|International Expert Meeting on General Secondary Education in the Twenty-First Century: Trends, Challenges and Priorities - Final Report (UNESCO, 2001, 54 p.)|
Participants of the Beijing Meeting felt strongly that there is now a clear mandate encouraging UNESCO to focus more directly on Secondary Education. There is also a clear urgency in wanting Secondary Education to be treated as an area in its own right, not simply as an extension of Basic Education or as a filter for Higher Education.
The International Commission on Education for the Twenty - first Century (UNESCO, 1996) stated that, It is now generally recognised that, for economic growth to take place, a high proportion of the population has to have received secondary education. The Dakar Framework (UNESCO, 2000) agreed stating that, No country can be expected to develop into a modern and open economy without having a certain proportion of its work force completing secondary education.
In full understanding that education serves more than the economic needs, as well as to facilitate its focus on learning to know, do, be and live together, the Dakar Framework (UNESCO, 2000) also commits countries to ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life - skills pro - grammes. In order to achieve this and five other goals, the Dakar Framework (UNESCO, 2000, pp. 8 - 9) and countries and associations represented at the Word Education Forum have pledged twelve actions including to ensure the engagement and participation of civil society in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of strategies for educational development, to develop responsive, participatory and accountable systems of educational governance and management, to create safe, healthy, inclusive and equitably resourced educational environments conducive to excellence in learning, to enhance the status, morale and professionalism of teachers, and to harness new information and communication technologies.
Recently the Ministers of Education of Latin America and Caribbean met and con - firmed their commitment to these goals and actions. Secondary Education was seen as a priority and the importance of life - skills was stressed (Cochabamba Declaration, UNESCO, March, 2001, p. 4): Secondary education should be a regional priority in those countries that have achieved full access to primary education. The option of encouraging new and flexible forms of learning represents one answer for adolescents and young people living in poverty and exclusion - those who have abandoned formal schooling without having access to quality education. Among their fifty - four recommendations these Ministers (UNESCO, 2001, p. 7) also asked that, Special attention be given to affective an emotional factors, due to their great influence on the learning process.
Clearly there is a growing realisation that, as Leclercq (2001, p. 4) states, we have to appreciate the need for secondary education to be expanded at a rate faster than some have previously felt necessary. This realisation arises not only as a result of the growing demand for Secondary Education by those completing Basic Education but also because of the dramatic changes in our societies, economies and workplaces.
The Beijing meeting on General Secondary Education in the twenty - first century, which consisted of delegates and experts from ten countries in different regions and varying contexts, from the least developed and most highly populated countries to the developing and developed nations, and balanced in terms of gender, adds yet further weight to the argument by having come to consensus that Secondary Education should be given higher priority.
The Beijing meeting also came to consensus that the objectives and functions of Secondary Education need to be redefined. The meeting identified the contexts and educational trends facing us now and in the future and the implications of these contexts and trends for the objectives and functions of Secondary Education. It identified the main challenges and dilemmas arising from this analysis of the contexts and trends and commenced an identification of the priority areas (including vocational and life - skills education), the resources and the strategies required to respond meaningfully to the new objectives and manage the dilemmas. This work needs to be built upon.
What is important is that in responding to the challenges for Secondary Education in the twenty - first century, the Beijing Meeting saw a need to take a developmental approach and to build on strengths. This desire in consistent with the Dakar Frameworks (UNESCO, 2000, p. 9) position that success is more likely when we build on existing mechanisms.
Wright (2000, p. 143) points out that the shift to an era of knowledge and information has given rise to a renaissance in the ideology of education as the main repository of our hopes for the future and that this represents a unique opportunity. It is pleasing therefore to find an increasing desire on the part of governments and their educators to want to seek a preferred future for their youth, to differentiate between what is acceptable and what is not. It is the belief of participants at the Beijing Meeting that UNESCO has made a major difference to the provision of Basic Education in the world but it is now time to build on that success by becoming part of, and helping to shape, this desire by governments in Secondary Education.