ANNEX VIII. Closing address by Mr Antonio Silipo, Minister of Education of the Province of Ontario, Canada, and Chairman of the 43rd session of the International Conference on Education
Mr Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO,
When, at the beginning of this 43rd session of the International Conference on Education, you honoured me with the task of chairing the Conference, I remarked on the great significance of the issues which were here to address. And I expressed the hope that our deliberations here would enable all of us, in our own countries and throughout the world, to strengthen the bonds of understanding and respect between cultures and individuals.
I believe that our debates have provided all of us with opportunities to explore ideas and values which will have profound implications for the kind of world we offer our children in the new century.
Two years ago, this Conference met to address the crucial problem of illiteracy and to affirm the commitment to the World Declaration on Education for All. We have heard this week about the progress being made in Member States towards the most basic requirement of intellectual development, ensuring that education is universally available.
This year's International Conference on Education has faced a more specific, but still enormous, challenge: addressing through education that which reflects and affirms the very spirit of humanity - our culture.
As the Director-General pointed out in his opening address, education and culture are in a constant symbiosis. We have seen this week that the question is not simply 'How can education help to promote culture?' but equally, 'How can culture enrich and motivate learning?' Our deliberations have revealed much of the potential -as well as some of the difficulties -of this challenging and highly productive relationship.
Over the past few days, a great many ministers of education and other senior officials from the participating Member States, as well as representatives of a large number of organisations active in this field, shared with the plenary session a wide range of perspectives deriving from their own experiences of education and culture. Clearly, educators in every country are aware of the dynamic interaction which exists between the cultures of their populations, as well as the great potential of the education system to shape and enhance that interaction.
The presenters were often frank in acknowledging She need in all countries to pay special attention to the educational prospects and cultural opportunities of girls and women. Likewise they recognised, quite rightly, She importance of not only preserving and transmitting the cultural heritage indigenous to each people, but encouraging its continuing development. There was wide agreement on the need to give all children the opportunity to participate directly in The joy of the artistic and creative experience, as well as to understand and appreciate the existing creations of culture.
The Working Groups served as crucibles for the refining of ideas through interchanges among delegates and experts. It was in these group sessions that some of the most critical issues emerged and some of the most lively debates took place. I am thinking, for example, of the discussions on intercultural and multicultural education, as well as those on such profound issues as the moral, ethical and spiritual aspects of education and culture. These sessions also contributed to our understanding of the possible interactions between formal classroom learning and that which occurs in the home and through many other cultural influences.
We have in Recommendation No. 78 set ourselves and our authorities at home a great challenge. We must go back to our regular responsibilities widh renewed commitment, determined to put into effect what we have learned and decided here. Only if we do this can our efforts of the past few days truly benefit all of our people.
Moreover, we must be prepared to contribute fully to the success of the next International Conference on Education in 1994. That session will have the strikingly appropriate theme of education reform, and will place special emphasis on education for international understanding. This theme will provide us with the opportunity to follow up on both the work on education for all, started with Jomtien two years ago, and that begun this week on education and culture.
One challenge that faces us in the interval is to strengthen procedural aspects of the Conference. My predecessor as Chairman of the Conference remarked in 1990 on the new method of working together that had been launched in order to give greater opportunities for interaction and debate. I think we all agree that the second experience with the new format has confirmed the wisdom of that basic decision. But we have also experienced some problems as we sought to achieve consensus on the outcomes of our discussions.
Happily, the patience wisdom and co-operative spirit of delegates have allowed us to reach a successful conclusion to our work. But the stress imposed on our Drafting Group, to say nothing of all the others who contributed, has been considerable. We must together find the means to enable delegates to contribute fully to the shaping of the draft recommendation, while allowing adequate debate and sufficient time to review the final text.
I believe we owe a great debt of gratitude to the Director of the International Bureau of Education, Mr Tohmé, for the wisdom and dedication he has brought to the task during his period of leadership. He has seen the Conference successfully navigate the most difficult part of the transition to the new format. Now the responsibility passes to his successor, Mr Tedesco, and I am sure all delegates will offer the new Director their full collaboration.
I am sure that the Director will, as he reviews the experiences of this week and the ideas submitted by delegates in their appraisals of the meeting, want to look for ways in which the 44th session can be made even more fruitful.
I would now like, on behalf of all participants, to thank most sincerely the Director General of UNESCO both for his moving address at the opening of the Conference and for the constructive context which his efforts have provided. We in Canada look forward to his presence in our country over the next few days as we celebrate the midpoint of the World Decade for Cultural Development.
I must also thank most sincerely all of the participants, but especially the Vice-Chairmen, the Chairs of the Working Groups, the Reporters, the members of the Drafting Group, and all of the others who made a particular contribution to the work of our sessions.
As always, the success of the Conference has been in large measure due to the high quality of the support provided by the Secretariat and by the International Bureau of Education. Our thanks go to Mr Tohme and the members of the staff. As well, I must offer a special note of appreciation to the translation staff, who worked with highly professional efficiency long into the night to make our success possible.
I would like to Shank She Swiss authorities for their expected, but much appreciated, warmth and hospitality towards the Conference and all of its participants.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the Conference draws to a close. I hope you have found these past few days in Geneva as stimulating as I have and that all of us will return to our different roles in education with renewed commitment and fresh ideas. Thank you for your support, and best wishes as you seek to strengthen the bonds between education and culture.
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