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Education PDF Print E-mail

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Learning Environments

To many people education is not available, busy as they are trying to earn a living and for them ‘education’ is related to all that is important to individuals and what needs to be known in order to contribute to their families, their communities and their culture. The family is considered the most important schooling environment where children learn social interaction and learn to live in a particular natural environment while helping mum or dad with little chores. With time the young person takes on more work or takes responsibility for a certain area and in this ways learns from doing things while the more experienced person teaches and explains why it is done in a certain way and when, depending on circumstances. It is often from within the family environment that the required skills are taught and learned, be this herding, agricultural, manufacturing, trading, healing, artistic, military or spiritual. Those of the same trade would often meet in company and exchange views, and the modern term Company still denotes this educational impulse: of learning by doing. Another term, Union, also stems from the coming together of those of the same trade to safeguard their interests. These few examples already denote how education and trade are related and the requirement today of needing educational qualifications in order to even consider applying for a job, shows that education and the job market are inter-linked.

Cultural considerations: it is paramount for a nation to safe-guard this very important heritage which springs from its own unique environment, its peoples, animals and vegetation, imparting that unique blend of qualities which created those cultural characteristics and which are not replicable elsewhere and which are its greatest gift to humanity.

Learning environments are not related only to a social context but also to natural environments having evolved from these, and so we look at these within the context of education and learning. Contents:

Learning Environments

Formal and non-formal Education

Education in the Past

Education Today


Environment and Cultures

Environmental and Social Influences

Natural Education

Traditional Knowledge

Multi-layered Learning

Education and Human Rights

The Millennium Development Goals and Education

Education as a Human Right

Education as a Tool to promote Human Rights

Implementing Human Rights Education

Human Rights Education and Training

Education: a Service to be traded through GATS at the WTO?

Learning Environments

Formal and non-formal Education

There has been education as long as there have been human beings – without learning there is no society and no life. However, education has not always been formal – in the sense of going to school or university, but has consisted of the processes and environments in which people have learned the skills and understanding necessary to flourish in the world.

‘Formal education’ is not a replacement of what people already know but an enrichment, an addition to the knowledge an individual already has. This education can be practical and experiential, learning new techniques and understanding the context of why certain techniques and practices might work better, or could work in symbiosis with valid traditional and well respected methods and techniques.

As well as the general process whereby communities learn their environments and the best way to survive in them, over many generations certain families develop lineages of specialised knowledge. These may become family ‘trade secrets’ and are passed on from one generation to the next. Some of the products of these trade secrets are now known the world over, as they have been trademarked and marketed internationally. (For example, just from Scotland we have Baxter with their marmalades, jams and soups, the Walkers with their shortbreads, and Harris Tweed from the Island community of Harris).

Crafts people have also often wanted to share their knowledge with others, to educate and learn and develop their craft. Those of the same trade would often gather together ‘in company’ locally or at yearly regional gatherings where different communities would convene, celebrate and exchange views. The modern term ‘company’ still denotes this educational impulse: of learning by doing.

The medieval Guilds and Lodges of Europe are an example of those engaged in a trade becoming part of a club, a brotherhood, a specialist group. Renaissance genius Michelangelo and all his contemporaries had such schools, specialist workshops called botteghe. In these botteghe, with practical and experiential teaching environments, the knowledge and techniques related to that trade were imparted and shared. Another term, union, also stems from the coming together of those of the same trade, often to safeguard their interests.

These few examples already denote how education and trade have historically been related. The current requirement of needing educational qualifications in order to even consider applying for a job shows that education and the job market are still inter-linked. They also illustrate some of the ways in which seats of learning may develop.


Education in the Past

Seats of learning have existed for thousands of years. These existed primarily for those who could pay for it, but also for those who were seen as being particularly gifted. For example, education was held in great esteem in 900BCE in Etruria (in modern day Italy). The sciences, the arts and spiritual development were all considered important and the Etruscans encouraged all citizens, including women, to participate fully in all educational activities. Most citizens of Etruria were literate.

In medieval Europe the monasteries, courts and military academies had often associated learning facilities and catered to those requiring specialist instruction. Monasteries became centres of spiritual learning and excellence. They also fulfilled a social function as impoverished families were able to send their children to become novices, knowing that this was a way to have them fed and educated, and a life-long career provided for them – without cost to the family itself. In later centuries the military accademies became another such institution, as it also provided an education and career for young men.

The University of Constantinople, founded in 849, by the regent Bardas of emperor Michail III, is generally considered the first institution of higher learning with the characteristics we associate today with a university (research and teaching, auto-administration, academic independence). Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Salerno all had universities by the twelfth century. However, it was not until much later that university education became a viable option for any but the most privileged.

Free organised education was available in India thousands of years ago. The emphasis was on a holistic education that developed all aspects of the individual. By 5BCE Nalanda in Bihar in India was already a famous centre of learning, catering to over 10,000 students. It attracted exceptional and famous teachers who taught and elaborated on physical, mental and spiritual subjects. At around the same time, institutionalised education also existed in China, because the ancient Chinese empires required skilled, experienced and specialised administrators.

Education Today

It is important to be aware that not being literate does not necessarily mean that a person is not educated. Their education has been imparted along different methods and is linked to a countries culture and to individual life-styles, and most often is directly related to the activities the family is engaged in. Often these individuals have more knowledge and wisdom than those who have been for many years at school or university, just that hey have learned their subject through different methods and often through direct practical experience. The recognition of the knowledge that people hold about survival, be it social, legal, agricultural, etc, should be key in all development interventions, including those regarding education.

In many countries today institutionalised education is not only a human right, but primary education is enforceable by law. This is a relatively modern mass-approach to education. However, we know that this is not the reality for all. There are countries today, like Niger, where about 86% of women are illiterate. This figure augments to 92% when considering the nomadic populations. There is no doubt that the situation requires urgent action.

Environment and Cultures

Cultural practices are shaped by local natural environments and by patterns of human activity, as well as the meaning that is given to these. Climate, soil composition and access to water will determine how people build their settlements, what plants are harvested and what animals live there, what is eaten and how the food is prepared. Local plants and animals will also determine the choice of which materials are used for building, which fabrics are used for clothing, and how much of the body is covered, and which pigments and materials are used for decoration. The type of culture that develops will also determine the type of learning environments available to the people making up a tribe, a community or a nation.


Environmental and
Social Influences

To many people in developing countries education is not available. They are busy trying to earn a living and consider ‘education’ to relate to all that is important to individuals, their communities and their culture. The family is considered the most important schooling environment for small children and later on all activities the family is engaged in become the venue for teaching the required skills needed to earn a living - be it herding, agricultural, manufacturing, trading, healing, artistic, military or spiritual. Over many generations certain families develop lineages of specialised knowledge, many of these becoming places of excellence and offering instruction. On a more collective level the medieval guilds in Europe are such an example.

The natural environment will determine the activities individuals and communities are engaged in, and individuals will learn the skills that will be most needed. All the needs of a community need to be addressed, be this hunting, herding, building, clothing, food preparation, healing, etc. The number of individuals needed to cover specific needs will depend on the size of a community. The family and/or the Elders will often determine an individual’s career or this might also be determined through initiatory rites. In the majority of cases this will involve the male population. The women learn agricultural and herding skills, food preparation, bringing up children, sewing, fetching water and firewood.

Natural Education

In learning to survive in a given environment, every human being undergoes a thorough and life-long education. The ‘learning environment’ is the home environment, the community environment, the social environment, any formal education environment, the natural environment, spiritual activities and rituals – in short, the holistic environment in which the individual grows and develops.

The natural environment will determine the activities that individuals and communities are engaged in, and individuals will learn the skills that will be most needed. So just as a culture develops in relation to the natural environment, the ‘learning environment’ is also a reaction to the natural and cultural surroundings. This is one way in which traditional knowledge is passed down through generations. For example, climate, soil composition and access to water will determine how people build their settlements, what plants are harvested and what animals can be bred or hunted, what is eaten and how the food is prepared. Local availability of plants and animals will also determine the choice of which materials are used for building, which fabrics are used for clothing, how much of the body is covered, and which pigments and materials are used for decoration.

Now that the Quai Branly Museum in Paris has been dedicated to the Arts and Cultures of the Indigenous Nations, the 1st World, it is hoped that maybe a university celebrating and honouring the indigenous cultures’ knowledge and wisdom might follow and thus place these cultures on an even footing with all the other knowledge of the 21st century.

Traditional Knowledge

From time immemorial designated individuals of the indigenous nations have worked intimately with realms that many people today in the industrialised countries do not perceive anymore. This does not mean that they do not exist. These inner landscapes also require tending and nourishing and there are few left who still have this gift. They not only work on these levels, but at the same time pass on the knowledge, experience and guide others to see and experience this reality as well.

Traditional knowledge is a living system and is based on dedication, learning and experience. It is a journey in its own right and very a specialised one. It often is a life-long journey that covers many areas of knowledge and learning. Humanity is not allowed to lose this amazing rich heritage and all needs to be done to safeguard this knowledge. The indigenous nations are the stewards and holders of extensive wisdom and while they need to make their voices heard (and have done so for some time already) it is hoped that more and more organisations and NGOs will come to their aid to help maintain the environmental, livelihoods and conditions that will allow the knowledge of these inner and outer learning landscapes to be passed on to future generations for the benefit of all humanities.

While most indigenous people still have a deep and spiritual link with the natural world, many indigenous people also have a deep link to what they perceive to be the spirit-worl as well as to that great being considered to be the Spirit of a Nation. This wisdom and 'key' is still held by certain indigenous Elders and when speaking about the environment, then the inner landscapes of this world need to be mentioned and included, nor can they be excluded when mentioning knowledge and education or how this education is imparted and the students, the candidates chosen.

Multi-layered Learning

Many organisations and institutions have dedicated resources to developing projects and aid-packages. Many successful projects have been undertaken and the Sahel today has more tree-cover than 30 years ago. Big environmental and development schemes were initiated, only to flounder years later, as important aspects had not been taken into consideration: in many cases local populations were not consulted, their traditional methods were not taken into consideration, nor their cultural contexts respected. Dialogue and cooperation are crucial elements and often the most successful way forward is to incorporate the best of the traditional methods and local knowledge with elements and technologies of the developed world.

Technological advances have allowed databases to be compiled of traditional sustainable methods used in other such biomes in other parts of the world and this exchange has proved useful. Local populations recognised elements of their own traditions and cultures and were more willing to try new ways. These are all opportunities for learning new ways and methods, new techniques and technologies. Many environmental projects included education and training, and this often led to employment.

Education and Human Rights

The Millennium Development Goals and Education

It is hoped that the education component of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling”, the World Declaration on Education for All (UNESCO) and also and the statement article 26 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “everyone has a right to education” needs to become a reality for nomadic populations everywhere as currently educational facilities for nomad children are sparse and literacy rates are at under 10%. The fact that they move and live in remote areas, far away from the centres of power, makes it very difficult for their voices to be heard and this adds to their emargination.

However, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) could have enormous consequences on the delivery of education, inclusive of distant learning. Services have been defined as financial, insurance, medical, environmental, phone, postal, train or educational and the service industry is big business. At the moment much of the service sector is part of government departments and are regulated by the state. Through targeted lobbying mainly by Western Corporations, Governments are under pressure to reorganise their service sectors and de-regulate them. Companies are there to make profits and the right of free education for all is not about profits, therefore there are two diametrically opposed directions here which do not bode well for the millions who are finally to have access to free education as part of a government agenda.

With many governments currently seeking private partnerships in the area of education, there might be a possibility for these governments to have less impact on national education policies. It would be beneficial for governments, NGOs and specialist civil society actors to work on this together and ensure that governments retain their rightful role in designing and controlling education policies and to be able to enforce legislation in case that the services delivered are sub-standard. It has already happened in the UK when the services for marking A level exam papers by a private company resulted in a complete disaster.

Education as a Human Right

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘Everyone has the Right to Education’.

It is hoped that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the UNESCO World Declaration on Education for All, and the statement within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that ‘Everyone has a right to education’, will become a reality for populations everywhere.

In order to achieve this, a multi-pronged approach is required with governments, specialised agencies like UNESCO and UNICEF, international and local NGOs working in meaningful partnership with civil society (including religious institutions, industry and trade, education, and communities). Any action arising from these dialogues must be an outcome of participative and shared decisions with the populations for whom the education methods and systems are being initiated and established, and this must be an evolving, not a fixed, process.

Education as a Tool to promote Human Rights

Education is not only a Human Right in itself, but can be (and is) used as a tool to promote people’s awareness of their Human Rights and how to protect them

‘Human Rights’ is a term individuals have heard often mentioned, but most people are still not aware of what they are, what they entail, how they can be promoted, never mind where they can find information and how they can get protection through the international legal framework. But most importantly, there is not enough awareness about how Human Rights are applied in everyday live.

Many communities who are the most affected by poverty are also the ones that are least informed about their Human Rights.

Human Rights education enhances knowledge about what Human Rights are and the mechanisms for their protection. However, people should also learn about Human Rights by seeing Human Rights standards implemented in practice, whether at home, in school, within the community or the workplace. Human Rights education should be a comprehensive, life-long process that starts with the reflection of Human Rights values in the daily life and experience of children, as well as part of the aim of education

It is especially relevant to children living in situations of conflict and emergency that programmes be conducted in ways that promote mutual understanding, peace and tolerance, and that prevent violence and conflict.

Any educational options need to include also adult classes on Human Rights education. This is especially important for minorities and those living in remote areas, e.g. nomadic pastoralists, to learn to place themselves in a bigger context, to understand their needs, articulate these and claim their rights.



Implementing Human Rights Education

The final document agreed to at the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993)

was endorsed through resolution 48/121

by the UN General Assembly and in its resolution 49/184

the decade 1995-2004 was proclaimed thehttp://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu6/1/edudec.htm

Much work has gone into promoting Human Rights and Human Rights education,and the training of school teachers is a first requirement in order for promoting Human Rights and Human Rights education,education to be implemented into school curricula.

Some examples: Amnesty in the UK is offering such a course (August 2006) targeted at primary school teachers and principals. Recommendations for Teacher Training are also put forward by the University of Minnesota

Education about international humanitarian law in secondary school also constitutes an important, but all too often neglected, dimension, but again, teachers need to be trained first.

Human Rights Education and Training

Human rights can only be achieved through an informed and continued demand by people for their protection. Human rights education promotes values, beliefs and attitudes that encourage all individuals to uphold their own rights and those of others. It develops an understanding of everyone's common responsibility to make human rights a reality in each community.

Human rights education constitutes an essential contribution to the long-term prevention of human rights abuses and represents an important investment in the endeavour to achieve a just society in which all human rights of all persons are valued and respected.

This is an area that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is giving much attention to with much material , a resource index and an extensive database is being compiled to this end.

More:

Education: A Service to be traded through the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) at the WHO?

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a treaty of the World Trade Organisation that came into force in 1995. Despite the huge impact it has on the way services such education or health are organised and run, there is little public awareness of GATS and how it affects education – including its negative affect on the poorest nations.

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) could have enormous consequences on the delivery of education, inclusive of distant learning. Services have been defined as financial, insurance, medical, environmental, phone, postal, train or educational and the service industry is big business. At the moment much of the service sector is part of government departments and are regulated by the state. Through targeted lobbying mainly by Western Corporations, Governments are under pressure to reorganise their service sectors and de-regulate them. Companies are there to make profits and the right of free education for all is not about profits, therefore there are two diametrically opposed directions here which do not bode well for the millions who are finally to have access to free education as part of a government agenda.

The Trans-national corporations (TNCs) are mostly Western based and their services need to be paid for. The poorest nations will loose out as they will not have the purchasing power to make offers. The poorest people will lose out as they will not be able to pay for the services. The irreversibility of GATS will also make it impossible that once governments have signed up for services they can not get out of that agreement anymore. Unfortunately, neither the press nor governments inform their citizenship of what is at stake and inform people of what e.g. ‘private healthcare’ would mean. Many have not even heard of GATS and therefore have no information nor any opinion. It's mainly up to NGOs and individuals everywhere to find out and take an informed stance. GATS will make the middle classes poorer, while the poorest will not be able to afford the services, and therefore their situation will get even worse.

With many governments currently seeking private partnerships in the area of education, there might be a possibility for these governments to have less impact on national education policies. It would be beneficial for governments, NGOs and specialist civil society actors to work on this together and ensure that governments retain their rightful role in designing and controlling education policies that include human rights education for all, especially as the powerful private sectors are not signatories to any human rights instruments. In order to deliver human rights education HRE Training is also a required.
It is also paramount for nations to safe-guard their very important heritages which spring from their own unique environment, peoples, animals and vegetation, and that share a unique blend of qualities which has created those cultural differences and which are not replicable elsewhere. It will also be those cultural qualities made up of traditional knowledge, the arts, the foods, the spirituality which are a nation's strength, and that will be increasingly important to their future and are that nation’s greatest gift to humanity.

Further reading:


Globalisation and Education Britain's leading independent think-tank on international development and humanitarian issues: ODI
Canadian Association of University Teachers more aricles from ODI



GATS and Global Trade Campaign - The General Agreement on Trade in Services: What’s at Stake for Post-Secondary Education?


For Primary Education 20 countries committed themselves to GATS (2003) by G Rikowski

Oxfam Report (page 5 and 6) on Education and GATS



 

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