Calling for a shift in the paradigm of development, the Director-General stated that “we need to rethink the fundamentals of education for new times – to strengthen human rights, to deepen respect and mutual understanding, to respond to a world of change,” at the opening of a plenary panel co-organized by UNESCO on 31 October at the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE) in Doha.
Entitled “Education in a Changing World,” the panel took the four pillars of learning put forward in the 1996 Delors Report published by UNESCO – learning to be, learning to know, learning to do and learning to live together – as the starting point for debate on the vision that should drive education in the future.
“Societies everywhere face sharp pressures – from economic problems, from deepening inequalities, from increasing diversity and extremism. Tackling these challenges calls for new thinking about the meaning of progress,” said Ms Bokova. “It calls for a clear vision of the kind of society we want to live in and the education we need to build on it. Education policy is the ultimate long-term policy – we need to be visionary.”
But in the face of rapid change, is education responding? “We live in an education world that is not very different from what it was 30 to 40 years ago whereas societies have deeply changed, “ said Professor Cheng Kai Ming, Chair of Education at the University of Hong Kong. “Education was thought to be a cure for disparities but it is creating disparities.”
Learning to live together ranked as the foremost principle that should shape all education in societies that have never been so integrated, nor so vulnerable. “The four pillars have to be embedded in values to be integrated in education – of social justice, human rights, solidarity and gender equality. We have to protect each other and the environment, these are the values that have to guide change,” said Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education of South Africa.
She said that the South African president had called for education to be a societal issue, setting the stage for mobilizing a nation around a common vision.” She also insisted on listening to the voices and aspirations of children, building on what exists and using culture as an anchor to confront an ever changing world.
The twin imperatives of quality and equity ran throughout the discussion, leading Francisco Claro from the Center for Public Policies of the Universidad Catolica de Chile to say: “Education has to do with enchantment; it is about awakening talent and passion. Drop-out from school tells us something about our education systems - teachers are not being trained to do their task. We have to help this next generation of teachers prepare for their tremendous tasks because this is the most important profession in society.”
So what would a new breed of learners look like? “Learning will be at the centre of education when students are more autonomous and more active learners – this is the test of a learning society,” said Professor Kai Ming, drawing attention to reforms in East Asian countries that aim “to compress formal learning and leave room for experiences – for learning to live together.”
Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education (USA) insisted that this pillar should be the “overarching principle” of education: “schools have to become more international and more outward looking.”
Wrapping up the discussion, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Qian Tang affirmed that “education is a global public good, a fundamental human right and a pillar for all the development agenda. It is the responsibility of all society.” Referring to the overarching goal of equitable quality lifelong learning for all, he stressed the need for education to be humanistic, universal and relevant, and affirmed UNESCO’s commitment to leading the debate on the meaning of education for today and tomorrow.