Learning throughout life: the heartbeat of society (Jacques Delors)

The concept of learning throughout life thus emerges as one of the keys
to the twenty-first century. It goes beyond the traditional distinction
between initial and continuing education. It meets the challenges posed
by a rapidly changing world. This is not a new insight, since previous
reports on education have emphasized the need for people to return to
education in order to deal with new situations arising in their personal
and working lives. That need is still felt and is even becoming stronger.
The only way of satisfying it is for each individual to learn how to learn.
But there is a further requirement: the far-reaching changes in the
traditional patterns of life require of us a better understanding of
other people and the world at large; they demand mutual
understanding, peaceful interchange and, indeed, harmony – the very
things that are most lacking in our world today.
Having adopted this position, the Commission has put greater
emphasis on one of the four pillars that it proposes and describes as the
foundations of education: learning to live together, by developing an
understanding of others and their history, traditions and spiritual values
and, on this basis, creating a new spirit which, guided by recognition of
our growing interdependence and a common analysis of the risks and
challenges of the future, would induce people to implement common
projects or to manage the inevitable conflicts in an intelligent and
peaceful way. Utopia, some might think, but it is a necessary Utopia, indeed
a vital one if we are to escape from a dangerous cycle sustained by cynicism
or by resignation.
While the Commission has indeed a vision of the kind of education that
would create and underlay this new spirit, it has not disregarded the other
three pillars of education which provide, as it were, the bases for learning
to live together.
The first of these is learning to know. Given the rapid changes brought
about by scientific progress and the new forms of economic and social
activity, the emphasis has to be on combining a sufficiently broad general
education with the possibility of in-depth work on a selected number of
subjects. Such a general background provides, so to speak, the passport to
lifelong education, in so far as it gives people a taste – but also lays the
foundations – for learning throughout life.
Learning to do is another pillar. In addition to learning to do a job of
work, it should, more generally, entail the acquisition of a competence
that enables people to deal with a variety of situations, often
unforeseeable, and to work in teams, a feature to which educational
methods do not at present pay enough attention. In many cases, such
competence and skills are more readily acquired if pupils and students
have the opportunity to try out and develop their abilities by becoming
involved in work experience schemes or social work while they are still
in education, whence the increased importance that should be
attached to all methods of alternating study with work.
Last, but far from least, is the fourth pillar: learning to be. This was
the dominant theme of the Edgar Faure report Learning to Be: The
World of Education Today and Tomorrow, published by UNESCO in 1972.
Its recommendations are still very relevant, for in the twenty-first
century everyone will need to exercise greater independence and
judgement combined with a stronger sense of personal responsibility for
the attainment of common goals. Our report stresses a further imperative:
none of the talents which are hidden like buried treasure in every person
must be left untapped. These are, to name but a few: memory, reasoning
power, imagination, physical ability, aesthetic sense, the aptitude to
communicate with others and the natural charisma of the group leader,
which again goes to prove the need for greater self-knowledge.
The Commission has alluded to another Utopian idea: a learning society
founded on the acquisition, renewal and use of knowledge. These are three
aspects that ought to be emphasized in the educational process. As the
development of the ‘information society’ is increasing the opportunities for
access to data and facts, education should enable everyone to gather
information and to select, arrange, manage and use it.
While education should, therefore, constantly adapt to changes in
society, it must not fail to pass on the attainments, foundations and
benefits of human experience.
Faced with a growing and at the same time increasingly qualityminded
demand for education, how can educational policies achieve the
twin aims of high educational standards and equity? These were the
questions that the Commission addressed concerning courses of study,
educational methods and content, and pre requisites for the effectiveness
of education.


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