Education et formation : sources premières de durabilité - Conférence de Montréal


Propos liminaires d’Angel Gurría, Secrétaire général de L'OCDE, 14ème Conférence de Montréal, Développement durable et innovation : Forum 3

10 juin 2008, Montréal 

Mesdames et messieurs,

Je tiens avant tout à exprimer ma gratitude aux organisateurs pour m’avoir invité à prononcer le discours d’ouverture de ce forum consacré à l’éducation et à la formation  – sources premières de durabilité s’il en est. Avant de laisser la parole à nos trois distingués intervenants, je souhaiterais partager avec vous quelques réflexions que nous pourrions garder à l’esprit pendant nos débats de ce jour.

We look to education and training for solutions to challenges facing our societies. This is as it should be: education and training systems are the foundations for human development, innovation, growth and competitiveness.

Higher education plays an obvious and direct role:  universities have traditionally been the cradles of research-led innovations for the benefit of the society at large.  In the context of today’s globalising world, the sources of innovation are expanding in many directions, but there is no doubt that our higher education systems facilitate greater understanding of sustainable development at both global and local levels.

OECD is working with UNESCO on a system that will make it easier to compare educational standards and levels in universities across borders. This is important because the internationalisation of higher education is enabling cutting-edge research to be applied to local challenges. For example, the UK-based University of Nottingham recently established a centre in Sustainable Energy Technology in the People's Republic of China. It supports research, teaching and learning in the field of sustainable urban development and this sophisticated research can be translated into practical, energy efficient, affordable solutions for residential and business construction in China

Schools have a crucial role to play in furthering sustainable development, being virtually universal, they are the ideal systems through which one generation can transmit knowledge and learning to the next.  Sustainable development exemplifies the notion of intergenerational responsibility.

As you may know, the OECD helps national education authorities to address emerging challenges such as the need to boost scientific knowledge and sensibility to tackle climate change for example. 

Our programme for International Student Assessment –PISA - evaluates education outcomes by assessing the scientific, mathematics and reading literacy of 15 year-year-olds. We do it through a survey every three years; we started it in 2000. 

The results of the most recent round, published last December, covered representative samples of around 20 million students in 57 countries. As part of the focus on scientific literacy this round of PISA asked 15-year-olds about their awareness of environmental issues. Here are just a few of the results:

  • Dans les pays de l’OCDE, les trois quarts des jeunes de quinze ans se disent conscients des conséquences négatives du déboisement ;
  • Plus de la moitié d’entre eux avaient entendu parler des problèmes de pluies acides, de gaz à effet de serre et de déchets nucléaires ;
  • Un peu plus du tiers étaient conscients des enjeux relatifs aux organismes génétiquement modifiés.

So the good news is that most 15-year-olds said they were aware of issues directly related to sustainable development. Furthermore, students with high level of scientific literacy strongly supported policies favouring responsible sustainable development. The evidence suggests that our education and training systems can take some of the credit for that.

However there is a disturbing dark side to this:  young people are not optimistic about the future. Only one in five thought that energy shortages would improve over the next 20 years. They were even more pessimistic about water shortages, air pollution, nuclear waste, extinction of plants and animals, and clearing of forests. 

What is more worrying is that students with greater scientific knowledge doubt that environmental issues are being addressed successfully. Students with less knowledge of science don’t care about sustainable development.

This makes me wonder: who will take care of sustainable development? Who will make it happen? And what can the education systems do?

Luckily, a lot can change between age 15 and adulthood. Young persons will expand both their academic knowledge and the belief in themselves that they can change things. But if that is to occur, education and training systems must increase and broaden  knowledge and awareness of sustainable development.
Part of that effort should be teaching people about political processes to give them confidence that their engagement and commitment to new ideas can make sustainable development a reality. 

And how do we make sure that training and education systems will accomplish that? OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, PIAAC, helps governments evaluate and design them to foster innovation through more flexible and responsive labour forces.

L’Homme a fait plusieurs erreurs. Il est à mon avis particulièrement important de faire comprendre aux jeunes qu’il peuvent mener des actions qui conduisent à des améliorations sur le front de l’environnement.
On peut citer quelques exemples remarquables, certains des fleuves les plus pollués d’Europe et d’Amérique du Nord ont été dépollués, le trou de la couche d’ozone ne s’aggrandit plus aussi rapidement grâce à l’action concertée des gouvernements pour limiter la présence d’hydrocarbures fluorés dans les aérosols.

Mesdames et messieurs, les solutions au changement climatique et aux autres menaces au development durable demanderont des efforts de recherche-développement mais aussi une volonté politique d’appliquer de nouvelles solutions.

Les systèmes d’éducation et de formation, ces grands vecteurs de la pensée critique, sont notre premier et notre meilleur atout pour y parvenir.

Je me réjouis par avance d’entendre nos intervenants et le public s’exprimer sur ce thème important.


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