Education – central to reinventing humanism for peace and stability

Education plays a key role in promoting modern-day humanism, the construction of peace and protection of human dignity, according to a recent special issue of the International Review of Education – Journal of Lifelong Learning (IRE).

What Humanism for the 21st Century? is guest-edited by Suzy Halimi, and contains seven papers that call for humanism to be redefined, taking into account the full complexity and diversity of humanity. Contributors include former UNESCO Director-General, Federico Mayor, and former Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, Adama Ouane. The articles explore the relationship between humanism and youth, the development agenda and Islam, and conclude that education, along with science, economy, philosophy, art, religion and politics, is a key factor in reinventing humanism for the 21st century. 

Humanism was defined by Emmanuel Kant as mankind coming to maturity through the practice of reason, supported through values and dignity. Education, perhaps more than any other field, was influenced by the humanist ideal, since it implies the freedom and power of human beings to re-imagine, re-invent and re-train themselves. The articles explore whether this ideal is still relevant and applicable in the 21st century, when technology and globalisation have transformed not just what, but how people learn; and humankind is pushing the biophysical limits of our planet to breaking point. 

In the words of Director-General Irina Bokova, who authored the foreword to this issue, “To be a humanist today means adapting the power of an ancient message to the demands of a modern world. It means rethinking the conditions of mutual understanding, the construction of peace, the protection of human dignity, and the means to fully achieve the potential of each individual.” 

IRE is one of UNESCO’s two scholarly journals of education (the other being Prospects) and was first published in 1931, making it the world’s longest-running international journal of comparative education.

In addition to inviting submissions from scholars and practitioners of education for its general issues, IRE also publishes regular guest-edited special issues which open up key topics in lifelong learning, adult education, non-formal education and literacy. Enquiries regarding proposals for special issues should be directed to the Executive Editor, Mr. Stephen Roche (s.roche(at)unesco.org).