UNESCO – United Nations Education, Scientific & Cultural Organization
UNESCO was born in 1945 out of the same great ideal for which the United Nations itself was created: that peaceful collaboration among nations must replace the violent and oppressive resolution of conflict. The Organization´s mission is therefore above all an ethical one consisting in securing the right of everyone to quality education, without which science, culture and communication cannot move forward.
Quality Education for a culture of peace
Quality education for a culture of peace has become a priority for UNESCO in order to respond to the problems of increased violence, discrimination and exclusion, non-respect of basic human rights and intolerance. How, if not through education, can the defences of peace be constructed in the minds of men? How, if not through education, can we ensure the economic, social and cultural development of each and every one of us?
Of all the areas in which a culture of peace can be effective and long-lasting, the most important is the education system. This implies some transformation of the traditional educational process that encompasses curricula, methods and materials, including textbooks, programs and methods for training teachers and other educational personnel, school management and non-formal education.
In an age when specialization, but also adaptability and polyvalence are essential, there is a need for: an education that is a broad and multifaceted as life itself; one that recognizes the multiple roles individuals will be called upon to play in tomorrow´s society; and one that prepares us all to become lifelong learners able to take advantage of the many forms of learning.
As stated in the report of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, education is a lifelong process whereby to acquire and to improve knowledge and skills, and an exceptional means of bringing about personal development and building relationships among individuals, groups and nations, in others words, “learning to live together”. UNESCO’s long-term objective is to contribute to the establishment of a comprehensive system of education and training for peace, human rights and democracy, tolerance, nonviolence and international understanding for all, embracing all levels of education through the implementation of projects and activities that will contribute to the attainment of this goal.
Quality Education for sustainable development
Sustainable development is a vision of development that encompasses populations, animal and plant species, ecosystems, natural resources and that integrates concerns such as the fight against poverty, gender equality, human rights, education for all, health, human security, intercultural dialogue, etc. Quality Education for sustainable development aims to help people to develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others, now and in the future, and to act upon these decisions.
UNESCO recognizes the key role higher education could and should play in the overall process of achieving sustainable development. Leaders of higher education institutions and their academic colleagues are in a key position to contribute to an equitable and ecologically sound future by making sustainable development a central academic and organisational focus. This requires the generation and dissemination of knowledge through interdisciplinary research and teaching, policy-making, capacity-building, and technology transfer. It is critical that higher education institutions understand and accept their responsibility within the broader context of social and economic development, and the building of democratic, equitable and ecologically-minded societies.
The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), for which UNESCO is the lead agency, seeks to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning, in order to address the social, economic, cultural and environmental problems we face in the 21st century.
Quality Education For All
With the launch of the quality Education For All (EFA) movement in 1990, education quality is increasingly a major issue at both the national and international levels, with international organisations, governments, civil society and increasingly the private sector to centrally position education development in their policies and strategies.
The idea of “intercultural dialogue” takes as its starting point the recognition of difference and multiplicity of the world in which we live. These differences of opinion, viewpoint, and values exist not only within each individual culture but also between cultures. ‘Dialogue’ seeks to approach these multiple viewpoints with a desire to understand and learn from those that do not see the world in the same way as ourselves. An effective ‘dialogue’, therefore, is an enriching and opening interaction which encourages the respectful sharing of ideas and an exploration of the different thought-processes through which the world is perceived and understood. This interaction emphasizes opportunities for broadened and deepened self-knowledge and worldview. As a process, intercultural dialogue encourages an identification of the boundaries that define individuals, and then asks them to relate across those boundaries and even to call them into question.
In an increasingly globalised and interdependent world, where encountering cultural difference can scarcely be avoided, the ability to enter into a tolerant and respectful dialogue is a vital skill for nations, communities, and individuals. In this context, higher education institutions have an important role to play. Disciplines, teaching methods, student skills, and knowledge itself can be deepened and strengthened through an intercultural dialogue approach.
In responding to the multiple imperatives that drive our global knowledge-based economy and society, national governments recognize the need for high quality higher education for all. Preparing its citizens for the 21st century by sustaining or developing a globally competitive research/innovation base and raising employability skills are goals pursued by most, despite different national contexts. Gaining access to learning, and successful participation in higher education is becoming essential for all.
As a result, most countries, even if their capacities to fulfil them differ widely, have set goals to increase the share of the population with higher education and/or broaden access to higher education for individuals that are under-represented because of socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, [dis]ability or location.
Equitable access to quality learning contributes significantly to the development of national human resources, promotes social justice and cohesion, enhances personal development, employability and, in general, facilitates sustainable development.
UNESCO and the accreditation of education quality
The objective of UNESCO is NOT to become an organization for accreditation of education or to certify the level of educational quality of schools and institutions worldwide. Neither UNESCO nor the United Nations has any department or process to accredit or certify academic quality levels of educational programs or institutions.
UNESCO IAU – International Association of Universities
The UNESCO IAU, the International Association of Universities brings together higher education institutions and organisations from some 150 countries for reflection and action on common concerns and collaborates with various international, regional and national bodies active in higher education. Membership into the IAU is usually considered a worldwide equivalent to an accreditation status.
The IAU aims at giving expression to the obligation of higher education institutions as social institutions to promote, through teaching, research and services, the principles of freedom and justice, of human dignity and solidarity, and contributes, through international cooperation, to the development of material and moral assistance for the strengthening of higher education generally.
The Education Quality Accreditation Commission adheres to the UNESCO policy on quality education for the Twenty-First Century and intents to contribute to the achievement of this goal.