Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Learning to Be by Edgar Faure is published by UNESCO

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, founded in 1945. It is based in Paris, France and currently comprises 188 member states. Its main objective is to "contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations" (UNESCO Website, 2000).

Learning to Be is a UNESCO publication also known as the Faure Commission Report. Edgar Faure presided over the International Commission on the Development of Education from 1971 - 72. The goal of the commission was broad: to critically reflect upon overall solutions to the major challenges in the development of education in a changing universe. Four fundamental assumptions underlie this work:

1) International community exists and is reflected in common aspirations, problems, trends, and movement toward one destiny.

2) Belief in democracy.

3) The aim of development is the complete fulfillment of people.

4) A comprehensive, lifelong education can produce the kind of complete person the need for whom is increasing in today's society (Faure, 1972 -italics mine).

The book is divided into three sections. The first section deals with the actual findings of the commission. The history of education from the primitive society to the modern age is briefly reviewed. "Current" characteristics of education as it was in 1972 are described from the various educational reforms to common trends to structural transformations. Next the needs and demand for education, expansions, limits thereof, and expenditures on education are discussed. The regional inequalities such as distribution of teachers and education for females are then reviewed. The final section of part one explicates the many challenges of education in a social context: the likes of blocked societies, hierarchies, and elitism. The section finishes with a discussion of progress in democratizing education around the world.

The second section of Learning to Be deals with the research at the time, technological developments, future challenges, and goals. Here the notion of pedagogy is raised with the comment that it has become more scientific with all the linkages to psychology, linguistics, cybernetics and so on. Modern pedagogy, Faure suggests, reflects a notion of continuing education rather than initial training. Faure also suggests that universities should all adopt the term "andragogy" to mean the lifelong science of training humans. Radio is mentioned as one technology available in all countries at that time. Computers are extolled as being a great asset both pedagogically and andragogically. This statement has certainly stood the test of time. What Faure and his commission recommended was a search for new educational order, specifically an order based on scientific and technological training. The latter components, says Faure, are essential to scientific humanism. Politics, in particular those of democracy, are noted as absent or minimal in some educational systems. The publication recommends that democratic education "must become a preparation for the real exercise of democracy" (p. 102). Cooperation or solidarity of countries in an effort to improve education is also noted as ideal. There is considerable discussion about the complete "man", which will be referred to as the complete person. Faure writes, "The physical, intellectual, emotional, and ethical integration of the individual into a complete person is a broad definition of the fundamental aim for education" (p. 156; italics mine). The onus is placed on society to assist us in finding our completeness.

The last section of the book gives suggestions and principles to assist in the achievement of a learning society. Educational strategy, rather than policy, is recommended as a way to operationalize policy. Expansion of schools to accommodate more children is not enough; there must also be a qualitative expansion. There must be educational reform alongside a search for new innovative resources. Lifelong learning is seen as the cornerstone for the learning society, and the master concept for educational policies. Education should be dispensed and acquired through a multiplicity of venues - the path an individual takes is less important than what was learned or acquired. The individual's right to and degree of choice in education should be broadened, so that movement horizontally or vertically within the system is possible. Recurrent education, or the ability to enter and exit the educational system without penalty, should be available to certain categories of people and will help to further the concept of lifelong learning. Faure later comments that lifelong learning, in its true sense, means that business, industrial, and agricultural firms will have extensive educational functions.

While the education of preschool children is not the focus of this report, it was also included as a subject in this report. Preschool education is described as a vital area for development. However, Faure cautions that it should not be done at the expense of school-aged children's education. The recommendation was that preschool education should be the subject of educational strategies in the 1970's. With regard to andragogy, Learning to Be recommends expansion of higher education in number and in diversity. Faure states that the normal culmination of the educational process is adult education, and that allowances must be made for adult education in policies and budgets. The development of adult education through educational strategies is seen as a priority objective. The value of assisted self-learning is extolled. Teaching should adapt itself to the learner, not vice versa. Further to this, all learners should be able to play a responsible part in their own education and the in totality of the educational enterprise. Knowles' work Andragogy not Pedagogy was released just ahead of this work and is visible in these principles around adult education. The final chapter of the book is devoted to valuable ways in which international exchange and cooperation for education are possible.

What did Learning to Be offer the field of adult education in the 1970's? First of all, it took a much more holistic approach to education that did any other work of its time. It was an international reflection on the state of education and the contributing factors therein. Secondly, it was a culmination of the latest pedagogical and andragogical literature of the time. Thirdly, it acknowledged some of the important authors and works of the time, such as Freire and Knowles. Finally, it offered several concrete strategies for education of all kinds to move forward internationally. In these ways, Edgar Faure and the International Commission on the Development of Education, made a substantial contribution not only to adult education, but to the entirety of education as a whole.


Faure, E. (1972) Learning to be. UNESCO: Paris.

Freire, P. (1968) Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seaburg Press.

Knowles, M. (1968). Andragogy, not pedagogy! New York: Association Press.

UNESCO website:

Prepared by Angela Golabek (OISE/UT)

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