ANNEX VI. Closing address by Mr Eduardo Portella, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO
I should like first of all to convey to you the apologies of Mr Federico Mayor, the Director-General of UNESCO, who is unable to be with you today at this closing meeting of the 43rd session of the International Conference on Education. He has asked me to represent him, and it is with great pleasure that I do so.
You have now come to the end of your discussions, which have, I know, been highly rewarding and are the outcome of a genuine exchange of views and dialogue between decision makers, experts and intellectuals. Yet, the success of the Conference is also due to the way in which the Chairman has conducted and guided its proceedings, during which he has been constantly able to count on the co-operation of the Bureau of the Conference, the Working Groups and the Drafting Committee.
If I may, Mr Chairman, I should like to make special mention of the sense of dedication and technical performance of the conference secretariat, staffed by experts from UNESCO, including those from the International Bureau of Education.
Recommendation No. 78, which you have just adopted, is proof of this concerted effort, of the determination to engage in an exchange of views and dialogue, and of the repeated instances of synergy displayed during this session of the International Conference on Education. I am convinced that it will be an essential reference document for all ministers of education and culture, as well as for the international community, and that it will help to throw light on a future in which culture and education will join forces in the peaceful shaping of history that is being awaited with increasing impatience.
One of the merits of our Conference is that it has made us clearly aware of something to which we feel committed: the need for an interdisciplinary attitude and approach in relation to culture and education, for complexity extends far beyond the scope of any specialised skill. It is the task of culture to open wide the windows of diversity on our behalf.
Development itself demands that education should be deeply permeated by culture, because culture is both the point of departure and the final destination. Identifying a cultural shortfall in some project or activity or other. or in educational thinking is tantamount to clearing the way for human development and to realising the danger posed by the one-dimensional model of development that is devoid of all intersubjective, emotional or even ethical content.
In view of the pace at which cultures are coming to be intermingled, the sharing of identity can only be brought about through an interactive and rewarding form of coexistence based on mutual respect.
But there is one thing of which we can be sure: we shall not advance the work of integrated development -in which culture is a driving force -if the attitude we take is one of nostalgia. Attempts to salvage static models and reprogramme them to conform to a familiar tempo are liable to become backward-looking, restrictive and short-lived. It is pointless to appeal to the notion of cultural superiority, which is debatable and questionable, especially since History would first have to be banished if such an appeal were to be warranted. Every age develops the culture which suits its purposes: the creations of humankind may succeed or fail, but they all bear the marks of their own history.
Today we are witnessing the collapse of dogmatic and hermetic forms of knowledge. We face fresh challenges that are being thrown up ahead of time by new and as yet untested situations. The breathtaking emergence of a planet-wide culture threatens to rock our historical structure to its very foundations. This does not mean that the cultural relationship that we call tradition can be abandoned in favour either of restrictive ideologies, which can soon turn into a political delusion, or of blithe forgetfulness, which would be a curious defence mechanism in view of the complex task that is growing before our eyes.
It will be some time before we again have to contend with situations that are already set hard and fast. Transience is the hallmark of culture in the global age. Today's cultural agenda primarily involves the dissemination of diffuse matter. And we are right to be suspicious of surveyors of culture who never acknowledge the creative process.
The unbreakable pact between creativity and transmissibility also accounts for the fundamental alliance between culture and education. Cultural action has an undeniable educational impact, whence the need to view in combination the two aspects of this activity: culture as a form of out-of-school education and education as culture in school. This is something that points to the need to expand the school's orbit and suggests that a distinction, perhaps an operational distinction, could be made between what we might refer to as the school area, the physical confines of the educational institution, and the wider educational area, in other words, all kinds of cultural repositories, sales-points, open-air markets and supermarkets, stadiums, electronic circuits and so on -in short, all amenities liable to exercise a multiplier effect on the distribution of culture.
Working to bring education and culture ever closer together and to overcome any split between them through a persistent effort at the theoretical and practical levels will prompt us to expose the creeping domination of educational systems.
If benefit is to be derived from analysing the relationship between education, culture and development, we should depolarise the political debate and, at the same time, place greater emphasis on social considerations. In this connection, the debates of the General Conference have made us realise that the discussion on human development has to lay stress on the fact that economic policies must, at one and the same time, make allowance for the problems of growth, political democracy and social justice alike. In such an 'integrated approach', social Annex VI -page 3 equity is not seen as a factor that is external to economic growth but as a line of approach which has important cultural, distributive and institutional consequences.
Not far from here, at the Centre europeen de la culture, our colleagues from different cultures have embarked on a rewarding discussion on the culture shock of 1492, as part of the activities connected with the Five-Hundredth Anniversary of the Encounter between Two Worlds. This is a debate about the past, of course, but it is one that looks towards the future.
The element of shock, as it relates to intercultural issues, should be regarded as a positive feature. It is often viewed as a collision, a chance mishap or, as a diversion in some instances. Shock also mean astonishment or perplexity at the unexpected appearance of the other. It is an electric current, a change of voltage which can provide the living world with an entirely new source of energy. I would situate it between the logic of discovery and the dynamic of encounter.
Culture, which is necessarily a process of symbolisation (and every human act could be said to be a symbolic birth) is weakened and yields under the yoke of the technocratic machine that has taken the place of genuine criticism, with its power to transform and initiate. It also inhibits the aimless flow of technical and cultural transfers.
Whether international or national, the transfer of culture, as the lever of integrated development, must be accompanied by a determined effort of critical analysis that is capable of preventing the erosion or the alienation of local identities. Mechanistic alternatives prove to be ineffectual in cases where the constant mobility of cultural action is involved. There can be no doubt that this mobility is never-ending, for this is how the cultural agenda regains its greatest significance and its legitimacy and far-reaching impact, covering as it does its different manifestations and the most varied forms of relationship, such as those between science and art; training in general and vocational training; work and leisure; privacy and social intercourse-and last, but not least, reason and adventure or, if you will, the adventure of reason.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Culture must expand as a form both of education and of communication if the cultural dimension is ultimately to emerge from our age as the driving force behind development that is rooted in solidarity.
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