Angélica Olvera is the Academic and Educational Research Director at the Centro Universitario Dr. Emilio Cárdenas (Mexico). She earned a Degree in Chemical Engineering at the UNAM, and also graduated in the Human Sciences and Pedagogy. She is a registered teacher with Hellinger Sciencia and actively promotes systemic pedagogy based on Bert Hellinger’s approach on an international level. She pioneered the implementation of a curricular programme based on emotional intelligence in secondary schools, high schools and universities in Mexico. She co-authored Inteligencia Transgeneracional, Constelaciones Familiares (Transgenerational Intelligence, Family Constellations) and Pedagogía del siglo XXI (Pedagogy in the 21st Century). She is the director of a number of bodies in systemic pedagogy based on Bert Hellinger’s approach in Mexico, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Spain.
"We need an all-encompassing pedagogy"
In this interview, Angélica Olvera, Academic and Educational Research Director for the CUDEC Group (Mexico) explains the concept of systemic pedagogy and its application to higher education.
How would you explain systemic pedagogy?
Based on the general theory of systems, a systemic approach was adopted in the USA, Mexico and Spain several decades ago. Things do not happen lineally, but systemically. What is happening now is deep-rooted in what happened in past space and time. Systemic pedagogy is based on observing the wider context of the dynamics and implications that arise as a result of the interactions between all the components of the educational system. We look at the participation of educational institutions, families, and the social and political framework that enables every country to serve its citizens.
The information in the system guides you. There is a point that acts as a catalyst, which will bring this energy to light. Information systems are the result of a globalised world. The information that goes to and from computers is the same that is found in everyday networks. We all have certain information in our own networks, which are the result of unresolved problems handed down to us that are in turn passed on; an emotional field in which the unresolved emotions that we inherit are transmitted and reproduced.
In the framework of the development of the abilities and competencies required to solve these matters in future generations, systemics offers the vision we need. Young people in the future will need to have a clean slate to overcome very difficult situations and ensure that new systems are able to survive.
Although systemic pedagogy has been studied from the point of view of complex systems, cybernetics and educational technology, the proposal drawn up by the Centro Universitario Dr. Emilio Cárdenas (CUDEC) in Mexico aims to gain a greater insight into the orders of love based on connections using the approach taken by Bert Hellinger. This proposal has been tested in the field over the past 10 years.
What does this approach contribute to education?
Systemic pedagogy using Bert Hellinger’s approach came into being with the aim of finding and devising ways of responding to scholar drop-out. A conceptual approach is taken to discover and understand the types and levels of phenomena that arise in the learning-teaching process, as well as the contexts in which this occurs: educational institutions, the family, and the social and political framework.
This model makes it possible to observe connections and understand the nature of the relationship between schools and students. It is also possible to examine the relationships that are established between components of the system and implications of these relationships, in which the family has a significant influence on the final result.
The work carried out by the CUDEC group is based on an interdisciplinary analysis in which the study of relationships between the components of the educational system is tackled as an interdependent whole. We hope to understand the act of education from this viewpoint.
Where does trans-generational intelligence come in?
Three dimensions of intelligence come into play in the act of education: intragenerational, intergenerational and transgenerational.
The learning-teaching process focuses on the teacher and the student. However, we have added the context of the family as a subtext, to which nobody seems to pay any attention but which is having a great effect on our work in the classroom. We therefore look at the genealogy and history of the teachers and students.
In order to build up the talent a country needs, it must delve down into its roots to find the cause of its problems. One has to look to the family, the school, the university and the nation from a transgenerational point of view.
Systemic pedagogy based on the Bert Hellinger approach makes it possible to reshape things to bring about new approaches to pedagogy whereby teachers and students are encouraged to learn. Looking at our origins then takes on relevance and the CUDEC group is working with this in mind.
What can systemic pedagogy contribute to the paradigm of sustainability?
The information in the system must be ordered. Our emotional world is a space, and our first space is our mother’s womb. We have a physical memory that is marked by our first emotional shocks. We have a connection with our mothers before we are born; we then think that we have become independent, but the connection persists. We must find a way of translating our emotions into a comprehensible language, and this translation is related to the concept of transgeneration. Emotions cannot be ordered unless past history is ordered. This is a timeline in which we are all immersed. Our duty as teachers is to establish a framework of awareness that makes it possible for future generations to be freer and more ordered so that they can act as the situation dictates.
Is the problem of sustainability a problem of identity?
Of course. It’s a problem of our roots in the Earth. Global citizenship is highly debilitating. First and foremost, I am Mexican and I have to work out what it means to be Mexican. Understanding where we come from is a top priority.
How do you introduce this work into higher education institutions?
We have not discovered anything new. We have rearranged information that was already in the system. This is not about justice. We have not placed ourselves before previous generations.
The phenomenon of life is difficult; we must break new ground, raise questions. If I do not find this natural, that means I am contaminating history. How can I sustain a reality that I believe to be wrong? Learning to connect: that’s what transgenerational intelligence means. We must acknowledge things as they are and refrain from casting judgements.
Problems must be solved by starting with communities. They cannot be solved in one fell swoop. We know what is happening globally, but communities need to revitalise their contexts and come up with their own solutions. We cannot enter a context with our solutions. That is why one of the competencies taught to young people is the ability to contextualise. The ability to send information so that others can find out what they need.
The main skills are knowing where to look on the map and building up competencies for future use in the same context. We have an in-built compass. We all know that we belong to the same species, like the ants and the bees. It is an error to believe that by disassociating from reason I will become an observer and that I can be different. Re-education is the only way. The time has come to go back home, return to the species and to our own particular system.
How has this been applied in Mexico?
In Mexico, we have created a new subject at the Faculty of Psychology: Psychology of Systems. We take a Hellinger-based approach, in which the Logos of the soul is understood as common wisdom. Wisdom about the soul of systems. Each system has intrinsic wisdom that we can look at, learn and develop. What is behind health, what is behind education?
We must be capable of looking at all systems, including the economic system, in a wide context in connection with other systems. That way, I can see where I’m going. If one looks through a microscope, it is impossible to resolve the problem of which direction should be taken. I must have cosmovison to see what underlies what is happening.
What type of curriculum should be used in academic training?
Core history subjects should be taught that examine the contributions of each civilisation and what we should be contributing now. When I came to Mexico in the 1990s, universities did not look at themselves. We need to look at ourselves to order information.
If we learn to look at things from the point of view of philosophy, psychology and history, they take on meaning. This does not mean looking at things in an alternative way, but in a comprehensive way. We need an all-embracing pedagogy because what is considered alternative also falls into that package.
Learning must be contextualised. Context, historical and geographical resources must be respected. You must first learn to identify with your history. If you do not, you become lost in a reality that is not yours and you lose strength. Strength comes from your ancestors. If young people become lost, they become weaker.
My pedagogical dream is that we all learn to draw on our identity to contribute to the time in history in which we live and thereby honour our past, present and future.
Other times and spaces must be created, the agenda set and the moment lived to the full. It is up to us to generate what follows, not just change what is already working and will go on working.
This article is based on a conversation with the GUNI Secretariat. It is not a literal transcription of the interview.