Dr Birgitta Gassner is a lawyer and has been working as estate planner for Liechtensteinische Landesbank since 2004. Previously she worked as a junior lawyer in Austria and as a lawyer in Liechtenstein. The birth of her sons Dominik and David turned her into a passionate mother. Education and the future prospects of her children take centre stage in her life. She and Hanny Büchel have been friends for many years.
In 2014, Hanny Büchel founded the LERNBAR (Learning Bar) association, which offers extra-curricular learning opportunities for school children from Liechtenstein. As a remedial teacher, long-standing pre-school teacher and qualified Montessori teacher, she is very familiar with the woes of children who need more help and support to thrive in the regular school system. Particularly if the family is financially unable to buy the expensive support that is available on the free market.
Hanny, why do you think it so important to be open to others?
HB: Why should we be open to others? We’re not all born the same.
At school already the focus should therefore fall on advancement rather than on forcing everybody to be the same.
Teachers should look really carefully to identify gifts, talents and skills. And all of us should understand: children can’t all bring the same performance at the same time. We have to accept this, and be open to it.
BG: I can see how important disparity is with my two sons. As an extrovert, life is easier for the younger one.
The older boy is more reserved. It’s a challenge for us as parents to make him understand that everybody has their own special potential, the silent ones as well as those who are loud.
HB: So competition is a motivating force?
Every day at the Learning Bar I see the astounding results of an approach where the children can do what they want, and aren’t forced to compare themselves to others.
For example, many children try to avoid practising their reading skills. But we sat down with a newspaper and read the headlines out loud. And suddenly, reading the newspaper was fun for everybody.
Why is it important to think about digital media?
Jumping into diversity again and again!
BG: Healthy ambition is what drives us forward. Trying to squeeze young people into a straitjacket with academic quotas and standardisation takes away their room for manoeuvre.
Digitisation will change the professional world, and we will need young people who pick holes in arguments, who network and structure, and who are creative.
HB: The digital world is providing us with wonderful tools. But if we don’t manage to identify the advantages and risks, our children are destined to drown in a world of digital relationships.
BG: I agree. Every child – every person – can be a spotless and perfect hero in a computer game. This can be either an interesting experience, or fatal escapism.
HB: The question is: those who always see this “perfect” image – to what extent are they still willing to accept anything else?