Treasures within a UNESCO Report

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

Treasures within a UNESCO Report

Yutaka Kikugawa, Founder and Executive Director, El Sistema Japan


The author with orchestra members after Soma Children’s Music Festival, March 2019. Photo Mariko Tagashira.

I earned my M.A. degree in educational policy studies from the Institute of Education, University of London (now University College London) a quarter-century ago. In the same year, a seminal report called Learning: The Treasure Within (the Delors Report) was published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), where I started my United Nations career two years later. This is one of many texts that have made a huge impact on my life; it is always a source of inspiration when it comes to education and learning. Although the Report has been influential among educators, I’ve come to recognize that it is not well known in the sphere of music education, let alone the art and music world in general.

In view of the political egoism, social disorder, and economic disparity we unfortunately but commonly observe across the world in 2021, I would like to remind you of the importance and relevance of this 25-year-old education policy framework.

The Report asserts that education in the 21st century should be understood in line with four important pillars: (1) “Learning to know”; (2) “Learning to do”; (3) “Learning to live together”; and (4) “Learning to be.” I am sure that many of you can confidently agree with me that Sistema-inspired programs and other music for social change programs around the world are deeply imbued with these key principles. We all want our children to learn not only how to sing a song or play an instrument but also how to sing and play together with other choir and orchestra members, to experience the joy of music and to share it with an audience. More generally, we want them to develop their own unique talents and competencies and to become valuable citizens in their societies.

The beauty of the Delors Report is its outlook. At the end of the 20th century, its writers passionately envisioned that our future would be more global (From Part One of the Report: “1. From the local community to a global society”), more democratic (“2. From social cohesion to democratic participation”), and more human-centered (“3. From economic growth to human development”). Again, I would count on my colleagues in our field to endorse the spirit of these high aspirations. We surely want our children to be active members of a global and democratic society and to advance humanity through music, don’t we?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it can seem that our challenges are too gigantic to overcome. It is really painful to realize that many people across the globe are still governed by parochial, authoritative, and materialistic mindsets, far away from the ideals presented by the Delors Report.

However, the Report exhorts us to press forward with what it calls the “noble task” of education: “…Often without realizing it, the world has a longing, often unexpressed, for an ideal and for values that we shall term ‘moral.’ It is thus education’s noble task to encourage each and every one, acting in accordance with their traditions and convictions and paying full respect to pluralism, to lift their minds and spirits to the plane of the universal and, in some measure, to transcend themselves.” Clearly, this is what Maestro Abreu would remind us of: the importance of the spiritual aspect of music education.

I would like you to think of yourselves as educators, in addition to being music educators. And I would propose to you that education—your work—is the critical factor in achieving the goals set forth in the Delors Report. You are an indispensable part of a global humanistic movement. It may take a long time, but there is every reason to believe that if we can inspire all educators to place renewed emphasis on the moral and cultural dimensions of education, we are on the way to achieving a humane, just, and peaceful world.


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