Sistema Fontán ®

Our system’s principles have been adopted one by one in response to theoretical demands or experimental findings, not as mere contradictions to the principles of traditional education. However, for the sake of clarity, we will present them as logical opposites of the traditional system’s principles. The list is neither comprehensive nor arranged in order of importance.

Natural learning is always governed by this principle. What is important is to master a concept, not simply to study it or understand it. Excellence must be achieved. The time needed to achieve it is a secondary consideration.

In the traditional system, a student’s time remains constant, and their performance is variable (low, on average). In our system, the opposite is true. A student’s time is variable, and their performance is constant.

SystemTimePerfomance
TraditionalConstantVariable
FontanVariableConstant

Students make progress at their own particular pace, not the pace of others. They take the time they need for excellent performance. A student may finish a grade in 4 months… or, perhaps, 15 or even 23. Students begin to study when they want to and finish when they know.

Students decide what topic to study and at what time. They decide the subjects to study, when to take a test, and how fast they make progress. Each student receives the academic attention they need.

“The true University of these days is a Collection of Books,” said Carlye. That means that our civilization is a written culture. Students nowadays must dive into that written culture, not just into primeval oral cultures. This “culture of knowledge” that the world lives in is made of logical, structured apophantic knowledge (“apophainein”, “to show”). Written language is much more efficient than oral language in conveying this kind of knowledge. We will give priority to written culture.

Therefore, students in our educational system never learn in class by listening to a teacher. They always learn by reading. Now, students that enter our system often have very poor reading skills because the traditional system never taught them to read silently. It only introduced them to sound repetition, to oral reading, in keeping with the oral culture foundation of the system. To make up for this shortcoming, we begin by improving our students’ silent reading skills. Then, they study every subject by reading special texts created by us in which the learning principles are systematically applied. Thus, they continuously improve their silent reading.

El principio es éste: la excelencia es para todos. No sólo para una élite. Todos pueden alcanzar la excelencia: es sólo cuestión de tiempo. La mediocridad no es admisible.

Nuestros estudiantes presentan exámenes de todos los temas que estudian. Los piden cuando ellos se sienten bien preparados. Los exámenes son difíciles. En cada uno deben alcanzar la excelencia. El nivel de excelencia se simboliza con números (para plegarnos a las exigencias oficiales de calificaciones intercambiables con otros colegios). El mínimo teórico que debe alcanzar el estudiante es de 9 puntos (sobre 10). Si no llega al 10, un analista de materia le envía un análisis escrito, que le orienta sobre lo que debe hacer. El estudiante sigue entonces trabajando. Pide un nuevo examen, etc. Así continúa hasta que alcanza la excelencia en forma inequívoca.

The important thing is for students to learn a self-teaching skill that will last a lifetime. It’s not important for students to store “content”. Content is always available somewherebooks, encyclopedias, atlases, databases, the web and so on. The important thing is for students to perfect the mental processes (cognitive or motivational) that lead them to gain knowledge independently.

Education must be based on the experience of intellectual pleasure, not the concept of effort, duty and sacrifice. This is perhaps our favorite principle. We consider it the foundation of all the other principles.

En nuestro sistema, el estudiante aprende siempre por su propia iniciativa. La técnica para lograrlo es demasiado compleja para explicarla en este resumen. Un ejemplo: al alumno no se le da el enunciado del teorema de Pitágoras para que se lo aprenda. Por el contrario, el alumno “re-inventa” el teorema partiendo de su experiencia, por un proceso de inducción.

From the early days of scientific psychology in the 19th century (Weber, Fechner, Galton, among other names), until the 20th century (Binet, Vygotski, Skinner, Piaget and so on), principles or basic laws of human and animal learning were formulated. These fundamental laws are equivalent to the basic medical principles of hygiene and asepsis. They are completely ignored in the traditional system, but they are the foundation of the new system. Some of them have been mentioned before: operant conditioning, immediate feedback, intrinsic reinforcement, individual pace and so forth. There are other laws, such as significant learning based on ignorance, the positive role of mistakes and the search for metacognitive development. In this new system, students learn according to these principles.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Students will learn well only when they want to learn. An educational system must provide students with the necessary motivation for this. Our system offers motivation mainly based on positive intrinsic reinforcement. Students learn “for the pleasure of learning”, like a true intellectual.

Students must be promoted to a state of autonomy in which they don’t need teachers, they can study and learn on their own, be intellectually mature, and so on. Our system applies this principle systematically.

Students must take care of their own learning in every way. We systematically train them to do so. Our system continuously exposes students to making decisions and commitments, analyzing their performance, self-evaluating, planning and so forth.