Education for All!

1  Matching education to world development


The UNESCO ‘Education for All Global Monitoring Report’ was established in order to inform, influence and sustain a genuine commitment to achieving the ‘Education for All’ goals by 2015. The annual Report monitors progress towards the goals across some 200 countries and territories, and acts as an authoritative reference for education policy-makers, development specialists, researchers and the media.

In 2008, the EFA Global Monitoring Report asked – ‘will we make it?  By the time of the 11th EFA Global Monitoring Report in 2014 it was clear that we will not!   Today, more than fifty million children are still failing to learn, simply because they are not in school. Access is not the only crisis, poor quality is holding back learning even for those who make it to school. One third of primary school age children are not learning the basics, whether they have been to school or not. To reach the goals, this Report calls on Governments to redouble efforts to provide learning to all who face disadvantages, whether from poverty, gender, where they live or other factors.

Nevertheless, as the international community prepares to formulate post-2015 goals for future world development, the Reports have all made a compelling case for giving education a central place in the new global socio political framework.  They  present the latest evidence from around the world of the power of education, especially of girls, to help improve health and nutrition, reduce poverty, boost economic growth and protect the environment.  At the same time there is a need to imagining novel educational responses to the forthcoming new framework of world development.

2 New visions of  world  development education

A consensus appears to have emerged at the February 2013 meeting of UNESCO’s Senior Experts’ Group that the starting point for this process of rethinking education should be the move away from the dominant (‘neoliberal’) model of development. It was agreed that the challenges generated by globalization cannot be resolved by education alone. However, the aspiration is that education helps address some of the fundamental contradictions upon which the old dominant model of development is based.   There is no doubt that the increased complexity of the challenges associated with the changing pace of world development requires new educational frameworks set within an international curriculum designed for learning how to cope with change.

The key propositions of the old paradigm of development (OPD) were based on the underlying premise that the goals and characteristics of the developing countries were fundamentally similar to those of developed countries except that the former were in an earlier stage of their development process.   Furthermore, it was believed that the best way to advance the material living standards of the poorer countries was for them to replicate the institutions and economic policies of the wealthier nations, which, it was assumed, had helped the latter to grow and prosper in the first place.

In the two decades following the election of the Thatcher government in the United Kingdom and the Reagan administration in the United States, the global economic scenario and its implications for thinking on the purposes and characteristics of development has changed dramatically. The main triggers to rethinking development were two-fold.

The first was the post-1980 liberalization of markets and technological advances in cross-border transport and communication. Both events were the result of the changes in political and economic ideologies following the emergence of the Reagan and Thatcher governments and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Between them, they led to an enlargement of the economic opportunities of businesses and a widening and deepening of social intercourse between people of different cultures.

The second driving force comprised a series of dramatic advances in all forms of information, learning and knowledge relating to the wealth-creating process. Such information and knowledge are embedded in physical assets, human capabilities and entrepreneurship. They embrace all stages of any given value-chain and across value-chains. They incorporate both micro and macro organizational capital.

The unique features of contemporary capitalism is that it interconnects different behavioural mores and belief systems , in a variety of ways, which, though they are not easily reconcilable with each other, need to be respected if international commerce is to be conducted in a peaceful and productive way. Globalization has, in fact, widened and changed the physical landscape and human environment for doing business. The number of new players on the world economic stage, each with its own distinctive ideologies and values, is increasing all the time. Technological advances have made economic and social life more volatile, complex and challenging. Television, travel and the Internet have increased the awareness and understanding of the peoples of the world about both the commonality and diversity of their values, needs and aspirations. They have facilitated the crossborder exchange of knowledge, ideas and information. Dwindling transport and communication costs have widened the radius of interpersonal transactions, and have facilitated new forms of inter- and intra-corporate cooperation. All these events are compelling a re-evaluation of the means and ends of development and are leading to a questioning of the means by which poverty and the other downsides associated with our contemporary global economy might be contained or resolved.

What may be the elements of this new vision of education and learning required to live and prosper in the new paradigm of world development? It may be argued that it is through education and learning that humanity will realise its hopes and aspirations. Indeed, education cannot ignore the transformations induced by globalization, and the accompanying social challenges. Teachers, learners, families, and communities cannot but transpose the effects of the rapid social changes they experience into the reality of educational systems. At the same time, there are growing political, economic, and social demands being placed on education to accompany these changes and/or to provoke new ways of thinking and living in a rapidly changing world. The societal transformations associated with globalization will enevitably have an impact on education systems and are forging new paradigms which not only suggest new practices, but also new prisms through which to understand education for development.

3  The three time-frames of education

What role should education play in promoting human dignity, respect for equal rights, in raising awareness about global issues, in fostering a sense of global responsibility that could lead to concrete acts of solidarity and common action at the global level? How can education help construct a new reality of global development? Can this be imagined in what Fernand Braudel referred to as the three time-frames of history? That is;

  • the short-term that attempts to respond to more immediate and urgent concerns;
  • the mid-term perspective that refers to policy, educational structures, pedagogical approaches;
  • the longer-term perspective that has to do to with mentalities and a transformation of mental structures? It is this longer-term perspective, the transformation of our worldviews, which is the most challenging.

The aim of this first phase of the ‘Rethinking Education in a Changing World’ initiative is that the Senior Experts’ Group prepare a report (for April 2014) that will stimulate debate around the fundamental principles that can guide educational policy and practice in the decades ahead. The report should enable an ‘educational philosophy of aspirations’ based on social and economic confidence and hope. It was agreed that such aspirations should not to be an-unattainable utopia, but rather, a ‘necessary utopia’, in the spirit of what Paolo Freire would claim was an ‘optimistic realism’.  There is a need for an educational philosophy of humanistic aspirations.

4 Globalization and education for a ‘New’ Humanism

As an intellectual movement born of the Renaissance in Europe, humanism was characterized by an attempt to raise the value and dignity of the human spirit.  With the unfolding of the twenty-first century, the time has come to rethink humanism in a universal perspective. This can be done through an objective and in-depth re-reading of:

  • history;
  • the foundational principles and realities of cultural diversity;
  • the dialogue between civilizations;
  • a novel approach to science and technology in an inter and trans-disciplinary perspective that links natural and human sciences in the context of cultural ecology.

While the economic functions of education are important, there is a need to go beyond the utilitarian vision that characterizes international development discourse. We need to recall the role of education as a means of cultural and social development. This highlights the importance of producing a values-based curriculum. Education is not simply about knowledge and skills, but also about values of respect for human dignity and diversity required for achieving harmony in a diverse world. There is a need to ‘rediscover’, and rethink, the humanistic dimensions of education for the 21st century, stressing that education is a public good that should be made available to all.

5  Learning beyond the classroom

While the State has a custodial role for formal education, it is important to recall that the delivery of formal and non-formal education is a collective responsibility that involves families, communities, civil society organizations, private business and other stakeholders. There is a need to rethink the ‘educational pact’ or the social contract on education.   This contract considers education is a basic human right. This is understood as the right of all children, youth and adults to learn throughout life through formal, non-formal and informal learning experiences. It is important to conceive education as not being limited to classroom teaching and learning. There is a need to be innovative in imagining mechanisms for learning that are not restricted to the classroom setting. Education cannot be reduced to formal schooling – there is a need to consider the role of non-formal education and informal learning.  A broad vision of education is needed; one that is lifelong and life wide, and that encompasses formal and non-formal learning, articulating these with diverse informal learning spaces for building personal bodies of knowledge.

In particular, due respect must be given to local knowledge systems which are losing out in a global economy based on the dominant industrialized model of knowledge. These systems must be recognized, not only as part of the present, but also by giving them a future and by imagining greater connections between alternative yet complementary knowledge systems and livelihoods and work.

Science education must be rethought beyond the training of specialists. It should include ethical dimensions of the development of science as a contribution to active and responsible citizenship. Beyond literacy, academic knowledge and ‘transferable skills’ (such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication), the question is how do we assess broader social outcomes of education?  This raises the issue of the role of information technology and social networking, both of which are driving informal learning outside school, when most countries in the developing world are locked in the blackboard and paper age (Appendix 1).

6  Education centred on the interactions between culture and environment

The environmental viability of the dominant educational model of economic development, as well as the unsustainable patterns of consumption, production, and lifestyles on which it is based, are now seriously being challenged.  Sustainability and resilience have now emerged as central social objectives in the face of accelerated climate change, the degradation of vital natural resources such as water, as well as the loss of biodiversity.   With the aim of kickstarting a process of rethinking education in light of such global societal transformations, UNESCO has initiated an international laboratory of ideas and a platform for dialogue,  The objective is to provide practical answers to the question, what role should education play:

  • in promoting human dignity;
  • in generating respect for equal right
  • in raising awareness about global issues;
  • in fostering a sense of global responsibility that could lead to
    concrete acts of solidarity and common action at the global level;
  • in developing an international pedagogy to help construct a new
    reality of global development?

These objectives can only be met by an education focussed on the interactions between culture and environment where individuals are aware that they are part of a rapidly changing global ecosystem, which they share with all other living things.  This raises possibilities of exploring the use of social media for creating a cross-boundary conservation syllabus for critical learning.  The aims of learning would be to create integrated and humanistic personal bodies of knowledge that acknowledge we are part of nature in everything we do to promote and maintain human betterment.

Appendix 1  Twittering to a purpose

An analysis of the potential of for transmitting information to build a personal body of knowledge about culture and ecology

This document, which is being constantly updated is available as a view only Google doc at:

It presents the current state of research into the use of for assembling and transmitting personal bodies of knowledge about trees and people.  The experiment is based on a collection of pictures that can be regarded as artifacts of culture.

Web references

Comments are closed.