Rethinking Education

What 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 organized? These questions inspired the ideas presented in this publication.

In the spirit of two landmark UNESCO publications, Learning to Be: The world of education today and tomorrow (1972), the ‘Faure Report’, and Learning: The treasure within (1996), the ‘Delors Report,’ I am convinced we need to think big again today about education.

For these are turbulent times. The world is getting younger, and aspirations for human rights and dignity are rising. Societies are more connected than ever, but intolerance and conflict remain rife. New power hubs are emerging, but inequalities are deepening and the planet is under pressure. Opportunities for sustainable and inclusive development are vast, but challenges are steep and complex.

The world is changing – education must also change. Societies everywhere are undergoing deep transformation, and this calls for new 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.

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 is a humanist vision of education as an essential common good. I believe this vision renews with the inspiration of the UNESCO Constitution, agreed upon 70 years ago while reflecting on new times and demands.

Education is key to the global integrated framework of sustainable development goals. Education is at the heart of our efforts both to adapt to change and to transform the world within which we live. A quality basic education is a necessary foundation for learning throughout life in a complex and rapidly changing world.

3Across the world, we have seen great progress in expanding learning opportunities for all. Yet we must draw the right lessons to chart a new course forward. Access is not enough; we need a new focus on the quality of education and the relevance of learning, on what children, youth, and adults are actually learning. Schooling and formal education are essential, but we must widen the angle, to foster learning throughout life. Getting girls into primary school is vital, but we must help them all the way through secondary and beyond. We need an ever-stronger focus on teachers and educators as change agents across the board.

There is no more powerful transformative force than education – to promote human rights and dignity, to eradicate poverty and deepen sustainability, to build a better future for all, founded on equal rights and social justice, respect for cultural diversity, and international solidarity and shared responsibility, all of which are fundamental aspects of our common humanity.

This is why we must think big again and re-vision education in a changing world. For this, we need debate and dialogue across the board, and that is the goal of this publication – to be both aspirational and inspirational, to speak to new times.

The full text can be seen at this link ֊