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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
At UNESCO, the President of Portugal and the Prime Minister of Thailand plead for quality education

12-10-2005 2:20 am The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, and the Président Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, today addressed UNESCO’s General Conference pleading in favour of quality education.portugal_thailand_250.jpg The Thai Prime Minister, declared: “I share my commitment not only to making access for education to all but also to making all for education. But in the world of globalization, that may not be enough. Today, we shall need quality education for all. […] We need to transform our respective countries into nations that learn, whose people are inspired by a love of knowledge, and a quest for science, innovation and creativity. […] Because education leads to empowerment of people and empowered and well-informed are powerful assets in the struggle against poverty and extremism.”

Prime Minister Thaksin urged that “we should creatively make use of information and communications technology to advance both formal and non-formal education. […]. Thailand is moving towards a knowledge-based economy, the main driving force of which is the knowledge of our people,” he said, insisting that quality education, “is a crucial vehicle for social mobility for our people and for the country as a whole.”

The Prime Minister announced that Thailand had set a target to provide 250,000 computers to schools throughout the country by June 2006, “This initiative would ultimately provide a laptop for every elementary school student, which he or she can take home to use for studying, doing homework and researching.” He continued: “It is our conviction that educated children today make for empowered citizens tomorrow. […] This is the essence of what the Thai government is pursuing: people-centred governance and people-centred development.”

He added: “Quality education carries a deeper meaning than just the acquisition of knowledge. It is about the way we live with each other and the defence of peace. […] Education has thus become an important part of the arsenal to defeat extremism in the war of ideas and beliefs. How can we use education to rally those who condemn the killing of innocents and to defeat those who practice or condone it? Quality education is the answer. Quality education must cultivate tolerance, dialogue, openness and mutual understanding.”

The President of Portugal also focused on education, which he qualified as “a public good of the first importance” in a globalized world. “What distinguishes societies and civilizations from one another today and gives them positive prospects or, on the contrary, jeopardizes their future, is their level of education and the place they give to science, culture and communication,” declared President Sampaio. “It is important that school attendance also serve as an opportunity to learn about human rights. I believe that human rights education is one of the strategic mainstays of an educational policy that serves the development of international understanding and solidarity.”
“Only societies that provide quality education for all will be able to secure their development effectively, and optimize the utilization of their resources on [sound] scientific and technological bases; guarantee free and fair access to information and communication; and, finally, safeguard their identity and cultural heritage,” the President continued, arguing that “education has become a priority for global good governance.”

History shows that dialogue between civilizations is as necessary, possible and fruitful as it is difficult, the President said. “If it is not taught and nurtured, it is replaced by monologue or silence. Both almost inevitably fuel dangerous extremist stands and fanatical passions […] Indeed, cultural identity sometimes tends to be defined through confrontation. And cultural particularities, legitimized by religious or ethnic factors, are as many vectors of conflict and domination. This is why each civilization, each religion and each culture must be able, in its own domain, to exercise tolerance and recognize freedom of opinion and the right to be different. This is supported by the fact that cultures and religions are all the more intolerant in dealing with the outside world when they are guilty [of intolerance] at home. Moreover, the intolerance of any given culture or religion is not constant, it can vary in intensity over time.”

Jorge Sampaio finally pleaded for the defence of the Portuguese language, calling for closer cooperation between UNESCO and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, especially in the fields literacy, communication, and the safeguard of the historic and literary heritage of the Portuguese language.

Photo 1 © UNESCO/Andrew Wheeler: Mr Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio, President of Portugal.
Photo 2 © UNESCO/Michel Ravassard: His Excellency Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Source Press Release No. 2005-118
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