E. Points of special concern
18. Several delegates spoke on issues relating to the role or participation of girls and women in culture. For example, one speaker drew attention to the difficulties still facing girls in school in gaining access to science and technology courses, as a result of which gender-based occupational stereotypes were perpetuated in the broader culture. Another speaker referred to gender-stereotyping in school textbooks and the efforts being made by educators in his country to tackle this problem.
19. Many speakers recognised a need to strengthen moral education. Today's education, a delegate emphasised, determines tomorrow's society, for education must shoulder the heavy burden of disseminating and developing culture. Without education, he continued, the cultural bonds of society are weakened and the society's capacity to confront the challenges of the future is imperilled. Moral education, he observed, plays an especially important part in preparing youth for the future and in giving society the sense of solidarity necessary for development hence it should be aimed at developing concern for and empathy with one's fellow citizens, making life more civil and convivial, and giving strength and resilience to the society. Other speakers referred to the breakdown in social relations, to lack of respect for other people and violence towards them. These alarming developments, they proposed, require that educators give more thought and attention to teaching moral and ethical values. The outcome of such efforts, other delegates observed, would depend not only on what was taught, but also and mainly on the manner, attitudes and values with which it was presented to learners.
20. There were numerous references during the debate to both the positive and negative impact of the mass media on culture and the role which education might play to increase the former and minimise the latter. Many delegates noted the use being made of the mass media and audio-visual technologies to bring culture into the classroom and to extend education into the home. The enormous potential of the media was recognised by all who addressed the subject. There was, however, a concern expressed by a number of delegates with the power of international media to displace local culture. The solution to this problem, delegates stated or implied, was to strengthen indigenous culture and one way of achieving this was by ensuring a greater contribution of education to cultural development.
21. More generally, a majority of speakers referred in reference to media or in other ways to the 'internationalisation' or 'globalisation' of culture. Some were apprehensive, fearing powerful forces leading towards standardisation and uniformity. Others applauded the growing awareness among peoples in all countries of the extent to which they shared a common humanity even if the disparities between rich and poor, and between those who were free and those who were suffering or oppressed, remained glaring. Education, it was said, had a crucial role to play along with the media in promoting international solidarity which was an essential prerequisite for tackling problems of a global nature in fields such as the environment and health.
22. The educational role of religions was evoked by some speakers, one of whom suggested that they 'offered a sense of the absolute... giving priority to ethics over technology and the primacy of the person over things'. Many speakers affirmed that education in their countries aimed to inculcate tolerance for persons of different religious beliefs.
23. Several speakers focused on the teaching of history as an area which required particular attention when reviewing the cultural dimension of existing school curricula. One speaker suggested that 'history is to a people what memory is to the individual' and that 'a people with no knowledge of their past would suffer from collective amnesia, groping blindly into the future without guide-posts of precedence to shape their course'. Another speaker, pointing to the sensitivity of history for relations between countries where the hero on one side of the border was an anti-hero on the other side, said that in his country 'we dream of one common history text-book for all countries in the region'. In history, as in all subjects, it was pointed out, teacher education must be a critical component of any viable strategy to reform school curricula.
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