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La Educación
Número: (116) III
Año: 1993

João Clemente Baena Soares, Secretary General, with leading members of ICET, presides over the closing ceremonies of the 40th World Assembly
of the International Council on Education for Teaching and the Silver Anniversary at the Faculty of Education at the Universidad Federal de
Río de Janeiro, Brasil. (Photograph: ICET)

Remarks by the Secretary General, João Clemente Baena Soares, at the closing ceremony of the 40th World Assembly of the International Council  on Education for Teaching and the Silver Anniversary of Rio de Janeiro Federal University’s Faculty of Education.

I would like to point out the remarkable coincidence of the ICET Assembly and the 25th Anniversary of the Faculdade de Educação da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Faculty of Education of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). I also wish to express my pleasure in addressing the delegates, teachers and students at a time when OAS missions are being carried out with recognized success, not only in the promotion of democracy in the Hemisphere, but in those matters related to the preservation of peace as well. Multilateral organizations for cooperation are constantly facing new challenges, while still having opportunities for creativity and innovations in this new post-Cold War period. There are great expectations that once this stage of bipolarization of world power has ended, a new world order will be established to stimulate greater investments in the social sector, especially in the areas of education and health. We all hope that the war expenditures are replaced by a new effort toward development with social justice and respect for the environment.

The OAS has cooperated with the countries of the region in their efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, and at the same time, has been sustaining them in the struggle for development and modernization. Acute poverty and environmental devastation are among the major concerns of the OAS. In reference to the first issue, the Organization gives special attention to its cause and effects in the educational field. Viewed from the perspective of education, poverty has many dimensions:

a) The declining status of teachers, in spite of the fact that more and more is expected of their performance, especially when transmitting specific values, ideas, knowledge and attitudes compatible with the ideals of democracy, balanced growth and modernization. The most difficult conditions facing teachers, from a professional point of view, are those found at the beginning of the elementary years. The teachers most affected are those who face the crucial problem of providing access to the literate world.

b) The lack of quality teaching materials from text books to lab supplies.

c) Precarious installations that can only be compared to those found in hospitals in impoverished municipalities. The absence of quality teaching has resulted in decreased political and financial support for education. This Gordian knot must be untangled by drawing on all resources, so that education will be perceived as a relevant and important matter by society as a whole.

In spite of the remarkable efforts attained by the OAS Member States in expanding the enrollment in basic education, the absolute poverty still constitutes a key factor in marginalization and social differentiation. As emphasized by Prof. Inés Aguerrondo in her monograph, “Escuela, Fracaso y Pobreza,” which is being published by the OAS this month, total marginalization of school-aged children still persists in the Hemisphere. The child’s access to expert knowledge, important skills and tools for survival in a modern society is hindered. In some cases, early marginalization takes place as the child enters the school, and he/she is not able to acquire the minimum set of skills and knowledge desirable. The need to work forces the child to leave school before due time. Over and above those cases of school failure, we find that because of marginalization, even those who complete their courses lack the expected training and skills. This topic has been already examined in the discussion on the relevance of education.

This is a striking picture of wasted talents and a terrible loss of resources, remarkably illustrated in the high repetition and drop-out rates. The drop-out phenomena has been, until now, attentively observed in the elementary grades, but it is also a significant concern at the secondary and higher education levels. Naturally, I will leave to you, ladies and gentlemen, the challenge of better defining the causes of school failure in its various patterns. Most of all, I would like to leave with you a message of genuine concern about the future of the school-aged children and youngsters.

I am equally concerned about the legacy that will be left to future generations regarding matters of natural resources. While participating in the activities of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992), the OAS became a partner to a variety of international organizations which are trying to reduce the rhythm of biological extinction, destruction of forest reserves, soil depletion, air pollution and contamination of water reservoirs, and are fighting against acute poverty. The unregulated industrial production, the irrational distribution of land and the uncontrolled cultivation in marginal areas, until quite recently, have contributed to accelerated deforestation, extinction of species, soil erosion, floods and droughts. In view of this “picture” of destruction, many authors force us to rethink traditional development strategies and include in modernization projects and programs an important cost component related to the environmental variable. Such a variable, until recently, had been left out of the development calculation.

In spite of the scientific and technologic breakthroughs, the issue of the environment, nevertheless, is not completely addressed by revising models, plans and policies for economic expansion. Additionally, changing priorities, redefining habits and attitudes, and adopting a new set of values requires major changes in lifestyles and cannot be envisioned without the implementation of a comprehensive educational program. This is one of the most important conclusions one can reach when examining the content of Agenda 21 of the UNCED Conference and is one which with the OAS completely agrees. I wish to close this conference by repeating the text of the 25th Principle of Rio’s Declaration on Environment and Development: “Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.”