THINKING ABOUT EDUCATION
In 1993, UNESCO convened a committee of experts from around the world to think about the Education necessary for the twenty-first century. The Delors Report, as it became known, the result of three years of work, was published in Brazil with the title ‘Education: A Treasure Within: by Cortez publishing house along with UNESCO and the MEC. In it, the formation of an eventual framework, found unstable scientific and technological human advances in recent decades, accompanied meanwhile, by a perverse process of social inequality and exclusion of most people. A growing awareness of the dangers that threaten our natural environment were also registered, but did not show a desire or provide a means to solve the problem.
Given the magnitude of such issues, the report proposed rethinking our current societies and renewing them from an educational policy standpoint, with new paradigms, respecting of course, the characteristics of each society in each country. Four basic pillars of Education were defined as required for the XXI Century, and ordered as follows: learning to know, to do, to live together and to be. Some excerpts from the Report / Book (pp. 89-101) clarify the authors’ proposal.
The Four Pillars of Education
“Given that a never before available means to move and store information and communication will become available, the next century will submit education to a heavy burden that may seem, at first sight, almost contradictory. In fact, education must convey a solid and effective manner for increasing knowledge and evolutionary expertise adapted to a cognitive civilization, as this is the foundation for future skills. At the same time, education is responsible for figuring out how to keep people from being submerged by ephemeral information waves, which have invaded public and private spaces. Education instead, wants people to orient themselves towards participating in individual and collective development projects. In some way, education ends up providing maps to a complex world, one that is constantly bustling and, at the same time, provides a compass which allows a means to navigate it.”
The analogy between students and navigators is very rich and timely, because the ‘waves of somewhat ephemeral information that invade public and private spaces’ have caused the sinking of large population groups into the seas of shortsightedness, inconsequence, and immediacy, with harmful repercussions for communities and the environment. From this perspective, a purely quantitative increase in scholastic material is more than undesirable; as a response, it is inadequate to this ‘wave of information’.
Currently, it is essential to know how to work with information in order to extract and build the necessary knowledge for a full life. In the analogy of the authors, educating involves providing maps, a compass and knowledge on how to use them for a safe and enjoyable passage.
“In order to accomplish its mission, education must be organized around four fundamental teachings that will serve as pillars of knowledge for each individual in some way throughout life. The pillars are learning to know — acquiring the instruments for understanding, learning to do — being able to act in one’s surroundings, and learning to live together – for cooperating and participating with others in all human activities. Finally, learning to be is an essential approach that integrates the previous three. Of course, these four paths to knowledge are only one, as among them exist multiple points of contact, relationship and exchange.”
1. “Learning to know – This type of teaching doesn’t seek so much to acquire a repertoire of codified knowledge, as to simultaneously reflect on mastery over the instruments that furnish knowledge, as a means to an end for human life. It is a means because everyone learns to understand the world around them, at least to the extent that it is necessary for them to live with dignity, develop their professional skills, and communicate. It’s an end because its very foundation is the pleasure of understanding, knowing and finding out.”
To live and get along. The two idiosyncrasies of living beings. Humans, for their part, attain a high level of complexity because of the inclusive, changing and dominant society that they have constructed. To live this, it is necessary to know the laws that govern the natural world, an imperative that science has taken up in universities, institutes and research laboratories, colleges and schools. To live in harmony, it is essential to know the codes of communication and behavior that bind us to rules, rights and duties.
“Nevertheless, as knowledge is multitudinously and infinitely evolving, it becomes increasingly useless to try to know everything. After a basic education, an all-encompassing disciplinarity is deceiving. Specialization, however, even for future researchers, should not exclude the general culture. “A truly informed spirit, nowadays, needs a broad sense of general culture and an ability to work in depth on a number of issues. Teaching, from beginning to end should be, to concurrently cultivate these two tendencies.”
The vast general culture is decisive for social communication. The interaction between individuals only happens from the intersecting points of common interests and knowledge. The greater the number of these points, the easier the communication, and the more spontaneous the cooperation. Even in scientific research, significant advances have occurred at the intersecting points of various disciplines. The breadth of culture can afford a scenic flight, which reveals the whole as well as the singular. However, specialization should be encouraged because it is the task that extracts specific correlations in the objects of study and work. The scenic flight prefaces topical immersion. These two complementary actions should be present in the process of education for the twenty-first century, characterized by constant learning, ongoing review and by LEARNING TO LEARN. A mere familiarity with raw materials, techniques and tools is no longer enough for the artisan of knowledge. They must be reinvented in every moment. Now diplomas and certificates have expiration dates because the knowledge they assure though enduring, suffers a decline. Knowledge quickly becomes obsolete. A grounded educational process in LEARNING TO LEARN allows the practice of lifelong education in that it provides the basis for the individual to continue learning throughout life.
2. “Learning to do – learning to know and learning to do are largely inseparable. But the latter is more closely linked to the issue of vocational training: how to teach students to implement their knowledge and adapt education to future work when one cannot predict what will be its evolution.”
Rapidly changing expectations and demands in the economy create a range of uncertainties and unknowns concerning professional qualifications. The most requested professional skill today may not be the same tomorrow because of technological innovation or a radical shift. What is there to learn to do to ensure a place in society?
The answer goes back to the ability to transform oneself, and adapt to the new realities, to UNDERTAKE new endeavors.
An Entrepreneurial spirit eliminates cultural and trade barriers; breaks paradigms; shortens distances; globalizes and renews economic concepts; creates new working relationships, activities, and jobs, and generates wealth for society by taking calculated risks.
The skills required for an entrepreneur are technical as well as personal. It is essential that one is continuously updating their mastery of codes and technologies, yet, at the same time, is able to interact, cooperate and lead, both economically and socially. Learning to make gains in the 21 st century is a matter of learning to initiate. It is therefore the School’s role to stimulate the innate entrepreneurial skills in the vocational students while awakening a penchant for entrepreneurial training in the others. This innovates and promotes both social entrepreneurship and business.
3. “Learning to live together, learn to live with others – Without a doubt, this lesson represents one of the greatest challenges in education today. The world nowadays is often one of violence, going against the hope for human progress that some have put forth. While human history has always had its conflicts, there are new elements that accentuate the danger and the potential of auto-destruction created throughout the 20 th century. Through the communicative means of social media, public opinion becomes an impotent observer, even held captive, by those who create or maintain conflict. Until now, education has not been able to do much to change this very real situation. Can we conceive of an educational system that is capable of avoiding conflicts or of resolving them in a pacific way, one that builds an awareness of others, their cultures, and their spirituality?
In underdeveloped societies, the fraying of the social fabric, results in an unbalanced appropriation of material resources, which generates a significant disparity in income. The general rule is that a disproportionately large number of abject and execrated people live with a lesser stake. The perpetuation of this unjust and burdened relationship is maintained by perverse, stultifying economic structures that disallow social mobility.
Oftentimes, distorted examples are used to give the false impression that upward mobility is possible. Instances such as the rise of athletes, artists and politicians coming from the poorest segments of the population, transmit a success that masks, in quantitative terms, the truth. The success / failure rate is in the 1 / 100,000 range. The truth exposed by socioeconomic studies published by the UN / UNESCO, World Bank and other international institutions, shows that income disparities between and within countries have grown. Brazil heads this sort of inequity.
Several studies point to a direct correlation between poverty and a low level of education. The absence of broad, genuine educational programs — which are ommitted to social change, with medium and long-term prospects — crystallizes poverty. It clearly indicates that the part of the population with a high income, who ultimately dictates public and private investment policies, suffers political short sightedness as they seek to maintain this imbalance indefinitely. It is preposterous that a simple review of the history of man proves itself unfeasible. It is the childhood disease of immediacy.
A cause and effect relationship can easily be drawn between a lack of education, and shortsighted thinking and actions. Immediacy is not concerned with origin, the dynamics of processes, or their consequences. Immediacy lives in an urgent present, plunged into a vision of a nearsighted, convenient world. In immediacy, success usually results from cunning and opportunism, and is therefore ephemeral. The immediacy culture prevents the formation of bonds and stable relationships and, consequently, the construction of a just and unified society.
In general, men are interested in joining forces in society because in so doing, they recognize a greater, richer arena, which surpasses their own concrete individuality.
Only by joining it, can they fully realize all the possibilities for their being. Immediacy obliterates this recognition and self-interest overrides the collective.Learning to live together, learning to live with each other, grasps a paradigm shift that only education can foster. This is the exchange of the immediate, inconsequential reward for the planting and harvesting of lasting results. “Education has always been and continues to be today an eminently social task.
The formation of a mature personality results as much from enhancing personal autonomy as it does from the construction of a joint otherness: that is, the process of discovering the other as a moral attitude. Humanization designed as inner growth of the individual finds its full development at the point where the path of freedom and responsibility permanently meet.”
The multidimensional nature of education becomes more relevant when it incorporates an understanding that societies are increasingly multicultural. From this perspective, thinking about education requires looking towards the necessary aspects of the formation of values and attitudes. In short, learning to live together requires developing cooperative attitudes, tolerance, respect, and an ability and willingness to put oneself in the other’s place: the practice of dialogue and acceptance of what is different.
In terms of people coexisting, education holds as an aspiration, the need for individual personality development on the part of the student. Connecting to one’s individual essence — one not out of touch, as is the result of a solitary effort, but rather — one open to the discovery of the other, is key. Understanding that humans humanize one another in the act of learning to be, is part of this coexistence. In this way, learning to be transcends the buzzword category of indoctrination, aimed at imposing both a moral system and obedience. Learning to be is elevated to the same importance as other learnings in the school context. It is put forth as a requirement for men and women to develop their personality, act independently, express opinions and take personal responsibility.
4. “Learning to be – This development of the human being which takes place from birth to death, is a logical process that begins with knowledge of the self and then opens to relating to another. In this sense, education is primarily an inner journey, whose stages correspond to a continuous maturation of personality.”
The UNESCO program, Learning for the XXI Century, reaffirms a fundamental principle; education should enhance and promote the integral development of the human being.
Through education, men and women become capable of appraising, comparing, choosing, intervening, deciding and changing. Intelligence, sensitivity, and a sense of aesthetics, freedom, and responsibility under the aegis of Ethics, will delineate the being.
Human beings humanize one another when they make value judgements, and develop a sense of autonomous and critical thinking to make decisions and act in each circumstance. Education in this context, confirms its role in the development of personality and autonomy. Thus, it is understood that education must give learners the freedom of thought, discernment, feeling, and imagination to develop skills and take ownership of their own destiny. All that isolates, segregates, dulls discernment, blunts the feelings, limits the imagination and curtails freedom, therefore, constitutes dehumanization and, “uneducation” accordingly.
Colegio Helyos teachers, counselors, coordinators, staff and the directors come together to make these principles a daily practice. They are the basis for our Educational Project and guide the planning of our future actions as an educational institution.