyond this traditional sphere, such as in the geography or mathematics curriculums. Martina sees her model of inclusive pedagogy as a tool for transforming and humanizing the entire field of education.
** Merged Data **
Through the project SuperTrieda (i.e. SuperClass), Martina Bodnarova embarked to cultivate and spread empathy within the educational system of Slovakia and to tackle its major deficiencies: insufficient promotion of independent thinking, student initiative and a complete absence of creative learning. Her aim is to counterbalance the performance driven, competitive and individualized school culture by igniting a movement of cooperation and creativity which enables each child to develop the skills and aptitudes required for mastering empathy, such as emotional intelligence, perspective-taking, self-regulation, communication and problem-solving.