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Teaching Politics

Our understanding of the term education

Those involved with political education have to be clear in their minds about which understanding of the terms politics and education they are using for the basis of their work. This pages sets out to deal with the term education; another page, politics, has been designed to address our understanding of the term politics.

"Being humane (or simply human) is the traditional educational goal of all classic educational systems when in the Orient or Occident."
[Bridges for the future. A manifesto for dialogue between the cultures. An initiative by Kofi Annan]

What is education? - An international commission of experts headed by Jacques Delors was set up by the UNESCO to look into this very question. It drew up an influential report with the following title: "Learning: The Treasure Within". Resting on four pillars, this report outlines a comprehensive understanding of the term education:

"The life-long learning concept rests on four pillars: 'Learning to acquire knowledge', 'learning to act', 'learning to live together' and  'learning for life'.

- Learning to acquire knowledge assumes an adequate general education and the possibility to study a small number of subjects in more detail. To a certain extent this also means learning how to learn in order to benefit from the opportunities that life-long learning offers.

"Every individual - child, youth or adult - has to be in a position to benefit from education that is tailored to their basic learning needs. These needs encompass both the learning skills (such as reading and writing, oral expression, mathematics and problem so living) and the fundamental learning substance (such as knowledge, skills, values and attitudes) that each and every individual needs to survive, to develop fully their skills and potential, to live and work with dignity, to participate fully in society, to improve their quality of life, to make well-founded decisions and to continue to learn"
[World declaration for education for all, Art. 1, par. 1]

- Learning to act is not only about getting professional qualifications but also about acquiring the skills to be able to adjust to new situations and work in a team. This aspect encompasses the practical application of that which has been learnt within the framework of a youth's wide range of different experiences in a social and professional context (...).

- As far as learning to live together is concerned, it is essential to develop an understanding for others and to understand mutual and global dependencies by, for example, taking part in joint projects and conflict solution strategies. To this end, then, fundamental values such as pluralism, mutual understanding and peace have to be respected.

- And, finally, learning for life means being able to develop better your individual personality and, with more autonomy, being able to act with a better sense of judgment and increasing sense of responsibility. For this to be achieved, it's essential that education neglects none of the potential within individuals neither their memory, power of judgment, aesthetic sense, manual or communication skills.

- While formal education systems tend to give priority to acquiring knowledge at the expense of other forms of learning, it is essential today that education is understood in its entirety. This means that educational reforms and education policy should in future focus on this vision both in terms of substance and methods."

[Learning: The Treasure Within. UNESCO report for Education for the 21st Century, published by the German UNESCO Commission. Neuwied; Kriftel; Berlin: Luchterhand, 1997, p. 83]

Other extracts from the "Learning: The Treasure Within" report:


The four pillars of education


The tasks of education


The objectives of education


Challenges for education in the 21st century

[Author: Ragnar Müller]

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SubjectsHuman Rights  I  Examples  I  Democracy  I  Parties  I  Europe  I  Globalisation  I  United Nations  I  Sustainability

Methods:    Teaching Politics    II    Peace Education    II    Methods



This online service on the subject of political education was developed by agora-wissen, the Stuttgart-based Gesellschaft für Wissensvermittlung über neue Medien und politische Bildung (GbR) (Partnership for the Exchange of Information Using New Media and Political Education). Please contact us with your questions or comments. Translation from German into English by twigg's Übersetzung deutsch-englisch.