|Prospects - Quarterly Review of Education, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1984 (Issue 50) - 1985, International Youth Year (UNESCO, 1984, 146 p.)|
This issue is focused around two axes of thought, current concerns and future prospects.
Current concerns evoked in these articles are quite diverse in terms of target clientele and forms of education: the contrasting axes appear in the first two articles devoted, on the one hand, to actual formal education offered in various countries to gifted children, and, on the other hand, to potential educational assistance for seriously disadvantaged categories of adolescents and working adults who live in the big cities of the Third World.
Future prospects are illustrated by the Open File devoted to youth perception of certain major world problems introducing International Youth Year, 1985.
One look at the number of international meetings devoted to gifted children and adolescents over the past ten years indicates the extent to which interest has developed and become accepted almost as a matter of routine. The perception of the phenomenon, theoretical studies and programme proposals developed by researchers during the 1950s and 1960s are now prevalent in at least thirty countries. Harry Passow analyses this tendency and draws out points of convergence and divergence on the international level.
The most important point of convergence might be the following:
Egalitarianism and elitism are arguments used by both proponents and opponents to making adequate and appropriate provisions for the gifted and talented. Under various political and economic systems, there are provisions for the gifted and while the rhetoric may differ, the issues and the programmes are not dissimilar.
Right along these lines, in an earlier issue of the review, Mikhail Lavrentiev described the academic community of Novosibirsk, where considerable effort was focused on identifying and training very young scientists, especially mathematicians, alongside intensive scientific research and application of its results to production. (Vol. V, No. 2, 1975, pp. 147-64.)
All countries naturally have the right and the duty to develop all of young people's potential and talents either within or outside scholastic structures in order to assist in preparing them better to serve the national collectivity. This necessity is all the more urgent since economic, social and cultural development of societies is no longer conceivable without the full and complete mobilization of all human resources. Two excesses should be avoided, however: the first would consist of setting talented children apart as a socially isolated group, educated according to deliberately elitist principles: the second excess, a corollary of the first, would involve authorities and decision-makers in devoting insufficient means to the young who are not actually gifted and who have greater needs than others to be recognized and assisted.
John Oxenham examines a seriously disadvantaged and distinct population. This population was identified in the nineteenth century and referred to by Engels in 1845 as a 'surplus' population. It has, however, only been strikingly present in analysis and concern, especially by the ILO, for less than twenty years. Since a precise definition is still lacking, this group is referred to as the 'urban informal sector'. Who is covered by this term? These people include the mass of adolescents and adults of certain large cities in developing countries who have had little or no contact with schooling and expend a wealth of inventiveness and energy simply to avoid their own and their families' starvation while working in activities for which they have trained themselves without any state aid: pedlar, rickshaw man, shoe-shiner, tin-can collector and many others are included. What educational assistance could and should be provided for them? By whom? How?
Oxenham devotes considerable attention to identifying the environment and profiles of this overly-active population and also warns against both excessive intervention and training which might cost more than the return it would be intended to stimulate: 'if training requires time away from work, its opportunity costs could cause immediate restrictions on an entire family'. He offers several guidelines in which assistance might actually be envisaged: occupational guidance, improved apprenticeships, aid in obtaining employment, retraining and in-service training during employment. If the question of such aid is a very recent concern, it is to be feared that the problem it is intended to resolve may be aggravated even further by the natural growth of the population, unemployment and rural exodus. Everything appears to be joined so that the urban informal sector remains accepted, although it would be eminently desirable that it be absorbed and eliminated in the long run. Accepting such a state of affairs might be considered pragmatic or realistic. Undoubtedly this is the case, but it is not possible to avoid paying attention to the observation made by H. Schmitz quoted by Oxenham in which he states that this type of 'training might actually be a cheap diversion from more radical and more helpful reforms. It might also make it easier to blame people in the sector for not making proper use of the opportunities provided for them'.
1985 will be International Youth Year. What better way could be found to celebrate it than by devoting our fiftieth Open File to youth? The year will be rich in events, meetings, declarations, studies and so forth. On this occasion, we have attempted to offer a twofold approach: first, a chronological distance by preceding the official date; secondly, by changing our approach, relatively speaking - one occasion does not constitute a habit - to our classic theme, i.e. education, in favour of a more socio-political analysis.
Prospects is devoted by its nature and its vocation principally to youth. An Open File or even a single article intended to celebrate International Youth Year by treating 'education and/of youth' would have lacked depth in this instance. Hence we chose to look for the thoughts and views of youth on problems other than education. Such problems are countless and most of them are not raised in precisely the same fashion in the northern hemisphere or in the southern hemisphere, in the east or in the west. They are all interdependent, however, and the youth of all countries is involved in one way or another.
For this Open File, we selected problems identified by Unesco and analysed in the first part of its Medium- Term Plan (1984-1989): peace and disarmament with a background of science and technology; the environment, which is not only local or national but truly planetary; participation in society through two of its most sensitive means, political expression and access to employment; the demand for cultural identity, especially among those where such identity is most threatened: young migrants. It also appeared useful to draw attention to a trap set for many young people in wealthy countries, that of the role of a passive consumer.
Of course, there is no question of aiming at exhaustive coverage, even for a single one of the problems raised; these are only facets, samples of an overall situation full of contrasts. The reflections which are given here appear significant, however, and rather representative, on the whole, of the attitude of youth throughout the world.
Prospects is celebrating its twelfth anniversary and its fiftieth issue. The reader might be interested to know that alongside the English, French, Spanish and Arabic editions already in existence, two other integral editions began this year, one in Chinese in Beijing, the other in Bulgarian in Sofia. In addition, a quarterly selection has appeared in Russian since 1982 in Moscow while many others, less frequent, are published in German, Italian, Polish and Serbo-Croatian, ensuring a sort of linguistic polycentrism (which is rarely encountered among specialized reviews) and as universal a distribution as possible of world thought and experience in education, which is, after all, one of the priority missions entrusted to Unesco.