|Learning: The Treasure Within (UNESCO, 1996, 48 p.)|
|EDUCATION: THE NECESSARY UTOPIA|
In confronting the many challenges that the future holds in store, humankind sees in education an indispensable asset in its attempt to attain the ideals of peace, freedom and social justice. As it concludes its work, the Commission affirms its belief that education has a fundamental role to play in personal and social development. The Commission does not see education as a miracle cure or a magic formula opening the door to a world in which all ideals will be attained, but as one of the principal means available to foster a deeper and more harmonious form of human development and thereby to reduce poverty, exclusion, ignorance, oppression and war.
At a time when educational policies are being sharply criticized or pushed - for economic and financial reasons - down to the bottom of the agenda, the Commission wishes to share this conviction with the widest possible audience, through its analyses, discussions and recommendations.
Does the point need to be emphasized? The Commission was thinking principally about the children and young people who will take over from today's generation of adults, the latter being all too inclined to concentrate on their own problems. Education is also an expression of affection for children and young people, whom we need to welcome into society, unreservedly offering them the place that is theirs by right therein - a place in the education system, to be sure, but also in the family, the local community and the nation. This elementary duty needs to be constantly brought to mind, so that greater attention is paid to it, even when choosing between political, economic and financial options. In the words of a poet: The Child is father of the Man'.
Our century has been as much one of sound and fury as of economic and social progress - progress that in any case has not been equally shared. At the dawn of a new century the prospect of which evokes both anguish and hope, it is essential that all people with a sense of responsibility turn their attention to both the aims and the means of education. It is the view of the Commission that, while education is an ongoing process of improving knowledge and skills, it is also - perhaps primarily - an exceptional means of bringing about personal development and building relationships among individuals, groups and nations.
This view was explicitly adopted by the members of the Commission when they accepted their mandate. They wished moreover, by the arguments they adduced, to stress the pivotal role of UNESCO, a role that stems directly from the ideas on which UNESCO was founded, based upon the hope for a world that is a better place to live in, where people will have learned to respect the rights of women and men, to show mutual understanding, and to use advances in knowledge to foster human development rather than to create further distinctions between people.
Our Commission had the perhaps impossible task of overcoming the obstacles presented by the extraordinary diversity of situations in the world and trying to arrive at analyses that are universally valid and conclusions acceptable to everyone.
Nevertheless, the Commission did its best to project its thinking on to a future dominated by globalization, to choose those questions that everyone is asking and to lay down some guidelines that can be applied both within national contexts and on a worldwide scale.
Some remarkable scientific discoveries and breakthroughs have been made during the last twenty-five years. Many countries have emerged from underdevelopment, and standards of living have continued to rise, albeit at rates differing considerably from country to country. Despite this, the prevailing mood of disenchantment forms a sharp contrast with the hopes born in the years just after the Second World War.
It may therefore be said that, in economic and social terms, progress has brought with it disillusionment. This is evident in rising unemployment and in the exclusion of growing numbers of people in the rich countries. It is underscored by the continuing inequalities in development throughout the world.1 While humankind is increasingly aware of the threats facing its natural environment, the resources needed to put matters right have not yet been allocated, despite a series of international meetings, such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and despite the serious warnings of natural disasters or major industrial accidents. The truth is that all-out economic growth can no longer be viewed as the ideal way of reconciling material progress with equity, respect for the human condition and respect for the natural assets that we have a duty to hand on in good condition to future generations.
1. According to UNCTAD studies, average income in the least-developed countries (560 million inhabitants) is falling. The estimated figure is $300 a year per inhabitant as against $906 for developing countries and $21,598 for the industrialized countries. guidelines that can be applied both within national contexts and on a worldwide scale.
We have by no means grasped all the implications of this as regards both the ends and means of sustainable development and new forms of international co-operation. This issue will constitute one of the major intellectual and political challenges of the next century.
That should not, however, cause the developing countries to disregard the classic forces driving growth, in particular as regards their need to enter the world of science and technology, with all this implies in terms of cultural adaptation and the modernization of mentalities.
Those who believed that the end of the Cold War held out the prospect of a better and more peaceful world have another reason for disenchantment and disillusionment. It is simply not an adequate consolation or excuse to repeat that history is tragic; that is something everyone knows or should know. Although the death toll in the last world war was 50 million, we must also remember that since 1945 some 20 million people have died in around 150 wars, both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It hardly matters whether these are new risks or old risks. Tensions smoulder and then flare up between nations and ethnic groups, or as a result of a buildup of social and economic injustices. Against a background of growing interdependence among peoples and the globalization of problems, decision-makers have a duty to assess these risks and take action to ward them off.
But how can we learn to live together in the 'global village' if we cannot manage to live together in the communities to which we naturally belong - the nation, the region, the city, the village, the neighbourhood? Do we want to make a contribution to public life and can we do so? That question is central to democracy. The will to participate, it should be remembered, must come from each person's sense of responsibility; but whereas democracy has conquered new territory in lands formerly in the grip of totalitarianism and despotic rule, it is showing signs of languishing in countries which have had democratic institutions for many decades, as if there were a constant need for new beginnings and as if everything has to be renewed or reinvented.
How could these great challenges not be a cause for concern in educational policy-making? How could the Commission fail to highlight the ways in which educational policies can help to create a better world, by contributing to sustainable human development, mutual understanding among peoples and a renewal of practical democracy?
To this end, we have to confront, the better to overcome them, the main tensions that, although they are not new, will be central to the problems of the twenty-first century, namely:
· The tension between the global and the local: people need gradually to become world citizens without losing their roots and while continuing to play an active part in the life of their nation and their local community.
· The tension between the universal and the individual: culture is steadily being globalized, but as yet only partially. We cannot ignore the promises of globalization nor its risks, not the least of which is the risk of forgetting the unique character of individual human beings; it is for them to choose their own future and achieve their full potential within the carefully tended wealth of their traditions and their own cultures which, unless we are careful, can be endangered by contemporary developments.
· The tension between tradition and modernity, which is part of the same problem: how is it possible to adapt to change without turning one's back on the past, how can autonomy be acquired in complementarity with the free development of others and how can scientific progress be assimilated? This is the spirit in which the challenges of the new information technologies must be met.
· The tension between long-term and short-term considerations: this has always existed but today it is sustained by the predominance of the ephemeral and the instantaneous, in a world where an over-abundance of transient information and emotions continually keeps the spotlight on immediate problems. Public opinion cries out for quick answers and ready solutions, whereas many problems call for a patient, concerted, negotiated strategy of reform. This is precisely the case where education policies are concerned.
· The tension between, on the one hand, the need for competition, and on the other, the concern for equality of opportunity: this is a classic issue, which has been facing both economic and social policy-makers and educational policy-makers since the beginning of the century. Solutions have sometimes been proposed but they have never stood the test of time. Today, the Commission ventures to claim that the pressures of competition have caused many of those in positions of authority to lose sight of their mission, which is to give each human being the means to take full advantage of every opportunity. This has led us, within the terms of reference of the report, to rethink and update the concept of lifelong education so as to reconcile three forces: competition, which provides incentives; co-operation, which gives strength; and solidarity, which unites.
· The tension between the extraordinary expansion of knowledge and human beings' capacity to assimilate it: the Commission was unable to resist the temptation to add some new subjects for study, such as self-knowledge, ways to ensure physical and psychological well-being or ways to an improved understanding of the natural environment and to preserving it better. Since there is already increasing pressure on curricula, any clear-sighted reform strategy must involve making choices, providing always that the essential features of a basic education that teaches pupils how to improve their lives through knowledge, through experiment and through the development of their own personal cultures are preserved.
· Lastly - another perennial factor - the tension between the spiritual and the material: often without realizing it, the world has a longing, often unexpressed, for an ideal and for values that we shall term 'moral'. It is thus education's noble task to encourage each and every one, acting in accordance with their traditions and convictions and paying full respect to pluralism, to lift their minds and spirits to the plane of the universal and, in some measure, to transcend themselves. It is no exaggeration on the Commission's part to say that the survival of humanity depends thereon.
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.
The concept of learning throughout life thus emerges as one of the keys to the twenty-first century. It goes beyond the traditional distinction between initial and continuing education. It meets the challenges posed by a rapidly changing world. This is not a new insight, since previous reports on education have emphasized the need for people to return to education in order to deal with new situations arising in their personal and working lives. That need is still felt and is even becoming stronger. The only way of satisfying it is for each individual to learn how to learn.
But there is a further requirement: the far-reaching changes in the traditional patterns of life require of us a better understanding of other people and the world at large; they demand mutual understanding, peaceful interchange and, indeed, harmony - the very things that are most lacking in our world today.
Having adopted this position, the Commission has put greater emphasis on one of the four pillars that it proposes and describes as the foundations of education: learning to live together, by developing an understanding of others and their history, traditions and spiritual values and, on this basis, creating a new spirit which, guided by recognition of our growing interdependence and a common analysis of the risks and challenges of the future, would induce people to implement common projects or to manage the inevitable conflicts in an intelligent and peaceful way. Utopia, some might think, but it is a necessary Utopia, indeed a vital one if we are to escape from a dangerous cycle sustained by cynicism or by resignation.
While the Commission has indeed a vision of the kind of education that would create and underlay this new spirit, it has not disregarded the other three pillars of education which provide, as it were, the bases for learning to live together.
The first of these is learning to know. Given the rapid changes brought about by scientific progress and the new forms of economic and social activity, the emphasis has to be on combining a sufficiently broad general education with the possibility of in-depth work on a selected number of subjects. Such a general background provides, so to speak, the passport to lifelong education, in so far as it gives people a taste - but also lays the foundations - for learning throughout life.
Learning to do is another pillar. In addition to learning to do a job of work, it should, more generally, entail the acquisition of a competence that enables people to deal with a variety of situations, often unforeseeable, and to work in teams, a feature to which educational methods do not at present pay enough attention. In many cases, such competence and skills are more readily acquired if pupils and students have the opportunity to try out and develop their abilities by becoming involved in work experience schemes or social work while they are still in education, whence the increased importance that should be attached to all methods of alternating study with work.
Last, but far from least, is the fourth pillar: learning to be. This was the dominant theme of the Edgar Faure report Learning to Be: The World of Education Today and Tomorrow, published by UNESCO in 1972. Its recommendations are still very relevant, for in the twenty-first century everyone will need to exercise greater independence and judgement combined with a stronger sense of personal responsibility for the attainment of common goals. Our report stresses a further imperative: none of the talents which are hidden like buried treasure in every person must be left untapped. These are, to name but a few: memory, reasoning power, imagination, physical ability, aesthetic sense, the aptitude to communicate with others and the natural charisma of the group leader, which again goes to prove the need for greater self-knowledge.
The Commission has alluded to another Utopian idea: a learning society founded on the acquisition, renewal and use of knowledge. These are three aspects that ought to be emphasized in the educational process. As the development of the 'information society' is increasing the opportunities for access to data and facts, education should enable everyone to gather information and to select, arrange, manage and use it.
While education should, therefore, constantly adapt to changes in society, it must not fail to pass on the attainments, foundations and benefits of human experience.
Faced with a growing and at the same time increasingly quality-minded demand for education, how can educational policies achieve the twin aims of high educational standards and equity? These were the questions that the Commission addressed concerning courses of study, educational methods and content, and prerequisites for the effectiveness of education.
By focusing its recommendations on the concept of learning throughout life, the Commission did not intend to convey the idea that by such a qualitative leap one could avoid reflecting on the different levels of education. On the contrary, it has set out to reassert some of the major principles advanced by UNESCO, such as the vital need for basic education, to urge a review of the role of secondary education and to examine the issues raised by developments in higher education, particularly the phenomenon of mass higher education.
Quite simply, learning throughout life makes it possible to organize the various stages of education to provide for passage from one stage to another and to diversify the paths through the system, while enhancing the value of each. This could be a way of avoiding the invidious choice between selection by ability, which increases the number of academic failures and the risks of exclusion, and the same education for all, which can inhibit talent.
The foregoing in no way detracts from the excellent definition of basic learning needs produced in 1990 at the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand):
These needs comprise both essential learning tools (such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, and problem solving) and the basic learning content (such as knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes) required by human beings to be able to survive, to develop their full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions, and to continue learning. (World Declaration on Education for All, Art. 1, para. 1.)
This is certainly an impressive catalogue, but it does not necessarily imply an overloading of curricula. The teacher-pupil relationship, the learning available in children's local environment, and an effective use of modern media (where they exist) can in conjunction contribute to the personal and intellectual development of each pupil. The 'three Rs' - reading, writing and arithmetic - are given their full due. The combination of conventional teaching and out-of-school approaches should enable children to experience the three dimensions of education - the ethical and cultural, the scientific and technological, and the economic and social.
To put it another way, education is also a social experience through which children learn about themselves, develop interpersonal skills and acquire basic knowledge and skills. This experience should begin in early childhood, in different forms depending on the situation, but always with the involvement of families and local communities.
Two observations which the Commission sees as important should be added at this stage.
Basic education should be extended, worldwide, to the 900 million illiterate adults, the 130 million children not enrolled in school, and the more than 100 million children who drop out prematurely from school. This vast undertaking is a priority for the technical assistance and partnership projects carried out as part of international co-operation.
Basic education is of course an issue in all countries, including the industrialized ones. From this initial stage onwards, educational contents should be designed to stimulate a love of learning and knowledge and thus develop the desire and provide the opportunities for learning throughout life.
This brings us to one of the major problem areas in any reform, that of the policies to be applied to the period of adolescence and youth, between primary education and work or higher education. To coin a phrase, secondary schools cut rather a sorry figure in educational thinking. They are the target of considerable criticism and they provoke a considerable amount of frustration.
Among the sources of frustration are the increased and increasingly diversified requirements, leading to rapid growth in enrolments and overcrowded curricula - whence the familiar problems associated with mass education, which the less-developed countries cannot easily solve at either the financial or the organizational level. There is also the distress felt by school-leavers who face a shortage of opportunities, a distress increased by an all-or-nothing obsession with getting into higher education. Mass unemployment in many countries only adds to the malaise. The Commission stresses its alarm at a trend that is leading, in both rural and urban areas, in both developing and industrialized countries, not only to unemployment but also to the under-utilization of human resources.
The Commission is convinced that the only way out of this difficult situation is a very broad diversification of the types of study available. This reflects one of the Commission's major concerns, which is to make the most of all forms of talent so as to reduce academic failure and prevent the far-too-widespread feeling among young people that they are excluded, left with no prospects.
These various types should include both conventional education, which focuses more on abstraction and conceptualization, and approaches that alternate school with work experience in a way that brings out additional abilities and inclinations. In any event, there should be bridges between these approaches so that errors - all too frequent - in the choice of direction can be corrected.
The Commission also believes that the prospect of being able to go back to education or training would alter the general climate by assuring young people that their fate is not sealed forever between the ages of 14 and 20.
Higher education should be seen from this same angle.
A first point to remember is that, side by side with universities, there are other types of higher education institutions in many countries. Some cream off the most able students while others were set up to provide specifically targeted, high-quality vocational training, lasting between two and four years. Such diversification undeniably meets the needs of society and the economy as manifested both at the national and at the regional levels.
Increasingly stringent selection in order to ease the pressures brought about by mass higher education in the wealthiest countries is neither politically nor socially acceptable. One of the main drawbacks of such an approach is that many young people are shut out from the educational process before they have been able to obtain a recognized diploma; they are therefore in the desperate predicament of having obtained neither a formal qualification nor a training appropriate for the job market.
The evolution of enrolments therefore needs to be managed, but it can be kept within limits as a result of secondary education reform, along the broad lines proposed by the Commission.
Universities would contribute to this process by diversifying what they offer:
· as scientific establishments and centres of learning, from where students go on to theoretical or applied research or teaching;
· as establishments offering occupational qualifications, combining high-level knowledge and skills, with courses and content continually tailored to the needs of the economy;
· as some of the main meeting-places for learning throughout life, opening their doors to adults who wish either to resume their studies or to adapt and develop their knowledge or to satisfy their taste for learning in all areas of cultural life; and
· as leading partners in international co-operation, facilitating exchanges of teachers and students and ensuring that the best teaching is made widely available through international professorships.
In this way, universities would transcend what is wrongly held to be the conflict between the logic of public service and the logic of the job market. They would also reclaim their intellectual and social vocation as, in a sense, guarantors of universal values and the cultural heritage. The Commission sees these as cogent reasons for urging greater university autonomy.
Having formulated these proposals, the Commission emphasizes that these issues take on a special significance in poor countries, where universities have a decisive role to play. In developing countries, universities must learn from their own past and analyse their countries' difficulties, engaging in research aimed at finding solutions to the most acute among them. It is also incumbent on them to propose a renewed vision of development that will enable their countries to build a genuinely better future. They must provide the vocational and technological training of the future leaders and the higher- and middle-level education required if their countries are to escape from their present treadmills of poverty and underdevelopment. It is particularly necessary to devise new development models for regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, as has already been done for some Eastern Asian countries, on a case-by-case basis.
While neither underestimating the need to manage short-term constraints nor disregarding the need to adapt existing systems, the Commission wishes to emphasize the necessity of a more long-term approach if the reforms required are to succeed. By the same token, it stresses the fact that too many reforms one after another can be the death of reform, since they do not allow the system the time needed either to absorb change or to get all the parties concerned involved in the process. Furthermore, past failures show that many reformers adopt an approach that is either too radical or too theoretical, ignoring what can be usefully learned from experience or rejecting past achievements. As a result, teachers, parents and pupils are disoriented and less than willing to accept and implement reform.
The main parties contributing to the success of educational reforms are, first of all, the local community, including parents, school heads and teachers; secondly, the public authorities; and thirdly, the international community. Many past failures have been due to insufficient involvement of one or more of these partners. Attempts to impose educational reforms from the top down, or from outside, have obviously failed. The countries where the process has been relatively successful are those that obtained a determined commitment from local communities, parents and teachers, backed up by continuing dialogue and various forms of outside financial, technical or professional assistance. It is obvious that the local community plays a paramount role in any successful reform strategy.
Local community participation in assessing needs by means of a dialogue with the public authorities and groups concerned in society is a first, essential stage in broadening access to education and improving its quality. Continuing the dialogue by way of the media, community discussions, parent education and on-the-job teacher training usually helps to create awareness, sharpen judgement and develop local capacities. When communities assume greater responsibility for their own development, they learn to appreciate the role of education both as a way of achieving societal objectives and as a desirable improvement of the quality of life.
In this respect, the Commission stresses the value of a cautious measure of decentralization in helping to increase educational establishments' responsibilities and their scope for innovation.
In any event, no reform can succeed without the co-operation and active participation of teachers. This is one reason why the Commission recommends that the social, cultural and material status of educators should be considered as a matter of priority.
We are asking a great deal, too much even, of teachers, when we expect them to make good the failings of other institutions which also have a responsibility for the education and training of young people. The demands made on teachers are considerable, at the very time when the outside world is increasingly encroaching upon the school, particularly through the new communication and information media. Thus, the young people with whom the teacher has to deal, though receiving less parental or religious guidance, are also better informed. Teachers have to take this new situation into account if they are to be heeded and understood by young people, give them a taste for learning, and show them that information and knowledge are two different things and that knowledge requires effort, concentration, discipline and determination.
Rightly or wrongly, teachers feel isolated, not just because teaching is an individual activity, but also because of the expectations aroused by education and the criticisms which are, often unjustly, directed at them. Above all, teachers want their dignity to be respected. Most teachers are members of unions - in some cases, powerful unions -which are, undeniably, committed to the protection of their corporate interests. Even so, there is a need for the dialogue between society and teachers, and between the public authorities and teachers' unions, to be both strengthened and seen in a new light.
Admittedly, the renewal of this kind of dialogue is no easy task, but it is one that must needs be carried out in order to put an end to the teachers' feelings of isolation and frustration, to make change acceptable and to ensure that everyone contributes to the success of the necessary reforms.
It is appropriate in this context to add some recommendations concerning the content of teacher training, access by teachers to continuing education, the improvement of the status of teachers responsible for basic education, and greater involvement of teachers in disadvantaged and marginalized groups, where they can help to improve the integration of children and adolescents in society.
This is also a plea for the education system to be provided not only with well-trained teachers but also with the wherewithal for delivering education of a high standard, including books, modern communication media, a suitable cultural and economic environment and so forth.
Conscious of the situation in schools today, the Commission lays great emphasis on the quantity and quality of traditional teaching materials such as books, and on new media such as information technologies, which should be used with discernment and with active pupil participation. For their part, teachers should work in teams, particularly in secondary schools, thereby helping to achieve the necessary flexibility in the courses of study on offer, thus obviating many failures, bringing out some of the pupils' natural talents, and providing better academic and career guidance with a view to learning continued throughout life.
The improvement of education, seen in this light, requires policy-makers to face up squarely to their responsibilities. They cannot leave it to market forces or to some kind of self-regulation to put things right when they go wrong.
It is on the strength of its belief in the importance of policy-makers that the Commission has stressed the permanence of values, the challenges of future demands, and the duties of teachers and society; they alone, taking all the factors into consideration, can generate the public-interests debates that education - since it concerns everyone, since it is our future that is at stake and since education can help to improve the lot of one and all - so badly needs.
This naturally leads us to focus on the role of the public authorities. They must propose clear options and, after broad consultation with all those involved, choose policies that, regardless of whether the education system is public, private or mixed, show the way, establish the system's foundations and its main thrusts, and regulate the system through the necessary adjustments.
Naturally, all public policy decisions have financial repercussions. The Commission does not underestimate this difficulty. Without entering into the complexities of various systems, it holds the view that education is a public good that should be available to all. Once this principle is accepted, public and private funding may be combined, according to different formulae that take into account each country's traditions, stage of development, ways of life and income distribution.
All the choices to be made should, in any event, be predicated upon the fundamental principle of equality of opportunity.
During the discussions, I made a more radical proposal. As learning throughout life gradually becomes a reality, all young persons could be allocated a study-time entitlement at the start of their education, entitling them to a certain number of years of education. Their entitlement would be credited to an account at an institution that would manage a 'capital' of time available for each individual, together with the appropriate funds. Everyone could use their capital, on the basis of their previous educational experience, as they saw fit. Some of the capital could be set aside to enable people to receive continuing education during their adult lives. Each person could increase his or her capital through deposits at the 'bank' under a kind of educational savings scheme. After thorough discussion, the Commission supported this idea, though it was aware of the potential risks, even to equality of opportunity. As things stand today, a study-time entitlement could be granted at the end of compulsory schooling, so as to enable adolescents to choose a path without signing away their future.
In general, however, if after the essential step forward taken by the Jomtien Conference on basic education one had to point to an emergency situation, it would be to secondary education that we would turn our attention, given that the fate of millions of boys and girls is decided between the time they leave primary school and the time they either start work or go on to higher education. This is where the crunch comes in our education systems, either because those systems are too elitist or because they fail to come to terms with massive enrolments because of inertia and total inability to adapt. At a time when these young people are struggling with the problems of adolescence, when they feel, in a sense, mature but are in fact still immature, when instead of being carefree they are worried about their future, the important thing is to provide them with places where they can learn and discover, to give them the wherewithal to think about their future and prepare for it, and to offer them a choice of pathways suited to their abilities. It is also important to ensure that the avenues ahead of them are not blocked and that remedial action and in-course correction of their educational careers are at all times possible.
The Commission noted the growing tendency, in the political and economic spheres, to resort to international action as a way of finding satisfactory solutions to problems that have a global dimension, if only because of the growing interdependence that has so often been emphasized. It also regretted the inadequacy of results and stressed the need for reform of international institutions to make their action more effective.
The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to the social and educational fields. Emphasis has been deliberately placed on the importance of the World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in March 1995. Education occupies a prominent place in the guidelines adopted there and this prompted the Commission to formulate, in this respect, recommendations concerning:
· a policy of strong encouragement for the education of girls and women, following directly on from the recommendations of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, September 1995);
· the allocation of a minimum percentage of development aid (a quarter of the total) to fund education: this slanting in the direction of education should also apply to international funding institutions, first and foremost the World Bank, which already plays an important role;
· the development of 'debt-for-education swaps' to offset the adverse effects of adjustment policies and policies for reducing internal and external deficits upon public spending on education;
· the widespread introduction of the new 'information society' technologies in all countries, to prevent yet another gap opening up between rich countries and poor countries; and
· tapping into the outstanding potential offered by nongovernmental organizations, and hence by grass-roots initiatives, which could provide a valuable backup to international co-operation.
These few suggestions should be seen in the context of partnership rather than aid. After so many failures and so much waste, experience militates in favour of partnership, globalization makes it inescapable, and there are some encouraging examples, such as the successful cooperation and exchanges within regional groupings, the European Union being a case in point.
Another justification for partnership is that it can lead to a 'win-win situation': whilst industrialized countries can assist developing countries by the input of their successful experiences, their technologies and financial and material resources, they can learn from the developing countries ways of passing on their cultural heritage, approaches to the socialization of children and, more fundamentally, different cultures and ways of life.
The Commission expresses the hope that the Member States will give UNESCO the necessary resources to enable it to foster both the spirit of partnership and partnership in action, along the lines suggested by the Commission to the Twenty-eighth Session of the General Conference. UNESCO can do this by publicizing successful innovations and helping to establish networks on the basis of grassroots initiatives by non-governmental organizations, whether aiming to develop education of a high standard (UNESCO professorships) or to stimulate research partnerships.
We also believe it has a central role to play in developing the new information technologies in such a way that they serve the interests of quality education.
More fundamentally, however, UNESCO will serve peace and mutual understanding by emphasizing the value of education as a manifestation of the spirit of concord, stemming from the will to live together, as active members of our global village, thinking and organizing for the good of future generations. It is in this way that UNESCO will contribute to a culture of peace.
For the title of its report, the Commission turned to one of La Fontaine's fables, The Ploughman and his Children:
Be sure (the ploughman said), not to sell the inheritance
Our forebears left to us:
A treasure lies concealed therein.
Readapting slightly the words of the poet, who was lauding the virtues of hard work, and referring instead to education - that is, everything that humanity has learned about itself - we could have him say:
But the old man was wise
To show them before he died
That learning is the treasure.
Chairman of the Commission