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close this bookWorld Conference on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs - Final Report (UNICEF - UNDP - UNESCO - WB - WCEFA, 1990, 129 p.)
close this folder4. Education for All: The Components - Summary of Roundtables
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View the documentThe Purpose
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Open this folder and view contentsThe Requirements

The Purpose

In examining the utility of basic education to the individual and society, basic learning needs can be seen to extend well beyond imparting literacy, numeracy and related cognitive skills to such areas as environmental education, health and population, and, further, to the affective - moral domain of spiritual, cultural and national values. The first set of roundtables dealt with such life-sustaining and enhancing topics as: the impact of technological change on the requirements, content and process of basic education; the relationship of basic education to productivity; the importance of good health and nutrition to learning readiness and achievement, and conversely, the effects of learning on good health, nutrition and prolonged life; the relationship between education and fertility behaviour and, in turn, understanding the repercussions of unchecked population growth on the environment, the quality of life and the ultimate sustainability of the planet; and finally, the intricate connection between early education, language and culture, and one's sense of identity, national and global consciousness, and world peace, understanding and harmony.

... education can help ensure a safer, healthier, more prosperous and environmentally sound world, while simultaneously contributing to social, economic, and cultural progress, tolerance, and international cooperation.

World Declaration

Ideas abounded across these themes. With the rapidity of technological and social change worldwide, past notions of relatively fixed basic knowledge, skills, and duration of education succumbed to the need to focus on problem-solving skills, the need to "learn how to learn," and the life-long, continuous nature of learning itself. Terms like 'scientific literacy' and 'technological literacy' stretched the boundaries of traditional notions of literacy, that is, simply learning to read and write. It was noted that as the workplace is transformed through technological change and production, tasks become more complex: quality basic education enhances 'adaptability' and 'trainability.' Basic education becomes critical to efficient and competitive production, both in terms of cognitive skills and in terms of attitudes. The non-cognitive dimension of basic education, including values acquired, the ability to learn from experience, and patterns of motivation, are a hidden, but essential ingredient of basic education.

The illustrative roundtables on workplace literacy in North America; functional literacy in Europe and the USSR; the historical role of fundamental education during Japan's Meiji period of economic and social transformation; the present day programme of scientific literacy and the 'thinking abilities' project of the newly industrialising country of Korea; and Thailand's quest for a 'life-long' education system, gave a country - level grounding to the thematic treatment of the role and significance of basic and continuing education for all under conditions of rapid technological change and socioeconomic development.

Basic education is more than an end in itself. It is the foundation for lifelong learning and human development in which countries may build, systematically, further levels and types of education and training.

World Declaration

Thematic roundtables on environmental and population education gave voice to the need for convergent educational efforts at building awareness and practical knowledge in changing learner behaviour toward the goals of 'sustainable development.' Arguments swayed between the need to educate adults, particularly decision-makers, how to stem the tide of environmental devastation, and the need to educate children as future preservationists on a shrinking planet. Also, differences were expressed as to whether these were subjects to be integrated into existing school curricula, as in Malaysia, or deserving of special attention in their own right, as in the Thai NGO 'Magic Eyes' community programme. Population education" was considered to cover the connections between demography, environment, and broader poverty-equity concerns, raising more fundamental questions of cause and effect. The illustrative roundtable "Education of the Girl-Child in South Asia, " highlighted the empirical connections between female education, infant mortality, and maternal mortality. Finally, roundtable discussions on nutrition, health and education, brought to bear the evidence linking good health and nutrition to school participation and effective learning, with elaborations on various means, such as school feeding programmes, child to child efforts, inter alia, dominating the discussions.

Another and no less fundamental aim of education and development is the transmission and enrichment of common cultural and moral values. It is in these values that the individual and society find their identity and worth.

World Declaration

The thematic roundtables on language and culture brought home the importance of these variables, not simply as elements in identity formation and nation-building, but also as forces affecting the very motivational basis of learning and teaching processes. In addition, the importance of values and the moral dimensions of education was raised in the context of these roundtable themes, reinforcing the role of basic education in the non-cognitive domain. The emphasis on indigenous knowledge, learning processes, and traditional values as worthy in their own right and necessary for the self-confidence and tolerance of differences required for a progressive and harmonious world of sovereign nations, found its way from these discussions into a strengthened World Declaration. Here, illustrative roundtables such as that of Ecuador, presented a strong case for providing instruction in the mother tongue in basic education as an integral part of a National Education for All Plan.