A Time for Vision
A Time for Vision by Lewis Perinbam, O.C., LL.D. Senior Advisor, External Relations The Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver to the World Conference on "Education India: the Next Millennium" New Delhi, India, 12 November 1997 // In our lifetime our planet has undergone one of the most dramatic transformations in its history. It has moved from the aftermath of the industrial revolution to a new era in which knowledge, information and new technologies shape our lives. Yet, despite the scientific and technological changes that have swept the world, over one billion people in the developing countries are engulfed in abject poverty and nearly one billion are illiterate. // India's educational heritage goes deep into her history and culture. The ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro reflected levels of economic and social advancement that other countries did not reach for thousands of years. India's contributions to education, science and culture distinguish her among the nations of the world. Two thousand years ago the world's oldest university, Taxila, was located in the Indian sub-continent and attracted students from many parts of Asia and the Middle East. // Today India holds a pre-eminent position in the world of learning and is contributing significantly to the advancement of science and technology. Just over a month ago, on September 29, 1997, India launched its first fully operational satellite from an Indian-built rocket. It is reported that "the 1,200 kilogram, remote sensing satellite will identify mineral deposits and marine resources, assess crop yields, locate independent underground water and estimate damages caused by floods and droughts." What a splendid way to mark India's 50th anniversary as a free nation. // The world faces formidable challenges however, as our planet stands on the threshold of a new millennium. As the UNESCO Commission on Education for the 21st Century (the Delors Report) noted, about one fifth of the globe is illiterate with increasingly dysfunctional school systems where the need is greatest. Furthermore, the numbers are growing - 6.2 billion people by 2000. Countries least able to support the burgeoning populations under 15 years of age have the highest growth rates, are the least equipped to educate, to provide jobs and to assure adequate health and social services. The resulting rapid urbanisation with its attendant exploitation of cheap labour, increased crime, violence and environmental devastation cries out for efficient educational reform and expansion.