Designing and building our common future – ETNU Part 4 (Jacques Delors)

People today have a dizzying feeling of being torn between a globalization
whose manifestations they can see and sometimes have to endure, and
their search for roots, reference points and a sense of belonging.
Education has to face up to this problem now more than ever as a
world society struggles painfully to be born: education is at the heart of
both personal and community development; its mission is to enable each
of us, without exception, to develop all our talents to the full and to
realize our creative potential, including responsibility for our own lives
and achievement of our personal aims.
This aim transcends all others. Its achievement, though long and
difficult, will be an essential contribution to the search for a more just
world, a better world to live in. The Commission wishes to stress this
point strongly, at a time when some are being assailed by serious
doubts as to the opportunities opened up by education.
It is true that many other problems have to be solved, and we shall
come back to them, but this report has been prepared at a time when,
faced with so many misfortunes caused by war, crime and underdevelopment,
humankind is apparently hesitating between continuing
headlong along the same path and resignation. Let us offer people
another way.
There is, therefore, every reason to place renewed emphasis on the
moral and cultural dimensions of education, enabling each person to grasp
the individuality of other people and to understand the world’s erratic
progression towards a certain unity; but this process must begin with selfunderstanding
through an inner voyage whose milestones are knowledge,
meditation and the practice of self-criticism.
This message should guide educational thinking, in conjunction with the
establishment of wider and more far-reaching forms of international cooperation
which will be discussed below.
Seen in this context, everything falls into place, whether it be the
requirements of science and technology, knowledge of self and of the
environment, or the development of skills enabling each person to function
effectively in a family, as a citizen or as a productive member of society.
This all goes to show that the Commission in no way undervalues the
c e n t ral role of brainpower and innovation, the transition to a knowledgedriven
society, the endogenous processes that make it possible to accumulate
knowledge, to incorporate new discoveries and to apply them in differe n t
a reas of human activity, from those related to health and the enviro n m e n t
to the production of goods and services. It is also aware of the limits, and
even the failures, of attempts to transfer technologies to the most
impoverished countries, precisely because of the endogenous nature of
methods for the accumulation and application of knowledge. This is why
it is necessary, among other things, to become familiar at an early age
with science and the uses of science, and with the difficult task of
assimilating pro g ress in such a way that human identity and integrity
a re fully respected. Here, too, the ethical issues must not be overlooked.
It also shows that the Commission is aware of the contribution
that education must make to economic and social development. The
education system is all too often blamed for unemployment. This
observation is only partly true; above all it should not obscure the other
political, economic and social pre requisites for achieving full
employment or enabling the economies of underdeveloped countries to
take off. As for education, the Commission believes that valid responses
to the problems of mismatch between supply and demand on the labour
market can come from a more flexible system that allows greater
curricular diversity and builds bridges between different types of
education, or between working life and further training. Such flexibility
would also help to reduce school failure and the tremendous wastage of
human potential resulting from it.
Such improvements, desirable and feasible as they are, do not, however,
obviate the need for intellectual innovation and the implementation of a
model of sustainable development based on the specific characteristics of
each country. Given the present and foreseeable advances in science and
t e c h n o l o g y, and the growing importance of knowledge and other
intangibles in the production of goods and services, we need to rethink the
place of work and its changing status in tomorrow’s society. To create
tomorrow’s society, imagination will have to keep ahead of technological
progress in order to avoid further increases in unemployment and social
exclusion or inequalities in development.
For all these reasons, it seems to us that the concept of an education
pursued throughout life, with all its advantages in terms of flexibility,
diversity and availability at different times and in different places, should
command wide support. There is a need to rethink and broaden the notion
of lifelong education. Not only must it adapt to changes in the nature of
work, but it must also constitute a continuous process of forming whole
human beings – their knowledge and aptitudes, as well as the critical
faculty and the ability to act. It should enable people to develop
awareness of themselves and their environment and encourage them
to play their social role at work and in the community.
In this context, the Commission discussed the need to advance
towards a ‘learning society’. The truth is that every aspect of life, at
both the individual and the social level, offers opportunities for both
learning and doing. It is thus very tempting to focus too much on this
side of the question, stressing the educational potential of the modern
media, the world of work or cultural and leisure pursuits, even to the
extent of overlooking a number of fundamental truths: although people
need to take every opportunity for learning and self-improvement, they
will not be able to make good use of all these potential resources unless
they have received a sound basic education. Better still, school should
impart both the desire for, and pleasure in, learning, the ability to learn
how to learn, and intellectual curiosity. One might even imagine a society
in which each individual would be in turn both teacher and learner.
For this to come about, nothing can replace the formal education
system, where each individual is introduced to the many forms of
knowledge. There is no substitute for the teacher–pupil relationship, which
is underpinned by authority and developed through dialogue. This has been
argued time and time again by the great classical thinkers who have studied
the question of education. It is the responsibility of the teacher to impart
to the pupil the knowledge that humankind has acquired about itself and
about nature and everything of importance that it has created and


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