Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good? Published by UNESCO, 2015 Pages 84, ISBN: 978-92-3-100088-1
"Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace." Confucius, Chinese philosopher (551-479 BC)
There is no transformative force more powerful than education which can play a central role in promoting human rights and dignity, eradicating poverty and deepening sustainability, building a better future for all, founded on equal rights and social justice, respect for cultural diversity, and international solidarity and shared responsibility.
The world today is changing rapidly. Societies everywhere are undergoing deep transformations, and this calls for newer forms of education to foster the competencies that societies and economies need --- today and tomorrow.
This means moving beyond literacy and numeracy, to focus on learning environments and on new approaches to learning for greater justice, social equity and global solidarity.
What kind of education do we need for the 21st century? What is the purpose of education in the current context of societal transformation? How should learning be organised? Education must be about learning to live on a planet under pressure.
It must be about cultural literacy, on the basis of respect and equal dignity, helping to weave together the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
This UNESCO publication 'Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good?' contributes to rethinking education and learning in this context.
The publication is divided into four chapters. The first chapter titled 'Sustainable development: A central concern' outlines some of the trends, tensions and contradictions in today's process of global social transformation, as well as the new knowledge horizons that it offers.
At the same time, the chapter highlights the need to explore alternative approaches to human well-being, including an acknowledgement of the diversity of world views and knowledge systems, and the need to sustain them.
Unsustainable patterns of economic production and consumption contribute to global warming, environmental degradation and an upsurge in natural disasters. Moreover, while international human rights frameworks have been strengthened over the past several decades, the implementation and protection of these norms remain a challenge.
For example, despite the progressive empowerment of women through greater access to education, they continue to face discrimination in public life and in employment.
Violence against women and children, particularly girls, continues to undermine their rights. Education must find ways of responding to such challenges, taking into account multiple world views and alternative knowledge systems.
The second chapter 'Reaffirming a humanistic approach' focuses on a humanistic approach, stressing the need for an integrated stance on education based on renewed ethical and moral foundations. It emphasises an education process that is inclusive and does not simply reproduce inequalities. In the changing global landscape of education, the role of teachers and other educators is vital for developing critical thinking and independent judgement, rather than unreflective conformity.
Education alone cannot hope to solve all development challenges, but a humanistic and holistic approach to education can and should contribute to achieving a new development model. This approach emphasises the inclusion of people who are often subject to discrimination - women and girls, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, migrants, the elderly and people living in countries affected by conflict.
It requires an open and flexible approach to learning that is both lifelong and life-wide: an approach that provides the opportunity for all to realise their potential for a sustainable future and a life of dignity.
The next chapter 'Education policy-making in a complex world' examines issues linked to educational policy-making in today's rapidly changing world.
These include the challenges of recognising and responding to the gap between formal education and employment; of recognising and validating learning in a world of increasing mobility across borders, professional occupations and learning spaces; and of rethinking citizenship education in an increasingly globalised world, balancing respect for plurality with the universal values and concern for our common humanity.
The intensification of economic globalisation is producing patterns of low employment growth, rising youth unemployment and vulnerable employment.
While the trends point to a growing disconnection between education and the fast-changing world of work, they also represent an opportunity to reconsider the link between education and societal development. Finally, this chapter considers the complexities of national policy-making in education in the context of potential forms of global governance.
The fourth chapter of the publication 'Education as a common good?' explores the need to recontextualise foundational principles for the governance of education, particularly the right to education and the principle of education, as a public good. It proposes that both knowledge and education be considered common goods. It proposes that greater attention be paid in education policy to knowledge, and to the ways in which it is created, accessed, acquired, validated and used.
It also suggests the need to recontextualise the foundational principles that govern the organisation of education, in particular the principle of education as a public good.
It proposes that considering education and knowledge to be global common goods might provide a useful way to reconcile the purpose and organisation of learning as a collective societal endeavour in a changing world.
The concluding chapter sums up the key ideas and puts forward a number of questions for further debates: While the four pillars of learning - to know, to do, to be and to live together - are even more relevant today, they are threatened by both globalisation and the resurgence of identity politics.
How can they be strengthened and renewed?
How can education better respond to the challenges of achieving economic, social and environmental sustainability? How can this humanistic approach be realised through educational policies and practices?
How can a plurality of world views be reconciled through a humanistic approach to education? What are the threats and opportunities of globalisation for national policy and decision-making in education?
What are the implications for education of the distinction between the concepts of private good, public good and common good?
The writer is an independent researcher