The Work of the Commission
In November 1991 the General Conference invited the Director-General 'to convene an international commission to reflect on education and learning for the twenty-first century'. Federico Mayor requested Jacques Delors to chair the Commission, with a group of 14 other persons from all over the world and from varied cultural and professional backgrounds.
The International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century was formally established at the beginning of 1993. Financed by UNESCO and working with the assistance of a secretariat provided by the Organization, the Commission was able to draw on the Organization's valuable resources and international experience and on an impressive mass of information, but was completely independent in carrying out its work and in preparing its recommendations.
UNESCO has on several previous occasions produced international studies reviewing issues and priorities in education worldwide. In 1968, The World Educational Crisis, A Systems Analysis, by Philip H. Coombs, Director of UNESCO's International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), drew on the work of the Institute to examine the problems facing education, and to recommend far-reaching innovations.
In 1971, in the wake of student upheavals in much of the world during the previous three years, René Maheu (then Director-General of UNESCO), asked a former Prime Minister and Minister of Education of France, Edgar Faure, to chair a panel of seven persons entrusted with defining 'the new aims to be assigned to education as a result of the rapid changes in knowledge and in societies, the demands of development, the aspirations of the individual, and the overriding need for international understanding and peace' and putting forward 'suggestions regarding the intellectual, human and financial means needed to attain the objectives set ...'. Published in 1972 under the title Learning to Be, the report of the Edgar Faure Commission had the great merit of firmly establishing the concept of lifelong learning, at a time when traditional education systems were being challenged.
The first and certainly the chief difficulty confronting the Commission in carrying out its mandate concerned the vast diversity of educational situations, philosophies of education, and indeed practicalities of educational provision and organization. Related to the difficulties raised by diversity was the sheer quantity of information available, and the impossibility for the Commission of digesting more than a small proportion of it in the course of its work. Thus, selection was necessary to determine what was vital in looking at the future, bearing in mind both geopolitical, economic, social and cultural trends, and potential roles of education policies.
Six lines of enquiry were chosen, that enabled the Commission to approach its task from the aims (both individual and societal) of the learning process: education and culture; education and citizenship; education and social cohesion; education, work and employment; education and development; and education, research and science. These six lines of enquiry were complemented by three transverse themes whose point of entry was more directly the functioning of educational systems, that is communications technology, teachers and the teaching process, and financing and management.
The method adopted by the Commission was to engage in as wide-ranging a process of consultation as was possible during the time available. The Commission met in plenary session nine times; it held eight working group sessions to examine both the major topics chosen, and also concerns and issues particular to one region or group of countries. Participants in the working group sessions were representative of a wide range of professions and organizations directly and indirectly related to education, formal and non-formal: teachers, researchers, students, government officials, and people active in governmental and non-governmental organizations at national and international levels. Individual hearings of well-known intellectuals enabled the Commission to hold in-depth exchanges on a wide range of topics related to education. Other consultations were held on an individual basis, face-to-face or in writing. A questionnaire was sent to all the National Commissions of UNESCO to invite submissions in the form of existing documentation or fresh material: the response was very positive, and the replies were studied carefully. Non-governmental organizations were similarly consulted and in some cases invited to participate in meetings. For over two and a half years, members of the Commission, including its Chairman, also attended a series of governmental and non-governmental meetings in which its work was discussed and ideas exchanged. Many written submissions were requested by, or sent spontaneously to, the Commission. The Commission secretariat analysed a considerable volume of literature and provided syntheses on a variety of topics for the Commissioners. Its report, Learning: The Treasure Within was delivered to the Director-General on 11 April 1996. UNESCO has established a task force charged with following up on the report. The task force publishes working documents of the Commission and looks further into some of the questions raised by the report. To follow its - and others' - work click onfollow-up and regional activities.