The Delors Report was a report created by the Delors Commission in 1996. It proposed an integrated vision of education based on two key concepts, ‘learning throughout life’ and the four pillars of learning, to know, to do, to be and to live together. It was not in itself a blueprint for educational reform, but rather a basis for reflection and debate about what choices should be made in formulating policies. The report argued that choices about education were determined by choices about what kind of society we wished to live in. Beyond education’s immediate functionality, it considered the formation of the whole person to be an essential part of education’s purpose. The Delors Report was aligned closely with the moral and intellectual principles that underpin UNESCO, and therefore its analysis and recommendations were more humanistic and less instrumental and market-driven than other education reform studies of the time.
The Delors Report identified a number of tensions generated by technological, economic and social change. They included tensions between the global and the local; the universal and the particular; tradition and modernity; the spiritual and the material; long term and short term considerations; the need for competition and the ideal of equality of opportunity; and the expansion of knowledge and our capacity to assimilate it. These seven tensions remain useful perspectives from which to view the current dynamics of social transformation. Some are taking on new meaning, with fresh tensions emerging. These include patterns of economic growth characterized by rising vulnerability, growing inequality, increased ecological stress, and rising intolerance and violence. Finally, while there has been progress in human rights, implementation of norms often remains a challenge.
The Four Pillars of Education
One of the most influential concepts of the 1996 Delors Report was that of the four pillars of learning. Formal education, the report argued, tends to emphasize certain types of knowledge to the detriment of others that are essential to sustaining human development.
- Learning to know – a broad general knowledge with the opportunity to work in depth on a small number of subjects.
- Learning to do – to acquire not only occupational skills but also the competence to deal with many situations and to work in teams.
- Learning to be – to develop one’s personality and to be able to act with growing autonomy, judgment and personal responsibility.
- Learning to live together – by developing an understanding of other people and an appreciation of interdependence.
The idea of the integrated approach to education reflected in the four pillars of learning has had significant influence on policy debates, teacher training and curriculum development in a range of countries worldwide.
It is important to note that the four pillars of learning were envisaged against the backdrop of the notion of ‘lifelong learning’, itself an adaptation of the concept of ‘lifelong education’ as initially conceptualized in the 1972 Faure publication Learning to Be.
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- Keevy, James; Chakroun, Borhene (2015). Level-setting and recognition of learning outcomes: The use of level descriptors in the twenty-first century (PDF). Paris, UNESCO. p. 28. ISBN 978-92-3-100138-3.