» At Vatican, Director-General Affirms Education as Ethical Imperative
16.10.2017 - ODG

At Vatican, Director-General Affirms Education as Ethical Imperative

© The Pontifical Academy of Sciences

On 16 October 2017, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova shared her vision of education as a public, moral and societal responsibility in a special session on “Ethics in Action” organized at Casino Pio IV, seat of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican.

Gathering religious leaders from different faith traditions, academics, business and labor leaders and development practitioners, the session entirely dedicated to education was part of the “Ethics in Action” initiative, hosted by the Pontifical Academies, in partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Religions for Peace and the University of Notre Dame.

Welcoming participants, Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy highlighted the importance of changing education to integrate new learning methods and foster inclusion.

Recalling the words of His Holiness Pope Francis when they met in 2016 when he affirmed that “education is an essential dimension of human dignity and for the fight against exclusion and poverty,” Ms Bokova traced the stakes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular SDG4.

 “Today more than ever, we must educate for inclusion, for dialogue and tolerance, for living together -- we need to teach solidarity, mutual respect and peace. I see this as the frontline in our struggle to build a more just, more peaceful world.”

 “Education must be about more than transmitting information. It is about values, critical thinking, the ethics of development,” she affirmed.

 She warned that the exclusion of children and youth from education – especially of girls and young women – compounded by the humanitarian crisis - is “throwing a shadow over the development of entire societies.”

 She emphasized the fundamental role of faith leaders and community leaders for changing mindsets and speaking out against violence and intolerance.

 “We share with Pope Francis the idea that education is about practicing a ‘grammar of dialogue,” which is a foundation for exchange, for mutual understanding and respect, to make the most of cultural and religious diversity as a strength.”

She outlined UNESCO’s work to empower girls and women through education, advance the concept and practice of global citizenship as well as education for sustainable development.

Citing from Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical, in which he calls for “a distinctive way of looking at things” to find urgent responses to environmental decay, she affirmed that UNESCO’s leadership on education for sustainable development “is fundamentally about each of us leading the way through our behaviours, attitudes, consumption patterns and commitment to solidarity.”

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, focused his intervention on the urgency of access for all and scaled up financing, pointing to the direct correlation between education and economic growth.

"For hundreds of millions of children there is practically no way to get a rudimentary education. There is nothing more central to the SDG agenda than this, " he said, highlighting the $40 billion annual financing gap. "You would think it would be an easier sell, " he said, warning that development cannot be expected when less than 30% of African youth complete secondary school.

In a further keynote, Professor Dan Wagner, UNESCO Chair on Learning and Literacy at the University of Pennyslvania, defined the ethical  challenge as focusing on those at the bottom of the pyramid. "We need a learning equity agenda and index to reduce social gaps. We need to convince ministers of education  to invest in the bottom of the pyramid. Majority approaches will likely maintain and increase inequalities in the future."

The two-day programme encompasses sessions on social inclusion, science and technology, university and youth leadership, and a new ethical education, and will close with the adoption  of a shared statement.



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