Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Education, the Seedbed of the Future

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Education, the Seedbed of the Future

Article excerpt

Tomorrow's world will be shaped by our children's vision of it. What kind of vision will it be, and how can education help to shape it? These questions raise two sets of issues. One has to do with the contribution that education must make to society; the other relates to the expansion and reform of the education system itself so that it can meet the hopes and expectations that society has vested in it.

While the challenges to education are universal, the responses to them must come from the heart of the cultures of each region. Education must reflect all that is best and most distinctive within ourselves and our societies. Only thus will it help to unite people everywhere around shared values in defence of their common interests.

Everywhere and from every standpoint, education is crucial to peace. For peace, as we all know, is more than the absence of conflict. Peace is a culture based upon tolerance and respect for others; it is a spirit of active solidarity among individuals, built upon expectations of justice and tranquillity. Sustaining and promoting these values must be one of the foremost duties of education. Our schools must be revered places of learning and their most valuable lessons are those that teach the wisdom of peace and the folly of war.

The promotion of democracy and human rights is an essential part of the peace-building process. So too is the promotion of the rights of women. If we really believe in human rights, how can discrimination against women be tolerated? In practical terms, the cost to development of neglecting the unique talents of women is enormous. Morally, it seems to me inadmissible that, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, limitations should be placed on women's fundamental freedoms. The problem of women's rights clearly transcends education, but it is one with which education systems, especially in the countries of the South, should be closely concerned.

A growing body of research highlights the importance of the education of women and girls in accelerating development. To educate a mother is not only to educate a family, but also to replace a potential inheritance of illiteracy with a tradition of education that will be passed from generation to generation. The education of women also has a very powerful impact upon fertility rates.

A NEW ETHIC OF SHARING AND CARING

I must also stress the importance of the population question, which is of concern to us all. It is essential that we moderate population growth, but this can only be done if women have the power of choice, the capacity to shape their own destiny. …

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