ANNEX IV. Opening address by Mr Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Director-General of UNESCO
Suppose that the history curriculum, alongside the litany of conflicts, iniquities and wars, made a greater effort to bring out the other side of history -its hidden face of perspicacity, generosity and honour? And suppose that the media too placed greater emphasis on news about open-mindedness, peace and understanding? Or if 'other people' were more frequently presented as a cause for rejoicing rather than a source of concern? Would this be wishful thinking or unwillingness to face facts? I think not. With Leon Blum, I believe that 'realism, in the deepest sense, is the only true idealism. The ideal cannot be sought outside reality. It resides in life; it is life itself; it is belief in beauty and justice; it is the resolute will to bring forth the best in people and the best of worlds'.
I am happy to inaugurate with you the work of the forty-third session of the International Conference on Education and it is with great pleasure that I greet Mr Dominique Föllmi, Head of the Swiss Delegation and Councillor of State for Public Education of the Republic and Canton of Geneva. Through him I should like to express my cordial thanks to the federal authorities of Switzerland and to the authorities of the Republic and Canton of Geneva for the hospitality that they have long extended to This Conference.
I welcome the presence of so many delegates of Member States and I hope you will allow me to make special mention of the representatives of the countries recently admitted to membership of our Organisation, whom we are delighted to see in our midst.
I also wish to express my satisfaction at seeing so many representatives and observers from non-Member States, liberation movements, organisations of the United Nations system and intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations among us again.
My thanks also go to Ms Ruth Lerner de Almea, President of the IBE Council, for her concern to ensure that the IBE fulfils its responsibilities for education throughout the world and to give it the fresh impetus that our day and age require.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The decision of the International Conference on Education to focus the work of this session on education and culture is meaningful for a number of reasons.
In the first place, this session fits into the framework of the World Decade for Cultural Development. It will be recalled that in 1982 the World Conference on Cultural Policies high-lighted in its recommendations and in the Mexico City Declaration the connection between education, cultural development and the cultural dimension of development. The first objective of the Plan of Action for the Decade refers explicitly to the contribution of education to cultural development. So I can only welcome the boost your work will give to the implementation of the goals of the Decade.
Secondly, the choice of this intersectoral theme and the interdisciplinary reflection that proceeds from it seem to me to correspond to a natural, fundamental and universal link between education and culture. From the Greek city-state to the Chinese classical era, from the Japan of Tokugawa to Arab-Andalusian Islam, all human societies have confirmed the structural link between education and culture. With the word Bildung, Germany offers us the most striking example of the association of these two ideas. All great German thinkers, artists and educators have referred to the concept, which is fundamental to the way in which the German nation expresses its view of the word: Bildung denotes both formative culture and education that gives access to culture. But societies without a written language also establish a link -expressively displayed in their ritual -between the education of young people and the acquisition of the basic ingredients of culture. But what constitutes this natural interconnection, discernible in all ages and climes, and how does it function today? It is immediately obvious that culture is both the content of education and the rich alluvium that it deposits -in other words, education is the vehicle of culture. It is through instruction that people acquire knowledge and know-how, learn to appreciate the arts and refine their aesthetic responses. Aware of the wealth of knowledge and beauty that exists, they 'work up an appetite' for knowledge; their horizons are broadened and they become generally more alert. It is also through education that they express their creative potential, assimilate values, form opinions and acquire patterns of behaviour that make them representative of a particular culture.
Yet culture in its broadest sense, defined in Mexico ten years ago as 'the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterise a society or social group' is also both vessel and motor: it encompasses and permeates education, of which it partly determines the objectives and methods.
Education and culture thus operate in constant symbiosis; the former enlightens and the latter differentiates. But is there not a risk that this perpetual osmosis, this circular relationship of cause and effect, may lead to impoverishment? Certainly not, because culture is also an 'effect' of education, and education acts as a motor of cultural change and not just as a neutral mechanism for transmitting culture. The more clearly we recognise this role of education as a motive force or stimulating agent in culture the more capable it will be of mobilising and enhancing the creative potential of each individual in the community.
It has to be acknowledged that curricula today attach far more importance to scientific, technical and economic subjects than to the arts and the humanities. As cultural and social behaviour is shaped by education -in the broader sense -would it not be appropriate to review the content of curricula and the relevance of teaching methods?
We must be careful in particular not to neglect the importance of artistic expression in cultural development. Works of art -culture in one of its narrowest but noblest senses -are the distillation of the spirit of a culture. They are a link between what a culture knows of itself and what it has to discover; a means by which it recognises and transcends itself. In this sense they are central to cultural development.
Education has an important role to play in fostering artistic expression. Children are nature's artists: they have in them a freshness of sensibility, a power of imagination and a creative urge that must be preserved and nourished. Educational policy must ensure that intellectual training is never pursued at the expense of these qualities, which are in fact as vital to discoveries of the mind as they are to artistic creation. Nor should it be forgotten that culture is also memory, is continuity. 'Culture', said Matthew Arnold, is 'acquainting ourselves with the best that has been known and said in the world, and thus with the history of the human spirit'. Culture in the sense of something we acquire through communing with the great known creators of the past is also part of cultural development, on condition that it serves as a stimulus to our own creativity. I emphasise 'own' creativity: this faculty ensures that each human being is not only biologically but also culturally unique. Each person represents an evolving element of this infinite diversity, sharing common traits with those belonging to the same community and context. In this way, the same roots yield a wide variety of fruits.
The domain of culture is universal. Cultural development is thus also the dialogue between cultures. The promotion of such a dialogue has always been one of UNESCO's central concerns. It involves, on the one hand, strengthening cultural identities and, on the other, developing enriching exchanges between cultures. Education has an important function in both respects, by conveying a living sense of pupil's own culture and by forging links with other cultures. The study of foreign languages and literature is of particular significance here, since it provides an unrivalled insight into other cultures and creates a valuable disposition towards intercultural dialogue.
One of the great challenges of the twenty-first century will be the protection of minority cultures against the powerful forces of standardisation and integration. These forces -economic, linguistic and technological -tend to dilute, homogenise and regulate cultures throu-ghout the modern world. Yet the survival and development of small cultures is important not just for the well-being and sense of identity of their individual members, but also because embedded in their knowledge, value and belief systems are social, environmental, political and even spiritual solutions to some of the crises facing contemporary societies. The preservation of cultural diversity -no less than biological diversity -is crucial for the future of mankind. In the past, education has too often played a part in the destruction of minority cultures but it can also play an important role in their survival and sustainable development. International co-operation can contribute to the protection of such cultures, not of course by imposing solutions but by working alongside those concerned in relations of equality and mutual respect to help shape appropriate education programmes, content and methods.
Education also has an important contribution to make to the specific problem of multi-cultural living. Here a difficult balance has to be struck between preserving a legitimate sense of cultural identity in the minority culture or cultures and promoting a necessary social harmony. Education for intercultural understanding and tolerance is essential in this regard and win undoubtedly be one of the key areas of educational development in our increasingly inter-dependent world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The promotion of human creativity is at the heart of the notion of cultural development. It is through the fostering of human creativity that development assumes its full cultural dimension, that cultural identities are strengthened and enriched, that participation in cultural life is broadened, and that international cultural co-operation can best be promoted. Cultural development thus rejoins human development in being rooted in individual creativity and in the education that promotes such creativity by fostering new ways of thinking and seeing while transmitting a common heritage of knowledge, experience and values.
What we have to ask ourselves is this: what kind of education do we need in order to engage in cultural development with an authentically human face? It is a kind of education that will entail our learning to live together in a world of allencompassing complexity; having a conscious remembrance of the past, of things discovered and knowledge distilled; and laying down plans for the future. It will entail ensuring the full flowering of diversity -and awareness and recognition of that diversity -as well as fostering two-way flows and intercultural dialogue, and at the same time instilling attitudes that pay heed to the natural environment and to the attendant human and cultural environment represented by the 'Other' to whom we owe our respect, much in the same way as we are again learning to show respect for nature. Education for human cultural development should teach us to defend our opinions and beliefs and how to protect our culture by adopting an open-minded outlook instead of beating the retreat and withdrawing into the prison of our identities. It should also teach us to have the courage to rise up in permanent rebellion in favour of the rights of others and ourselves alike. Learning to be is, above all, learning to relate, learning to take up our stand at the crossing of the ways instead of remaining behind the fortress walls, as well as showing concern for others. It entails learning to conjugate the verb 'to share' every day of our lives, so that the future will be less one-sided. This is a Utopia that is in the realm of the possible, the reality of the morrow. Education really comes into its own when it builds bridges and pushes back horizons, for its true calling is to look to the future and inform action. The Utopia of the realm of the possible -the realutopia -appears to be a major contradiction, yet it is capable of cutting a broad swathe through the narrow alleyways of necessity.
UNESCO has remained neither indifferent nor inactive in the face of this challenge. It has encouraged out-of-school education, in a bid to diversify cultural activities and reconcile measures taken in favour of both education and culture. It has succeeded in securing mutual recognition for cultures and their diversity, for intercultural understanding, and for knowledge and preservation of the common heritage of all humankind. The Organisation has likewise promoted the use of mother tongues and? through international education, has given added impetus to propagating a culture of peace. I feel bound to mention the efforts undertaken jointly by those responsible for educational policies and leading figures in the cultural sphere, who have enjoyed UNESCO's support in identifying Chose areas where the work of educationists and cultural activities come together. This is the point where strategic planning for education and cultural policies are intertwined.
However, She time has already come to show greater daring in our common thinking and action. We have to ask what sort of culture we want and for whom it is intended. How can we stimulate She birth of something new that will go to enrich and give a fresh lease of life to culture and cultures alike? How can we, at one and the same time, promote universality, without which cultures are nodding more Khan sealed compartments, and specificity, without which Chose same cultures are condemned to wither away or to disappear altogether? It is not only ambition Chat is lacking when we come to answer these questions: we have to impart fresh impetus to intellectual co-operation and to intersectorality and interdisciplinary, both in UNESCO and in the United Nations system. It is above all necessary to ensure that civil society will come to play the leading role that is incumbent upon it in all spheres of endeavour, because it is only by doing this that the bulwarks of public freedoms can be strengthened. In this connection, I should mention the new UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the creation of two important commissions that will soon commence work. These are the World Commission on Culture and Development, chaired by Mr Pérez de Cuellar, whose mandate will be to draw up a world report on culture and development, along the lines of that produced by the Brundtland Commission, and the International Commission on Education for the twenty-first Century, which will convene under the chairmanship of Mr Jacques Delors and is expected to point the ways to the future in the sphere of education.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
However strong the creative urge, culture can only thrive in freedom, a freedom guided by tolerance, solidarity and understanding, an intrepid freedom that champions values, rights and duties, an innovative and dissident freedom that daily seeks out new paths of human dignity and weaves complex new patterns using the guiding thread of compassion and love. Why is it, then, that we so frequently find history teaching being narrowed down to immediate and local concerns, to bad neighbourliness and conflict as a result of a short-sightedness that is just one more type of oppression. History is not a succession of wars and wielders of power. It is the reflection of individual lives in increasingly interactive civilizations.
The key figures in the shaping of history have been the philosophers, poets and artists, the entrepreneurs, scientists and teachers. Yet how much space are they accorded in school-books? Democracy, peaceful coexistence and human development are not innate qualities; they have to be cultivated in each individual. To further this process on a global basis, culture must cease to be a mere ornament in international agreements and a subitem in national budgets. The political will of rulers and parliaments is expressed in terms of the degree of national priority accorded to culture and education and the percentage of GNP they can count on. Respect for the environment, reduction of population growth and mass emigration, and the free coexistence of different ethnic groups (an major challenges of our time -and a potential threat to security and peace) depend on education, behaviour and culture. They are the buttresses of peace and justice.
I often like to make the point that we are not here to record history but to write it. Human beings should be the shapers of their own destiny and not mere spectators. The role of a mere chronicler is beneath the individual's intellectual dignity. Let us all, as individuals, know and write our own history and, as a community, write the history of the world and build a more equitable future.
The great visionary Victor Hugo once said 'Ahuman being who can read has been saved'. Obviously 'reading' in this context has a wider symbolic meaning -not only reading words to get to know oneself and society and its history, but also reading the world, that is to say other people -all other people -in order to join with them in knowledge, respect and tolerance; it is ultimately reading 'to be saved', saved from oppression, dependence and hunger. There is room for everything in Hugo's aphorism: education, culture and development. The conference that brings you together here today must cultivate this soil to sow the seeds of the future for posterity. The future that we leave to our children depends on the children that we leave to the world.
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