Alphabet Alphabet

dir. Erwin Wagenhofer 2013 Austria, Germany 107 min.
How does the modern education system determine our view of the world and shape our personality?

This tribute to the human imagination takes the form of an indictment of hierarchical education systems aimed at competition and quantifiable results. This documentary essay quotes education expert Sir Ken Robinson at the start: “I believe that we systematically destroy this capacity [for imagination] in our children and in ourselves.”

The film identifies similar complaints from China to France. Yang Dongping, educational science professor at the Institute of Technology in Beijing, regrets the rise of market-thinking in the Chinese education system. “Today, everyone is sucked into a spiralling vortex of competition”. On the other side, German education expert Andreas Schleicher is in favor of the international standardization of student testing. His arguments are rebutted by German brain researcher Gerald Hüther, French creative educator Arno Stern – whose son André never attended school but ended up doing just fine as a guitar builder – and Pablo Pineda Ferrer, star of the 2009 feature “Yo también” and the first European student with Down syndrome to graduate from a university. In between the interviews, the documentary intersperses images of rigid and repetitive exteriors and interiors, and scenes of nature and children at play. In the end, they’re they’re the ones this is all about.

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