16 years ago, a UNESCO world commission came up with a blue-print of Education For the 21st Century. It was headed by J. Delors, a former prime minister of France and included 12 outstanding education leaders and experts from all over the world.

Known as the Delors’ report, it identified 4 pillars for a new paradigm of education in the 21st Century. To quote from the report: “If it is to succeed in its tasks, education must be organized around four fundamental types of learning which through a person’s life will be the pillars of knowledge----(1) Learning to Know----(fomal/informal education) (2) Learning to do—(skills) (3) Learning to Live Together-----and Learning to Be-----(self-realization).”

The report also spoke about 7 over-arching tensions, these being:

1.    The tension between the global and the local.

2.    The tension between the universal and the individual.

3.    The tension between tradition and modernity.

4.    The tension between long term and short term considerations.

5.    The tension between competition and concern for equality of opportunity.

6.    The tension between expansion of knowledge and our capacity to assimilate it.

7.    The tension between the spiritual and the material.

A number of national and international meetings were held at various places in many countries, as a follow up of the recommendations of the Delors’ report. I was privileged to be invited to one such international conference, held in Melbourne, Australia. The only other delegate to the conference from Pakistan was the then federal education minister. On return to Pakistan I asked the minister to hold a seminar on the Delors’ report and the deliberations held in Melbourne. No conference or meeting on this subject has been held in this country, till today.

Last month UNESCO’s Regional Office at Bangkok, for Asia and Pacific countries held the 16th Apied international conference focusing on one of the Delors’ four pillars viz: Learning to Live Together. In his welcome address, Dr. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director UNESCO Bangkok, referring to the above cited 7 tensions, aptly remarked that the world had changed a lot since 1996 and there was a pressing need to “examine these tensions with reference to current context, bringing new insights and perspectives to the dialogue about the future of education in the 21th Century”. Dr. Kim emphasizing the importance of learning to live together said that it was the very “Heart of Education”. He added that it was, in the present day and age, crucial that we addressed the need to learn about other people, their history and cultures and thus by “recognizing interdependence as well as the risks and challenges involved, we will be able to develop more effective solutions to manage and minimize conflicts”.

One of the key speakers at the conference was the illustrious Chinese professors Zhou Nauzhao who earlier was a part of the UNESCO International team which produced the 1996 report on education for the 21st century. Referring to the current context for the four pillars of education, he observed hat there was an imperative need for interaction between globalization and preservation of local cultural identities, participation of people at large in democracy for social cohesion and transition from inequitable economic development to sustainable human development. He proposed the promotion of citizenship values, respect for others’ cultures, appreciation of differences, creating awareness of commonalities leading to resolving conflicts through dialogues and working peace and development. He made a spirited plea for making concerted efforts to ensure that Learning To Live Together (LTLT) is universally accepted as an educational response to resolving of differences and conflicts. Quoting from Delors’ report, he stressed the “special responsibility” of education in the building of a “mutually supporting world” and further that education must have “an ethical component” and that it should also inculcate “respect” for others’ cultural and spiritual values.

I may here refer to an elaborate paper presented at the conference by UNESCO’s renowned education specialist, Inna Melnikova on Education As An Instrument For Social Cohesion And Conflict Resolution. Particularly noteworthy are her thoughts about issues relating to conflict prevention. These are summed up below:   

    Education system is not responsive to current societal and economic  emergency needs, in particular conflict prevention

    Lack of reliable data for informed evidence-based emergency policy,

    comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the aid needed, monitoring and measurement of the true impact of aid

    Inadequate financing of the education system and inefficient use of the   existing budget  to respond to emergency needs, lack of coordination of efforts

    Low Teacher/administrator competencies to support conflict prevention

    Inadequate curriculum, learning and teaching materials

    Lack of openness, transparency, and accountability at all levels of the system

Melnikova also provided formulations of her concluding ideas about a comprehensive programme/strategy for Learning to Live Together and deal peacefully and comprehensively with tensions and conflicts through education. These are:

    preventive education policy formation, including issues on the financial, administrative, monitoring management with focus on conflict management and peace keeping;

    capacity development for target groups,  first of all for teachers (pre – service and in-service), state/government officials, statisticians, journalists; reinforcement of  national capacities of teacher training institutions and teacher educators;

    gender responsive strategies and education policy formulation in post conflict situation;

    development of teaching/learning resource materials for school subject oriented curriculum and extra curriculum activities; 

    Resource Center establishment to facilitate knowledge exchange and enhance competencies to identify, share and apply good practices about effective teaching with focus on education for conflict prevention (curriculum, knowledge and skills update, subject-based competencies, teacher retraining).

Pakistan today is a frightfully faction-and-conflict-ridden society. We have to reckon with a daily toll of a number of innocent lives all over the country. The recent spate of terrorist attacks in KPK is a stark indicator of the escalating reach of the terrorists. Pakistan is reaping the harvest of the brutal American invasion of Afghanistan, its aftermath and the preposterous unleashing of Pakistani forces in the peaceful western border tribal areas in our country by a military dictator.

More than perhaps, any other country, Pakistan needs to take up without delay, besides other necessary measures, well-devised educational programmes aimed at imparting the art and strategies of Learning To Live Together. It would in this connection be desirable to hold seminars and conferences on this theme, seeking guidance from the UNESCO’s relevant reports and the deliberations held at the Bangkok International Conference, referred to above. It may also be mentioned that Delors’ Report on Education for the 21st Century has been translated in Urdu by the UNESCO Pakistan Commission. This publication should be made compulsory reading for senior officers of the education departments, vice chancellors and headmasters of all public and private schools. UNESCO I am sure, would be glad to extend all possible technical assistance.

The writer is an ex-federal secretary & ambassador and a freelance political and international relations analyst.

Email: pacade@brain.net.pk

The writer is an ex-federal secretary & ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.

Email: pacade@brain.net.pk