F. International co-operation in education: a continuing priority
24. Numerous delegates, especially those from the developing regions of the world, referred to the follow-up of the 42nd session of the International Conference on Education (ICE) which concerned literacy and basic education in their countries. Several of them noted the close linkages between the subject-matters treated in the 42nd and 43rd sessions of the ICE. As one delegate put it, in making one literate education serves as part of cultural development, in rendering possible the enrichment of one's perceptions of the world as well as the broadening on one's empathy towards others, thereby facilitating a growth of thoughts as well as feelings. Several others noted that literacy remained their national priority and the focus of their educational efforts as the extension of culture depended, in very large measure, upon the spread of literacy and basic education. Renewed efforts to extend literacy and basic education in the mother tongues of the learners, thereby reinforcing cultural identity, were cited by several speakers. Delegates also expressed frustration at the severe resource constraints and adverse economic conditions which continued to impede the expansion and improvement of basic education and literacy. Some of them cited special programmes they had launched in this area to both reduce the cost and extend the reach of basic education. Other speakers cited critical problems such as the exceedingly difficult conditions under which teachers work and their extremely low and often irregularly paid salaries as enormous obstacles that rendered even the most basic instruction difficult and which, unless corrected, would make it almost impossible for the school to contribute significantly to the development of culture.
25. It was also noted by speakers that this Conference is occurring at the midpoint of the International Decade for Cultural Development. Many of them reviewed the activities that had been undertaken to implement the goals established for the Decade in their country as well as their plans for future action. A number of delegates noted that planned actions were being reduced or delayed because of lack of resources and appealed to the international community for needed support. Two delegates, citing support already received from donor countries, expressed their appreciation for this assistance which had made the launching of cultural and natural heritage projects possible.
26. Many delegates expressed the view that increasing the contribution of education to cultural development, while mainly a responsibility for local and national governments, also called for reinforced international co-operation. The present Conference was seen as a valuable contribution to this end. One delegate suggested that it was important that wider use be made of the rich collection of materials assembled for the Conference. Other delegates raised the need for wider dissemination of the main conclusions of the Conference; and referred with approval to the popularised report prepared on the 42nd session as a model which might be followed. Several delegates proposed that follow-up to the Conference would be facilitated if the recommendations were more focused and more clearly action-oriented. Other delegates and observers mentioned the role that non-governmental organisations are playing in the areas of education and culture and proposed that an expansion of their activities be encouraged. Many delegates also noted the contributions which UNESCO had made to their education system and its continuing efforts on their behalf. Numerous mentions were also made of the value attached to the information and documentation received from the International Bureau of Education.
27. A majority of delegates referred to the state of conflict and crisis existing in many parts of the world. People are being killed, injured, rendered homeless and stateless; their cultural identity and human rights are under attack; cultural monuments and heritage are being destroyed; and access to education and culture endangered or curtailed To the disparities between North and South have been added those between East and West. Numerous delegates expressed their solidarity with the oppressed people in different countries and occupied territories, their outrage and sorrow at the suffering being imposed upon people and their deep frustration at the d i fficulty of stopping painful and destructive conflicts. Delegates from two Member States stated that the actions taken against them by the United Nations Security Council were, among other hardships, unjustly preventing the access of their citizens to education and culture.
28. Other speakers stressed that the environment which sustains and nurtures humankind is itself being polluted and degraded. One delegate observed that the most serious threat to culture is the indiscriminate destruction of our planet's ecology and the uncontrolled use of its natural resources. It is, he added, only in harmony with nature that one can develop culture. Others urged that an important part of education's contribution to culture could be the inculcation of more respectful and responsible attitudes to the natural environment.
29. One speaker emphasised how difficult it is to meet the needs and requirements of education in a world beset by uncertainties, instabilities and crises. Many other speakers, noting that many of the world's conflicts are rooted in cultural misunderstanding, mistrust and intolerance, considered that the present state of crisis made the theme of the Conference particularly necessary and pertinent and education for peace an imperative for human survival.
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