G8 Education Ministers' Meeting and Forum: Chair's Summary

Tokyo, Japan, April 1-4, 2000

In their 1999 Summit Meeting, the Heads of Government of the G8 countries and the President of the European Commission stressed the importance of education in social and economic development for all countries, in particular their own. They set out their convictions in the Cologne Charter - Aims and Ambitions for Lifelong Learning, in which they emphasised the role of education in achieving economic success, civic responsibility and social cohesion. They declared that education and lifelong learning would provide individuals with the 'passport to mobility' that they would need to adjust to the flexibility and change they would face in the change from traditional industrialized society to the emerging knowledge society.

In 2000, the G8 Education Ministers and the Member of the European Commission responsible for Education have met for the first time and taken up this vision in more detail from the perspective of "Education in a Changing Society". We met in Tokyo on 1-2 April with participating observers from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The following is a summary of our conclusions which we commend to the Okinawa G8 Summit to be held in July 2000, to our own communities and to other countries beyond the G8.

Knowledge societies offer both significant opportunities and real risks. They require fundamental changes in learning and teaching habits, a new organisation of content and structure of learning provision and a new appreciation of learners' intellectual, emotional and social needs. The skill levels required in the labour market are high and all societies face the challenge of raising their educational performance. Individuals who develop and maintain high skill levels can achieve considerable social and economic success. Those who do not are at more risk than ever of marginalisation with little prospect of finding sustained employment and the means that it provides for full engagement in other aspects of social and cultural life.

In this context, lifelong learning is a high priority for all. Based on the four pillars of learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together, it provides the enhanced opportunities that are essential for full citizenship in the knowledge society. It is fundamental to the development of a nation. It builds the base for economic and social development, develops the capacity of individuals to contribute to and benefit from that development, sustains and enriches both individual and overall culture of a nation and builds mutual respect and understanding that transcends cultural differences.

Education policy cannot be developed nor practice shaped in isolation. There must be consistency and connections between primary, secondary and tertiary education, resulting in true lifelong learning systems. There must also be consistency and connections with other policy domains such as employment, science, technology and information and communication. There must be engagement in implementation with society as a whole and with local communities.

New strategies will best be discovered collaboratively across countries. Taking full respect of the diversity of cultures, languages and country's education systems, the search will not be for uniformity but the outcome will be enriched by understanding the experiences of others. Collaboration will also enhance international understanding and appreciation but it must extend beyond the G8. We look for collaboration with other countries and opportunities to work with multilateral organisations to realise our vision. We believe that special attention should be given to helping developing countries build up their education systems. It is important that at the World Education Forum in Dakar from 26-28 April 2000 the international community strongly reaffirm the world's commitment to providing education for all its children.
 

1. Educational challenges in a changing society

With democratization of education and the consequent access of increasing numbers of young people to higher levels of education, diversification of the levels and kinds of education is imperative, to respond to the more challenging needs of our changing societies.

Education has created more opportunities for young people to participate in the complex and information-rich society and economy of the new century. These opportunities are not, however, shared evenly by all in society. Some are disadvantaged by home circumstances, some by limited educational opportunity and low expectations. As countries succeed in attracting more of their young people to continue to higher levels of education, those who drop out early are left further behind.

At the same time, social changes are creating new pressures. In the midst of affluence, there is a risk that some who have the capacity to succeed can lose the sense of purpose that is necessary to achieve. Community and family ties are weaker. Social and cultural pressures on young people of all backgrounds are greater. Schools have to address underachievement, school absence, drop-out, and disruptive behaviour.

To rise to these challenges, G8 Governments are continuously pursuing a variety of aims, inter alia:
- to instill values of ethical behaviour and citizenship, as well as the knowledge and skills for adult life;
- to raise student performance;
- to develop indicators to monitor and compare educational performance and practices;
- to counteract the disadvantages of poverty and social neglect, and to provide strong safety nets for those at risk of marginalisation;
- to find new ways to engage those who lack the motivation to learn, including more individual support and better connections to the workplace;
- to strengthen the teaching profession, especially by enhancing professional skills;
- to broaden access to lifelong learning for those who traditionally have not taken advantage of it;
- to encourage parents and communities' involvement in school activities.

The countries of the G8, in their different ways, are committed to tackling these problems so as to provide a brighter future for their youth. We recognize that many of these issues cannot be tackled through education policies alone, but through combinations of social and economic policies.

We agreed to encourage research, dialogue and international links between policy makers, educational practitioners, and researchers on effective approaches to problems of educational disadvantage, ways to create better learning environments and strategies to build tolerance and a spirit of community among students.

2. Lifelong learning and distance learning

The Cologne lifelong learning charter recognized the challenge every country now faces to become a learning society and to ensure that its citizens are equipped with the knowledge, skills and qualifications they will need in the new century. The rapid progress of information and communication technologies in recent years such as satellite communications, large capacity optical fiber communications and the Internet have greatly expanded the power of distance learning as a tool for lifelong learning and international understanding. The combination of learning and work can be strongly facilitated by distance learning. Properly applied, ICT can be powerful for expanding learning opportunities in developing countries.

We agreed to:

1) extend the opportunities for lifelong learning so that all people have access to education anywhere and anytime throughout their lives;

2) encourage international collaboration by public and private sectors on distance learning;

3) examine the implications for education systems of increasingly borderless education, initially through a meeting of experts;

4) encourage institutions and experts to share experience on distance learning;

5) encourage universities and colleges to work together to use the Internet and satellite communication for teaching, training and research, including with their counterparts in developing countries.

3. Educational Innovation and ICT

The interaction of people and ideas is at the heart of education. Information and communication technologies (ICT) hold out the promise of enriching the contents and changing the mode of delivery of education, potentially allowing societies to extend access to learning and deepen students' ability to understand and innovate. They are also tools that expand individuals' capacities to solve problems and acquire information in school, in the work place, and throughout their lives. At the same time, we need to pay attention to the dark side as well as the bright side of ICT. In particular, care must be taken to adopt policies that reduce the 'digital divide' between the more and less advantaged members of society.

We agreed to:

1) support research and share information on what it means to be technologically literate, effective practices to teach and assess the skills required for such literacy, and ways that technology may be effectively used to support learning in schools and other learning places of the future;

2) encourage the application of ICT to the world of learning, including vocational education and training and learning at the workplace;

3) share effective practices to lower barriers to access to educational technologies and thus reduce the 'digital divide' both within and between countries;

4) acknowledge the value of and strengthen material and intellectual support for projects aimed at developing clearinghouses or portals to access high-quality contents and software applicable to education;

5) share information on ways to prepare teachers to use educational technologies effectively, including ways to help their students to select accurate and appropriate information and to use technology as an appropriate tool for discovery, learning and educational achievement;

6) encourage the development of international networks of experts, including educators, researchers, technology developers, and policy makers, to work cooperatively to develop practical applications of emerging technologies to educational challenges;

4. Promoting international exchange of students, teachers, researchers and administrators

More than ever, international experience has a high value for students, teachers, researchers and administrators at all levels. The increasing interdependence of the world economy has increased the need for mutual understanding through international cooperation and exchange in various fields and friendly relationship based on mutual trust among nations. Knowledge and skills are increasingly transferable internationally.

The Cologne summit identified the importance of the promoting exchange of students, teachers, and administrators and invited Education Ministers to identify the main obstacles and to come forward with proposals.

We want to encourage more mobility at all levels of education and training, not only through formal exchange programmes, but also through cooperative arrangements between institutions and the voluntary mobility of individual students and staff. We place particular priority on giving teachers more opportunities for professional development through international experience.

Obstacles that need to be tackled include:
- Issues of evaluation and recognition of curricula, credits and qualifications for studies undertaken abroad;
- lack of access to relevant information on counterpart institutions;
- levels and portability of financial support;
- problems of language and intercultural understanding;
- regulatory barriers (entry procedures, tax, social security and health coverage, work rules);
- career progression and provision of substitutes for teachers;
- scarcity of accommodation.

In the case of exchanges of teachers and administrators, there can be the additional obstacle of lack of recognition by policymakers of the significance and benefits of international exchange.
 

We, confirming our determination to make every effort to promote international exchanges of students, teachers, researchers and administrators, agreed to:

1) explore ways to substantially increase the overall level of exchange among G8 countries and with other countries , with the goal of doubling the rate of mobility over the next ten years;

2) encourage appropriate agencies and educational institutions to increase the transferability of qualifications and credits, and validation of studies for internationally mobile students;

3) share the experience of international mobility models like Erasmus and UMAP and encourage further development of networks for educational exchange;

4) continue to strengthen foreign language learning, area studies and intercultural education at all levels, and encourage or support programs delivered in foreign languages, particularly in universities;

5) further strengthen the role of human resources development and personnel exchange programs in development assistance policies. With its universal nature, UNESCO should be able to play a useful role in this context.
 

Finally Ministers agreed to review and report to leaders on progress of the agreements stated above by making use of existing international fora such as OECD. In addition, it was suggested at the meeting that further meetings of G8 education ministers would be held in the future as the need arises.

Source: Japan, Ministry of Education