In the last century, ignorance and its corollary that is fear have been at the origin of much distrust and violence between individuals, communities and nations. This tendency cannot for the moment, unfortunately, be scratched out from the human psyche, but it can certainly be contained, by encouraging human beings through education to construct a common meaning, common objectives and aspirations and work together towards achieving them.
Likewise, tremendous progress has been gladly achieved in our perception of education: in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was written in gold, for the first time, that education is an undeniable right of every human being. In 1990, at the World Conference on Education for All at Jomtien in Thailand, this concept was further clarified and enriched, in the sense that every person ought to benefit from a basic education which meets his basic needs. Last but not least, at the World Forum on Education in Dakar, Senegal (2000), emphasis was put on the objective of providing quality education for all human beings, by taking better stock of its complexity and this was stated clearly in the Final Report of the World Forum on Education:
The movement toward more open and democratic societies has created a need for learning that goes beyond the academic curriculum and factual knowledge to emphasize problem-solving and open-ended enquiry. The expansion of communication and information technologies necessitates more interactive and explanatory forms of learning, and the increased pace of change has put a premium on the need to engage in continuous learning over a lifetime. There is also a new urgency to ensure that education at all levels and in all places reinforces a culture of peace, tolerance and respect for human rights.
Education is not an isolated phenomenon within society and within the lives, passions and experiences of human beings. It is constantly in confrontation with the hard realities of its environment at the local, national and global levels. So, it is duly expected to overcome numerous tensions, these have been identified by the report of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty First Century, three of which are of capital interest to workshop 3 on the topic of : “Common Values, Cultural Diversity and Education: What and How to reach?”. These are as follows:
The tension between the global and the local: people need gradually to become world citizens without loosing their roots and while continuing to play an active part in the life of their nation and their local community;
The tension between the universal and the individual: culture is steadily being globalized, but as yet only partially. We cannot ignore the promises of globalization nor its risks, not the least of which is the risk of forgetting the unique character of human beings, it is for them to choose their own future and achieve their full potential within the carefully tended wealth of their traditions and their own cultures which unless we are careful, can be endangered by contemporary developments;
The tension between tradition and modernity: how is it to adapt to change without turning one’s back on the past, how can autonomy be acquired in complementarity with the free development of others and how can scientific progress be assimilated? This is the spirit in which the challenges of the new information technologies must be met.
The tensions stated here above sum up the state of humanity today, it is confronted to the reality of learning to live together in the face of the unbearable pressure between belonging to a “world culture” and supporting cultural diversity.
It is an established fact that the dissemination of cultural expressions, forms and experiences is as vital and important as social, political and economic manifestations and processes.
If today, globalization is raising fears within societies worldwide, it is simply because it is seen as a destructive world phenomenon that is one way only and exclusively in the service of one language (English), one culture (Anglo-Saxon) and one market (America), which leads to the imposition of the McWorld syndrome. And with this in place, cultural uniformization will become the norm and diversity the unacceptable exception or the world social taboo.
Essentially, the man of the present century has to have deep roots in his own culture and civilization and show, at the same time, a tremendous degree of receptiveness of the “others”.
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To achieve this, he has to drop off his misconceptions and fallacies about the “other” and his “otherness” and accept to understand his culture in its environment with its own rationale and salient features tracing their origin in beliefs and various aspects of material culture.
It is, also, a known fact among educators and anthropologists that slipping into a stereotype is as simple as breathing, but finding one’s way out of it is quite a task. It is likewise true that stereotyping is a prominent manifestation of our human weakness, but it is also and most importantly, a blatant and an unacceptable expression of our ignorance, presumption and self-indulgence that verges on racism and egocentrism.
There is no such a thing as a good and/or superior culture or stupid and/or culture, for these unfortunate qualifiers are the reflection of self-adoration and self-love and infatuation.
Human beings of the twenty first century have to learn to accept what is different or alien with humility and that all cultures share in grandeur as well as failings. What is important, though, is working together with the “other” towards forging a “multicultural common identity” on a bedwork of diversity and common values and ethics.
To reach this noble objective in education and move on with it to an all-inclusive new reality, several questions, all important and vital, impose themselves at his juncture:
- What philosophy and approach to adopt in order to improve educational output in the light of cultural diversity and the development of new shared values?
- How can the community be implicated in an educational effort aiming at establishing complementarity and interculturality in order to make plurality a value enabling mankind “to learn to live together”?
Philosophy and Approach
To achieve cultural diversity in education, it is important to adopt an attitude based on the idea of reshaping vision. The new vision ought to be broad and creative or rather an “expanded vision” as stated in article 2 of the World Declaration on Education for All:
To serve the basic learning needs of all requires more than a recommitment to basic education as it now exists. What is needed is an “expanded vision” that surpasses present resource levels, institutional structures, curricula, and conventional delivery systems while building on the best in current practices.
This entails broadening the scope and most importantly enhancing the environment for learning and increasing the potential of partnership. This is further highlighted in the above-mentioned Declaration in the following words:
The realization of an enormous potential for human progress and empowerment is contingent upon whether people can be enabled to acquire the education and the start needed to tap into the ever-expanding pool of relevant knowledge and the new means for sharing this knowledge.
Tapping into the pool of “relevant knowledge” presupposes that this knowledge has been identified, researched, studied and “digested”, or to be able to undertake this daunting and ambitious task properly, people have to fulfill the following conditions:
- Be receptive to other opinions, realities, experiences and approaches;
- Be open to other truths and philosophies;
- Conceive of plurality and diversity and life and in learning practices;
- Overcome ethnocentric inclinations and social arbitrariness;
- Adopt an intercultural attitude to the realities of the world;
- Seek complementarity and commonality between visions that are opposed and contradictory;
- Instil curiosity and respect for “otherness” and difference in future positive and responsible society;
- Help build a world based on common concerns and shared values;
- Shape our dormant and boring diversity into an active and electrifying experience enabling individuals “to learn to live together.”?