The Four Pillars of Education

The International Commission on Education for the 21st Century advocates four pillars of education.

Learning to Know

The first of the pillars of education is learning to know. Given the rapid changes brought about by scientific progress and the new forms of economic and social activity, the emphasis has to be on combining a sufficiently broad general education with the possibility of in-depth work on a selected number of subjects. Such a general background provides, so to speak, the passport of lifelong education, in so far as it gives people a taste – but also lays the foundation – for learning throughout life.

Learning to know implies learning how to learn by developing one’s concentration, memory skills and ability to think. From infancy, young people must learn how to concentrate – on objects and on other people. This process of improving concentration skills can take different forms and can be aided by the many different learning opportunities that arise in the course of people’s lives (games, work experience programs, travel,practical science activities, etc.).

This type of learning is concerned less with the acquisition of structured knowledge but more with the mastery of learning tools. It may be regarded as both a means and an end of human existence. Looking at it as a means, people have to learn to understand the world around them, at least as much as is necessary tor them to lead their lives with some dignity, develop their occupational skills and communicate with other people. Regarded as an end, this type of learning is underpinned by the pleasure that can be derived from understanding, knowledge, and discovery. This aspect of learning is enjoyed by researchers and good teaching can help everyone to enjoy it. Even if study for its own sake is a dying pursuit with so much emphasis now being put on the acquisition of marketable skills, the raising of the school-learning age and an increase in leisure time should provide more and more adults with opportunities for private study. The broader our knowledge, the better we can understand the many different aspects of our environment. Such study encourages greater intellectual curiosity, sharpens the critical faculties and enables people to develop their own independent judgments on the world around them. From this point of view, all children – no matter where they live – must have a chance to receive an appropriate education throughout their lives.

However, since knowledge is multifarious and capable of virtually infinite development, any attempt to know everything becomes more and more pointless. In fact, after the basic education stage, the idea of being a multi-subject specialist is simply an illusion. The initial secondary and university curricula are therefore partly designed around scientific disciplines with the aim of giving the students the tools, ideas and reference methods which are the product of leading-edge science and the contemporary paradigms.

A truly educated person needs a broad general education and the opportunity to study a small number of subjects in depth. This two-pronged approach should be applied right through education. The reason is that general education, which gives pupils a chance to learn other languages and become familiar with other subjects, first and foremost provides a way of communicating with other people.

Thinking is something children learn first from their parents and. then from their teachers. The process should encompass both practical problem-solving and. abstract thought. Both education and research should therefore combine deductive and inductive reasoning, which are often claimed to be opposing processes. While one form of reasoning may be more appropriate than the other, depending on the subjects being taught, it is generally impossible to pursue a logical train without combining the two.

To learn to know, students need to develop learn-to-learn skills. Such skills are learning to read with comprehension, listening, observing, asking questions, data gathering, note taking, and accessing, processing, selecting and using information so that students can become lifelong learners.

The role of the teacher then is as facilitator, catalyst, monitor and evaluator of learning because the process of learning to think is a life-long one and can be enhanced by every kind of human experience. In this respect, as people’s work becomes less routine, they will find that their thinking skills are increasingly being challenged at their place of work.

Learning to Do

Learning to do is another pillar of education. In addition to learning to do a job or work, this second pillar should, more generally, entail the acquisition of a competence that enables people. to deal with a variety of situations, often unforeseeable, and to work in teams, a feature to which educational methods do not at present pay enough attention.

Learning to do demonstrates that in order to learn to live and work together productively and harmoniously, we must first find peace within ourselves, expand our acceptance and understanding of others, and continually strive towards living the values which enable us to contribute more fully to the development of a peaceful and just society. It is anchored within the context of lifelong learning and technical and vocational education and training, in preparation for life and the world of work.

The International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century which produced the Delors Report clearly articulated the need for education to contribute to the whole person, in all their roles, when it stated that education “must contribute to the all-round development of each individual-mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic sense, personal responsibility and spiritual values. It describes the learning to do pillar not only as putting knowledge and learning into practice innovatively through skill development and practical know-how, but also as the development of competence, life skills, personal qualities, aptitudes and attitudes.

Learning to do can no longer have the simple meaning… “of preparing someone for a clearly defined task and can no longer be regarded as the simple transmission of a more or less routine practice… the ascendancy of knowledge and information.. is bringing personal competence to the fore… employers are seeking competence, a mix, specific to each individual, or skill, social behavior, of an aptitude for teamwork, and of initiative and readiness to take risks.”

It is clear that technical and vocational education and training need to encompass all four pillars of learning in order to prepare the individual with the knowledge, skills, qualities, values, attitudes, and abilities to communicate effectively and work together productively with others. The other three pillars are learning to know, learning to live together, and learning to be.

It has become increasingly clear, since Edgar Faure presented his report to UNESCO in 1972, entitled “Learning To Be: the World of Education Today and Tomorrow’ that learning throughout life is here to stay. At that time in 1972, Faure envisioned education as “reaching out to embrace the whole of society and the entire lifespan of the individual” and imagined a world in which every person has the opportunity to keep learning throughout life and which lifelong education would be the keystone of the learning society. Faure foresaw the need to adapt education and training: “For far too long education had the task of preparing for stereotyped functions, stable situations, for one moment of existence, for a particular trade or a given job. It inculcated conventional knowledge, in time honoured categories… the idea of acquiring a set of intellectual equipment valid for a lifetime is out of date.”(Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century, 1998, p. 100).

There is now a wide agreement for the need for a new human- centered development paradigm. Education, incorporating general and vocational education should enable the learner to launch into a lifelong continuum of knowledge, values, attitudes, competencies and skills. Technical and vocational education and training is part of that ongoing continuum to which people continually return throughout their lives as the changing work environment requires the development of new knowledge and skills.

The Delors Commission describes learning throughout life as the “key to the twenty-first century.. essential for adapting to the evolving requirements of the labor market and for better mastery of the changing time-frames and rhythms of individual existence”

The need for lifelong learning is accentuated by increasing globalization and free trade. New economic pressures require both individuals and businesses to continually upgrade knowledge and skills to maintain their competitive edge.

The need to remain personally competitive throughout life raises the obvious concern of equitable access to learning opportunities and also to meaningful work for all, and the urgency for maintaining and advancing human dignity and worth.

With incidence of migration from rural areas or from impoverished countries where there may also be conflict, and the subsequent rise in urban population levels and increasing unemployment, it is all too easy for employers and businesses to discriminate unfairly based on gender, disability, race, religion, language, ethnicity, HIV/AIDS or other factors, giving preference to family, friends, associates or those willing to offer bribes. It is also tempting for employers to bully or harass employees into working harder for longer hours, in unsafe conditions, for less pay, or even to provide illicit services in exchange for preferential treatment. It is even more tempting for business to cut costs by casualizing the work force, or by replacing staff with technology, or through environmentally and occupationally unsound practices.

Hence, the need to introduce into education and training values such as equity and equality, and human rights issues which acknowledge the right of all to safe and fulfilling employment. Both potential employers and employees need to be exposed to the values and principles which may be found in a range of human rights and International Labor Organization documents, which require them to behave ethically and responsibly towards one another, and to work with integrity.

The demands of global competitiveness have also created time pressures, altering the work-life balance, potentially sacrificing safety and environmental concerns, altering family and social relationships and stretching the bounds of traditional and ethical values. In this context, the need for values in education and training associated with life skills, developing the ability to balance and manage one’s life and time effectively, and the capacity for team work, responsible corporate and global citizenship and democracy are all essential, for the development of civil society and for countering corruption. 

The development and internalization of such values in practice is, of course, an ongoing process which must be continually reinforced through both formal and non-formal education and training throughout life.

Learning to do represents the skilful, creative and discerning application of knowledge because one must first learn low to learn effectively, how to think creatively, critically and holistically, and how to deeply understand the information that is presented, and its systemic implications for individuals and for society, in both the short and longer term.

Personal and Work Values for Learning to Do
Personal and Work Values for Learning to Do

It is clear that the changing nature of work away from sole reliance on agriculture or industrial production industry towards a growing service industry requires different competencies, particularly in the area of interpersonal relationships. It is therefore essential, cultivate human qualities that are not necessarily inculcated by traditional training…the ability to establish stable, effective relationships between individuals (requiring) new types of skills, more behavioral than intellectual… intuition, flair, judgment and the ability to hold a team together. Since learning to do represents the skilful, creative and discerning application of knowledge, one must first learn how to learn effectively, how to think creatively, critically and holistically, and how to deeply understand the information that is presented, and its systemic implications for individuals and for society, in both the short and longer term (UNESCO-APNIEVE Sourcebook No. 3, 2005).

Learning To Live Together in Peace and Harmony

Of the four pillars of education, learning to live together is the one most vital to building a genuine and lasting culture of peace in both the Asia-Pacific region and throughout the world. The three other pillars – “learning to know”, “learning to do”, and “learning to be” are the bases for learning to live together.

The Commission has put greater emphasis on the one that it proposes and describes as the foundation of education: learning to live together. This can be achieved by developing an understanding of others and their history, traditions and spiritual values. On this basis we can create a new spirit guided by recognition of our growing interdependence and a common analysis of the risks and challenges of the future. This may induce people to implement common projects and. to manage the inevitable conflicts in an intelligent and peaceful way.

Learning to live together is one of the major issues in – education today, since the contemporary world is too often a world of violence. Although there has been conflict throughout history, new factors are accentuating the risk, particularly the extraordinary
capacity for self-destruction humanity has created in the course of the 20t century. Therefore, we believe it is necessary ‘to devise a form of education which will make it possible to avoid conflicts or resolve them peacefully by promoting learning to live together with others, by developing a spirit of respect for the values of pluralism and the need for mutual understanding and peace.

The third pillar of education implies that the teacher should help the students to develop an understanding of other people and appreciation of interdependence since. we live in a closely connected world. The teacher should help students to realize the value of being able to live together in their gradually enlarging world: home, school, community, town, city, province, country, and the world as a global village.

Learning to Live Together: The Asia-Pacific Perspective Schematic Diagram of Core and Related Values Needed To Live
Learning to Live Together: The Asia-Pacific Perspective Schematic Diagram of Core and Related Values Needed To Live

Learning to live together in peace and harmony is a dynamic, holistic and lifelong process through which mutual respect, understanding, caring and sharing, compassion, social responsibility, solidarity, acceptance and tolerance of diversity among individuals and groups (ethnic, social, cultural, religious, national and regional) are internalized and practiced together to solve problems and to work towards a just and free, peaceful and democratic society.

This process begins with the development of inner peace in the minds and hearts of individuals engaged in the search for truth, knowledge and understanding of each other’s cultures, and the appreciation of shared common values to achieve a better future.

Learning to live together involves developing, broadening or changing perceptions of an attitude toward ourselves and others and consequently, the way we behave in our daily encounters and interactions with others. There are multiple influences which impact on the formation of attitudes and behaviors. What is taught in school is often counter to what is learned at home, in the community and through diverse media. This complex area of pedagogy, also called social and emotional learning, requires appropriate and continuous training of teachers (Elias, 2003). It involves the teaching of a wide range of knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors to enable us to interact with others in a just, equitable and empathetic manner. It thus implies far more than content, rather an approach or ethic. which should include curricular and extracurricular activities, as well as school management and organization.

The concept entails the capacity to develop one’s own potential while learning to successfully manage relationships with others. It involves development of self-awareness and self-esteem as well as empathy and respect for others and requires the capacity for active citizenship, development of both local and global identity and an ability to understand others and appreciate diversity. Learning other languages can also enhance learning to live together as can the ability to adapt to rapid change in different areas of human activity (IBE, Geneva, 2001).

A range of skills are necessary for learning to live together including skills for self-control, handling emotions, communication (self-expression, empathic listening), interpretation of behaviors, critical thinking, relationship building and cooperation, negotiation, mediation and refusal, problem solving and decision making. Many or all of these are referred to as life skills being seen as essential to meaningful personal development and social relationships in today’s world.

Learning to Be

Last, but far from least, is the fourth pillar; learning to be which is the dominant theme of the Edgar Faure report “Learning to Be: The World of Education Today and Tomorrow,” published by UNESCO.

The learning to be pillar, first used as the title of the 1972 Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on the Development of Education, refers to the role of education in developing all the dimensions of the complete person: the physical, intellectual, emotional and ethical integration of the individual into a complete man, which is a broad definition of the fundamental aims of education (Delors, 1996, p. 156).

The International Commission on Education for the 21s Century picks up on this theme and clearly sets as a fundamental principle that *education” must contribute to the all-round development of each individual – mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic sense, personal responsibility, and spiritual values. It describes learning to be as, “the complete fulfillment of man, in all the richness of his personality, the complexity of his forms of expression and his various commitments = as individual, member of a family and of a community, citizen and producer, inventor of techniques and creative dreamer” (Delors, 1996, p. 95).

The Delors Commission further defines Learning to be as a dialectical process, which starts with knowing oneself and then opens to relationships with others. In that sense, education is above all an inner journey whose stages correspond to those of the continuous maturing is thus a very individualized process and at the same time a process of constructing social interaction” (Delors, 1996, p. 95).

APNIEVE’s definition of learning to be is founded on a humanistic philosophy of education which aims at the overall development of the human person as an individual and as a member of society. It takes account of all the powers, faculties and innate potentials within the human person, respecting the dignity and worth of each individual. It underscores the humanistic dimensions in quality of education, highlighting the role of values and attitudes towards a holistic and integrated approach to education.

Faure’s Report refers to the individual as “unfinished.” “divided,” and “incomplete.” Education therefore must be directed towards the development of the “complete man.” The physical, intellectual, emotional and ethical integration of the individual into a complete man is a broad definition of the fundamental aim of education.” 

According to Paulo Freire, an outstanding Brazilian educator, recipient of the UNESCO International Award on Education, the Comenius Medal, “humanization is man’s ultimate vocation and destiny,” and this can be accomplished through conscientization. Conscientization is the process of becoming aware of the contradictions existing within oneself and in society and of gradually being able to bring about personal and social transformation. This begins when the individual becomes fully conscious of his own creative potential and  aims at becoming fully human. 

The Faure Report, learning to be, summarizes the universal aims of education as follows:

1. Towards a Scientific Humanism.

Towards a scientific humanism, based on scientific and technological training. Command of scientific thought and language has become indispensable in today’s world. Objective knowledge, however, must be directed towards action and primarily in the service of humankind. Here one can speak of science with a conscience, and science at the service of development. Citizens of the new millennium must learn to be scientific humanists.

2. Creativity

Creativity means preserving each individual’s originality and creative ingenuity, along with realism; transmitting culture without stifling the individual; encouraging the use of one’s gifts, aptitudes and personal forms of expression without cultivating egoism, and paying attention to the individual’s specific traits without overlooking collective activity and welfare. This can be done when there is respect for the creativity of others and other cultures. Perez de Cuellar refers to “creative diversity” in his report of the World Commission of Culture to UNESCO, 1996.

3. Towards Social Commitment

Towards social commitment consists of preparing the individual for life in society, moving him/her into a coherent moral, intellectual and affective universe composed of sets of values, interpretations of the past and conceptions of the future; a fundamental store of ideas and information, a common inheritance. An individual comes into a full realization of his/her own social dimension through active participation in the functioning of social structures and a personal commitment to reform, when necessary. This, in essence is the practice of democracy.

4. Towards the Complete Man

Towards the complete man respects the many-sidedness of personality as essential in education if the individual is to develop for himself/herself as well as for others. This calls for a search for balance among the various intellectual, ethical, emotional, physical and spiritual components of personality.

Learning to be believes in a holistic and integrated approach to educating the human person, as an individual and as a member of society and focuses on the full development of the dimensions and capacities of the human person: physical, intellectual, aesthetic, ethical, economic, socio-cultural, political, and spiritual as he/she relates with others in the family, community, nation, region and the world as shown below.

The Core Values. Learning To Be Fully Human.
The Core Values. Learning To Be Fully Human

Learning to be operates on the fundamental principle that education must contribute to the total development of the whole person body and soul, mind and spirit, intelligence and emotion, creativity and sensitivity, personal autonomy and responsibility, social conscience and commitment, human, ethical, cultural and spiritual values. A definition and explanation of these fundamental and dominant values serve as basic guidelines for a holistic approach to learning, utilizing valuing process, which takes into consideration the cognitive, affective, and behavioral powers of the learner.

The teaching-learning cycle of the valuing process starts with knowing and understanding oneself and others, leading to the formation of a wholesome concept, a sense of identity, self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence, as well as a genuine respect for others. It proceeds to valuing, reflecting, choosing, accepting, appreciating, and acquiring needed skills such as communication, decision-making, and finally results into action. It seeks an integration of the learner’s knowledge, values and attitudes, abilities and skills to bring about his/her full development (A UNESCO-APNIEVE Sourcebook 2, 2002).