The two-day Initiative roundtable conference, Human Education in the 3-rd Millenium, held on July 7-8, 2019 in Dharamsala, India, was the first event of the global education initiative, which brought together scholars from 10 countries, and included the Dalai Lama as a special keynote speaker. The main conclusion of the conference was to initiate the World Forum "Human Education in the 3rd Millennium" in December 2020 aimed at developing a collective Declaration.
We have come together with the shared concerns regarding dangerous trends affecting global society and education. Humankind, which has become a telluric power, determines the future of humanity and the entire planet. Education needs to nurture new human responsibility to reduce violence against nature and other people. In this sense this initiative supports the directives of UNESCO on education, which embody the needs of the world. We share the ideas of reports to UNESCO 1972, 1998, but we testify that they have not been not properly realized. So in orderto make education capable of accomplishing goals for the world, we need to identify and confront aspects of current educational policies including neo-liberal ideologies, and to clarify the current situation inside education itself, characterized by very low interest to educators and educatees as humans and very low interest to collective well-being and to democratic values. This situation contributes to the technocratic-informational scenario of the development of civilization in the post-industrial era.
We are aware of other various attempts and initiatives in educational practice, theory, philosophy in the world, aimed at changes in education. We are consolidating with them and believe that the World Forum will provide a place for many of them. Our initiative is based on the belief in the need to give a voice for educators and educationists and on the belief in the possibility to come to a collective decision in a form of Declaration through a specially developed organization of the World Forum.
A philosophical and interdisciplinary approach to the concerns of education compels us to problematize the notion of ‘being human’ that apparently underpins educational paradigms and policies across the globe. Thus we identify four main thematic axes as necessary and basic for bringing to the World Forum on ‘Human Education in the 3rd Millennium’: Educational Policy; Being Human; Democracy; Human Education.
- Damaging trends in education are deeply associated with neoliberalism reducing teachers and students to economic units who produce and consume. This is evident in standardization, benchmarking, high-stakes testing, accountability measures, commercialization and the centralized control of education that undermines values and norms of democracy and a social ethos of shared purpose. The neoliberal creation of an individualistic society immersed in populism, sectarianism and narrow self-interest is unacceptable at a time when public goods, democratic norms and global cooperation are critical for a socially just, environmentally sustainable and peaceful future.
Education policies across the globe are privileging the concept of ‘learning’ over ‘education’. ‘Learning’ lends itself more readily to cultures of high-stakes testing.
- Since the scope of “education” is much broader than ‘learning,’ educational policies should include human relations with the living world, human societies and oneself.
- ‘Miseducative’ trends, detrimental to individuals and the larger human community seem to have emerged under politically constructed conditions that disallow educators to participate in policy making. Current trends reflect a collusion between political and corporate power that marginalize educators, their professional judgements, academic autonomy and agent self-determination.
- All ideological approaches to education are based on assumptions about human nature. (Thus, neoliberalism reduces humans to ‘homo economicus’, rational maximizer). But there might be greater educative value in revisiting questions such as ‘what is a human being?’ and ‘what is an educated human being?’ and ‘what ought to be the higher purposes of human beings?, since according to human nature man is inexhaustible and indefinable.
- Students ought to be supported to learn to exercise their agency and live happy and meaningful lives. To this end, education should be designed to give expression to student and teacher agency and their need to make meaning and belong. Eudaimonia (happiness/ flourishing), which is the direction of human aspirations, requires an education grounded in a sound understanding of human nature, motivation, needs and desires.
- Education needs to recognize and address the human need for self-transcendence and inner life, with values of empathy, fraternity and compassion. The ethical dimensions of human development need to be made integral to meaningful knowledge, capacities, skills and sensibilities.
- Education also needs to engage with the challenges of a ‘post-human’ era which is likely to bring radical shifts in our understanding of what it is to be human.
- Democracy refers not only to governance designed to protect individual rights and provide political representation. It is a means for creating spaces and dialogue for cooperative ways of life that value equal dignity for all, rights of self-determination, social justice and solidarity. Creating such dialogic and cooperative spaces requires overcoming of epistemic injustice, that is, the inclusion of everyday knowledge, experiences and worldviews also of socially and culturally marginalized students in formal education.” (see also the attachment),
- There is inherent tension between ideology of neoliberalism and democratic values. Neoliberalism is a form of totalitarianism which places the economy as an unassailable idol to be served – not critiqued. In contrast democracy places the public good, justice and freedom above economics. The embodiment of neoliberalism with its ‘common sense’ ideals, promotes the pursuit of private goods while democracy promotes public interests which benefit everyone. That’s why ideals of democracy in education are under attack of populism, etc. and worth defending.
- In this sense there are specific responsibilities of universities for the public sphere: informing public debate; helping society address complex matters.
- Education cultures in neoliberal conditions are increasingly defined by managerial deference, technocratic efficiency, upward accountability, and performativity, along with the involvement of new actors and organizations from business and philanthropy. Depoliticization and the transformation of education from a public good into a private good is crucial to such developments. To combat these tendencies, education cultures must be open, transparent and democratic so that the legitimacy of education is not judged against narrow instrumental claims of efficiency or effectiveness.
- Our concern in reclaiming democracy is to affirm the need for educational institutions and cultures to respect teachers’ agency, voice, artistry, and professional judgment as fundamental to sound education, and also a vision of education which empowers young people to become experimental, critical and creative beings who value compassion and respect for others.
- Reclaiming democracy requires public, democratic ownership and governance of schools in which schools are run by democratically accountable bodies who answer to the needs and interests of students, families and the communities they serve, rather than run for-profit by opaque, unaccountable actors and institutions.
- To overcome the narrow framework of “learning”, and design an education that is able to problematize existing concerns and address them adequately, requires different vision of education, based on a system of human-oriented principles.
- Education must be designed to overcome epistemic injustice, that is, to include everyday knowledge, experiences and worldviews of socially and culturally marginalized students, and to pose questions and facilitate inquiry, to nurture critical, creative, and ethical thinking. Educational spaces that function as communities of inquiry sustain educatee’s interest, motivation, and curiosity, while encouraging self-questioning, imagination, reflexivity and the development of empathy, emotional maturity, openness to others, and appreciation of difference.
- Questions of value, diversity, social justice, and human nature should be among the objects of reasoned and evidence-based inquiry in schools and other educational spaces. This would include the design of curriculum, teaching-learning resources and the preparation of teachers.
- Education should also engage educatees in activities in which they experience a rewarding growth of self-determination and contribution to a better world through the connection with other beings.