Worldwide Action in Education
Two New Initiatives of UNESCO for Human Development
Twenty years after the publication of Learning to be, it seemed opportune to initiate a fresh examination of education, its aims and processes, to study and reflect on the challenges facing education in the coming years.
The initial debates of the Commission revealed agreement on one central theme, namely the role of education in promoting harmony in the increasing globalization of human society. The Commission is attempting to discern how education could make a difference in bringing people into closer harmony, how it could help people learn to live together. Its members underscored the need to find ways in which to reflect adequately the diversity of situations and of the responses to these situations, while maintaining a strong central message.
The debate on the main turning points in human development will be continued in subsequent sessions and ad hoc working groups by region on the basis of specially commissioned studies. These turning points fall into three main categories: those related to the economy (in particular new configurations in the organization and distribution of work), those related to demographic change, and those related to science and technology, including the media. All three will have important consequences for ecology and the environment. The role of the nation state and the evolution of nation states as entities in relation to education was an underlying theme in these reflections.
The worldwide issues forming the background to the Commission's thinking prompted the fundamental question whether education could purport to be universal. Could it by itself, as a historical factor, create a universal language that would make it possible to overcome a number of contradictions, respond to a number of challenges and, despite their diversity, convey a message to all the inhabitants of the world? In this language which, ideally, would be accessible to everybody and in which the maxims and views of the West would no longer be preponderant, all the world's wisdom and the wealth of its civilizations and cultures would be expressed in an immediately comprehensible form.
The message that this language would convey would have to be addressed to human beings in all their aspects, body and mind, material and spiritual activity, private person and citizen, individual and community member.
Report by Jacques Delors International Commission on Education First session, 2-4 March 1993
Mr Pérez de Cuéllar stressed in this connection that it is culture which 'holds the key to human, sustainable development based on sharing' and that 'development begins in human culture'. The cultural dimension of development will therefore be central to the work of the Commission. It is nevertheless not enough merely to repeat that it must be taken into consideration: it is also necessary to say how this can be done. The Commission's report should make it possible to move from theory to practice and to guide action towards the solution of specific problems. As stated in the Commission's mandate, 'in the future, development models should be focused on people and should foster cultural values instead of being prejudicial to them'. The two Commissions, which are complementary to each other, will co-operate closely. Mr Pérez de Cuéllar stated in this connection that 'education, which is, by the same token as science, an essential dimension of culture and is also its principal means of transmission - is first and foremost a long and reciprocal relationship with citizenship, with cultural, economic and social development'.
Education is a key link in the connecting structure between culture and development. What methods are likely to ensure better symbiosis between each person's culture, the education that transforms us, and the development to which both should contribute but which in return should be geared to the cultural and educational goals? Should we not open up a line of research in this field to ensure that there is no repetition of the failure of socially maladjusted models of cultural and educational development?
Culture can permeate development only if it first permeates education and if in return education effectively promotes fulfilment in one's own culture, and not merely social or professional selection, which very often and in many societies leads to the brain drain.
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar Address at the inaugural meeting of the WCCD, 17-21 March 1993
Learning to be
Towards an educating society
Learning to be, the report of the International Commission on
the Development of Education, presided over by Edgar Faure, was
published in 1972. With its many reprints and language versions
it became one of UNESCO's most popular publications.
Edgar Faure and his colleagues produced this report against the background of the student demonstrations and crisis of authority which marked the late 1960s, at a time when about one-third of the Member States had just gained their independence, a time of hope and optimism inspired by widespread economic growth.
The main theme, as Edgar Faure wrote in his presentation of the report, is that education can only be overall and lifelong. 'We should no longer assiduously acquire knowledge once and for all, but learn how to build up a constantly evolving body of knowledge all through life - learn to be.
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