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close this bookLearning: The Treasure Within (UNESCO, 1996, 48 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentLooking ahead
View the documentTensions to be overcome
View the documentDesigning and building our common future
View the documentLearning throughout life: the heartbeat of society
View the documentThe stages and bridges of learning: a fresh approach
View the documentGetting the reform strategies right
View the documentBroadening international co-operation in the global village

Designing and building our common future

People today have a dizzying feeling of being torn between a globalization whose manifestations they can see and sometimes have to endure, and their search for roots, reference points and a sense of belonging.

Education has to face up to this problem now more than ever as a world society struggles painfully to be born: education is at the heart of both personal and community development; its mission is to enable each of us, without exception, to develop all our talents to the full and to realize our creative potential, including responsibility for our own lives and achievement of our personal aims.

This aim transcends all others. Its achievement, though long and difficult, will be an essential contribution to the search for a more just world, a better world to live in. The Commission wishes to stress this point strongly, at a time when some are being assailed by serious doubts as to the opportunities opened up by education.

It is true that many other problems have to be solved, and we shall come back to them, but this report has been prepared at a time when, faced with so many misfortunes caused by war, crime and under-development, humankind is apparently hesitating between continuing headlong along the same path and resignation. Let us offer people another way.

There is, therefore, every reason to place renewed emphasis on the moral and cultural dimensions of education, enabling each person to grasp the individuality of other people and to understand the world's erratic progression towards a certain unity; but this process must begin with self-understanding through an inner voyage whose milestones are knowledge, meditation and the practice of self-criticism.

This message should guide educational thinking, in conjunction with the establishment of wider and more far-reaching forms of international co-operation which will be discussed below.

Seen in this context, everything falls into place, whether it be the requirements of science and technology, knowledge of self and of the environment, or the development of skills enabling each person to function effectively in a family, as a citizen or as a productive member of society.

This all goes to show that the Commission in no way undervalues the central role of brainpower and innovation, the transition to a knowledge-driven society, the endogenous processes that make it possible to accumulate knowledge, to incorporate new discoveries and to apply them in different areas of human activity, from those related to health and the environment to the production of goods and services. It is also aware of the limits, and even the failures, of attempts to transfer technologies to the most impoverished countries, precisely because of the endogenous nature of methods for the accumulation and application of knowledge. This is why it is necessary, among other things, to become familiar at an early age with science and the uses of science, and with the difficult task of assimilating progress in such a way that human identity and integrity are fully respected. Here, too, the ethical issues must not be overlooked.

It also shows that the Commission is aware of the contribution that education must make to economic and social development. The education system is all too often blamed for unemployment. This observation is only partly true; above all it should not obscure the other political, economic and social prerequisites for achieving full employment or enabling the economies of underdeveloped countries to take off. As for education, the Commission believes that valid responses to the problems of mismatch between supply and demand on the labour market can come from a more flexible system that allows greater curricular diversity and builds bridges between different types of education, or between working life and further training. Such flexibility would also help to reduce school failure and the tremendous wastage of human potential resulting from it.

Such improvements, desirable and feasible as they are, do not, however, obviate the need for intellectual innovation and the implementation of a model of sustainable development based on the specific characteristics of each country. Given the present and foreseeable advances in science and technology, and the growing importance of knowledge and other intangibles in the production of goods and services, we need to rethink the place of work and its changing status in tomorrow's society. To create tomorrow's society, imagination will have to keep ahead of technological progress in order to avoid further increases in unemployment and social exclusion or inequalities in development.

For all these reasons, it seems to us that the concept of an education pursued throughout life, with all its advantages in terms of flexibility, diversity and availability at different times and in different places, should command wide support. There is a need to rethink and broaden the notion of lifelong education. Not only must it adapt to changes in the nature of work, but it must also constitute a continuous process of forming whole human beings - their knowledge and aptitudes, as well as the critical faculty and the ability to act. It should enable people to develop awareness of themselves and their environment and encourage them to play their social role at work and in the community.

In this context, the Commission discussed the need to advance towards a 'learning society'. The truth is that every aspect of life, at both the individual and the social level, offers opportunities for both learning and doing. It is thus very tempting to focus too much on this side of the question, stressing the educational potential of the modern media, the world of work or cultural and leisure pursuits, even to the extent of overlooking a number of fundamental truths: although people need to take every opportunity for learning and self-improvement, they will not be able to make good use of all these potential resources unless they have received a sound basic education. Better still, school should impart both the desire for, and pleasure in, learning, the ability to learn how to learn, and intellectual curiosity. One might even imagine a society in which each individual would be in turn both teacher and learner.

For this to come about, nothing can replace the formal education system, where each individual is introduced to the many forms of knowledge. There is no substitute for the teacher-pupil relationship, which is underpinned by authority and developed through dialogue. This has been argued time and time again by the great classical thinkers who have studied the question of education. It is the responsibility of the teacher to impart to the pupil the knowledge that humankind has acquired about itself and about nature and everything of importance that it has created and invented.