Diverse ways in learning, life, thoughts, meanings, and cognition…


Report of a workshop on

Diversity in Ways, Settings,

Thought, and Discourse of Learning

Ain Saadeh, Lebanon, 14-16 October 2003

(By Rania SAHELI)



Contents of the report


1-     Introduction


2-     Background and rationale


3-     About this report


4-     The beginning of the workshop


5-     Issues shared in the workshop


6-     Corners: Participants’ initiatives


7-     Thoughts, impressions, and stories from the participants


8-     Moving on?


9-     At the end of the report


10- References suggested


11- Participants’ list

Diverse ways in learning, life, thoughts, meanings, and cognition…

Report of a workshop on

Diversity in Ways, Settings,

Thought, and Discourse of Learning

Ain Saadeh, Lebanon, 14-16 October 2003


1-      Introduction


UNESCO and the Arab Education Forum convened a workshop on “Diversity in Ways, Settings, Thought, and Discourse of Learning” in Ain Saadeh, Lebanon, 14-16 October 2003. 26 participants from different fields related to learning and from different local, regional, and international organizations came from Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco, India, Pakistan, and France.


The participants discussed in 3 days through various ways of mutual learning diverse issues ranging from the role of institutions in conditioning human beings within the unilateral reigning system to different initiatives reflecting diversity in cognition, understanding, learning, and living.

The expectations of the participants from the workshop varied according to their backgrounds, interests, and aspirations. This diversity was reflected in the different visions and issues presented in the workshop in addition to the ways the workshop was lived and linked to our lives outside the workshop.



2- Background and rationale


The need for the seminar grew from conversations that took place in several conferences: “The role of education and culture in Arab development” – Sharga, Dec. 2002, “Unfolding learning societies” - Udaipur, India, Dec. 2002, and “Alternative discourse in education: Towards new notions of quality to promote lifelong learning for social transformation” a UNESCO-Civil Society seminar at the World Education Forum - Porto Alegre, Brazil, Jan 2003.  A common concern that arose in these conversations is the need to bring out the diversity and richness that exist in ways, settings, thought, and discourse through which people learn. The purpose of the seminar is to open up the discussion to include dimensions and views that are usually missing in current discussions on education in the Arab region. 

In a world in which the imagination, thought, discourse, and change are dominated by “information age,” “globalization,” and ready meanings and solutions, one crucial dimension in constructing authentic thought and knowledge is for each person/ group to investigate and co-author the meaning of the words they use, through constant reflection, articulation, and discussion.  Words do not only gain meanings from dictionaries, texts, and “experts” but also from experiences and reflections of people.  Such construction of meaning and thought is currently lacking in the Arab region (as well as other regions), which has been a main reason for the absence of diversity and authentic thought in modern times.  Like many regions around the world, there is a lot of activities, projects and programs going on in the Arab world, and a lot of re-wording of imported ready-made theories, but very little reflection, articulation, and discussion of what people do, i.e. very little construction of authentic meaning, thought and knowledge.  Needless to say, such construction is crucial in education and learning as well as for the healthy growth of individuals and communities.


Within the tremendous changes and challenges which the world is facing, there is a need to look again and rethink much of what is taken for granted today, including education and its role in societies.


In order for it to happen, learning does not necessarily require special settings, ready standardized materials, and professionals. It happens all the time in diverse settings and conceptions. A main challenge facing communities every where is to reclaim diverse ways of living, learning, teaching, knowing, relating, doing, and expressing – ways that exist and ways that need to be developed.


There has been more questioning of education as the only way to learn in places such as India, Africa, Central and South America, as well as in some countries in Europe and North America, than in the Arab world. Many groups in these regions have been involved in questioning current dominant practices and thought in education and in articulating authentic visions concerning teaching and learning. The Arab region needs to experiment, reflect, articulate, question, and to come up with its own visions. There is a need also to explore what is happening in other regions as well as what took place in the Arab region in the past, and ask some hard and fundamental questions. 

This workshop in Lebanon came within this context.




3- About this report


A team of the workshop organizers, participants, and the film convened several meetings to discuss the objectives of the written report: Would it be for documentation, for sharing initiatives and experiences, a resource and reference, a reflection for the workshop’s ambiance, a nucleus for more diversity, creativity, and inspiration, or would it be a link with what has already happened and what will take place in this regard?

Still, despite these several meetings before, during, and after the workshop on the report, and despite my being keen on documenting – as much as possible – during the plenary in the workshop and gathering some of the documents, thoughts, and reflections from the participants and the issues presented,

I really found great difficulty in starting the report!

Structure and content got mixed up, as well objectivity and subjectivity! Then, after more discussions, I became concerned with having the report not being thrown after the first page (or paragraph!) and having it reflect the “ambiance” that reigned the workshop: mutual learning and diversity, joy on one hand, disappointments, anger, and anxiety on the other, the development of some individuals’ attitudes during the workshop, learning, reflection, unlearning, and relearning…


I accompanied the making of the film that was shot during the workshop. The first draft of the film finished and I had not started to write a word! I felt more confused, and then I started….




4- The beginning of the workshop


The workshop started with a story told by Munir Fasheh from Johstone’s “Improvisation and the Theater” about a little girl. The girl was described as lunatic in her school because when she was offered by her teacher a flower as the “most beautiful flower in the world”, the little girl reacted nervously: “All the flowers are beautiful!” Upon this, the teacher then the school considered the girl “crazy” though she might have been the wisest, adds Fasheh. Who puts the criteria? Who decides? Who says there is only one way for development and thinking?

The participants were surprised when the agenda and the suggested process of the workshop were presented: No lectures, no papers, no recommendations to end with, no ready-made solutions, no concrete results, but a “series” of mutual learning among all to reach where all want to reach!




5. Issues shared in the workshop


During the first day of the workshop, the participants went into groups of 3 then 6 to get acquainted and to raise issues of interest and relevance. The issues raised as shown below reflect the diversity, richness, even controversy in the visions and thoughts of the participants:


5.1 Is the school the best medium for learning?


-         What are the diverse learning systems / spaces in the Arab Region?

-         Friendly schools to children in difficult circumstances (street and working children…)

-         Education in the Arab Region: What is the starting point in creating a healthy and nurturing environment to unfold, know ourselves, extend, and accept diversity?

-         Learning how to learn. How?

-         Is there a critique in the Arab Region of mainstream education, globalization, and development?

-         Museum education programs to face the challenges of the era with an atmosphere that provokes creativity

-         How to incite thinking in learning to reach experience and productivity; diversity in practice

-         Does stereotyping actually contradict learning?

-         Would it be useful to promote diversity through the Convention of Child Rights and making the local community an active partner in the school?

-         Including the Convention of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the International Humanitarian Law in the curricula

-         Distinguishing between information and knowledge: Does school provide knowledge or just information? And does it really provide information?



5.2 Definitions, terms, and expressions


-         By whom and how are words, concepts, terms such culture, civilization, globalization, democracy, civil society, and development defined?

-         Legitimacy of concepts and meanings: How can the collective practices be produced in the collective minds of the people as legitimate concepts?

-         The issue of diversity in educational systems and the question of globalization: What do we mean by “diversity” of learning / educational systems and how does it connect to globalization?

-         How do we relearn and regenerate our authentic creative expressions?



5.3   In or out of institutions?


-         What do we mean by “institution”? Family? School? Society?…

-         What is the role of institutions in suppressing diversity? And how?

-         What is the role of institutions in shaping our “meanings” in life?

-         How can we put limits to our relation with institutions without necessarily destroying them?

-         Can governments allocate resources for initiatives and learning centers outside the existing educational institutions?

-         Can we go back to “apprenticeship in learning” - where the teacher is the worker who knows his / her job and lives from it – as one of the forms of learning?

-         How can we get rid of stereotypes that prevent spontaneous expression of personal experiences and of institutions that make expression artificial and copies?

-         How can we build an institution - not authoritarian and not necessarily democratic nor anarchic - that is supportive of basic values such as diversity, honesty, group work, creativity, freedom, transparency, and questioning the meanings of these words? The institution could be the family, the school, the company, the state, or society…

-         How does intellectual and physical dispossession take place through institutional impositions and “development”?

-         How could we teach our children the basic human values of freedom, justice, and equality for the country, the region, and the world?

-         Are institutions reparable? What are peoples’ alternatives?

-         What are the obstacles that prevent the societal transformation desired? How will this create barriers in face of our schools in particular and the educational community in general? How will this prevent them of assuming their role in inviting diversity and being progressive and creative agents that accelerate the transformation of society into a more humane one?



5.4   Diverse questions and issues


-         How can we promote communication between generations?

-         How do we encourage volunteerism?

-         How could we link change at the macro global level (anti-globalization, anti-imperialism) to the micro local level related to daily concerns, education, and attitudes?

-         “Think global / abstract, act local / concrete”

-         How do we go beyond the division North – South, East – West? And how do we release the struggle from racism and inferiority – superiority?

-         In addition to the double standards in implementing the UN conventions in the world, are the conventions anyway made BY and FOR ALL the peoples?

-         What can we tell our children about Sept 11?

-         How can we articulate traditions, values, and religious principles with our efforts to challenge ready-made answers and unquestionable truth?

-         Where is the “indigenous” source of critical consciousness and challenge to abusive power in religions?

-         Can monotheistic religions be considered like other ideologies (communism, existentialism, nationalism, socialism, anarchism, liberalism…) and be dealt with accordingly?


“A Question

In the twelfth century, the official geographer of the kingdom of Sicily, al Idrisi, drew a map of the world, the world that Europe knew about, with south on the top and north on the bottom. That was common in map making back then. And that’s how the map of South America was drawn eight centuries later, with south on top, by Uruguayan painter Joaquin Torres-Garcia. ‘Our north is south’, he said. ‘To go north, our ships go down, not up’.

If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?”

From: Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down, Picador, 2001 (p. 337)




6 - Corners


            Several initiatives on diverse ways of learning lived by the participants were shared in the workshop in forms of “corners” in the space of the locale of the workshop. These corners varied from video playing, power point presentation, flip charts, to presentations and group discussions. Time was allocated during the working hours for participants to visit these corners freely and discuss the initiatives presented in addition to their own. Following are some of the initiatives that were shared:


6-1 “IBRIK EL ZEIT” Workshop (Yasser Mroueh)


This activity was initiated by a young man that loves and practices art, loves children, but does not love rigid structures! HE directed a program for kids on a radio station in Beirut (Voice of the people) where well known artists would tell stories for children in their voices – accompanied in every episode by several children from different places… The radio program ended and the Ibrik El Zeit workshop started with Yasser Mroueh and these children.

For 5 years so far, the workshop has presented several plays, poetic evenings for children, story telling, drawing and art craft workshops, puppet shows, in addition to the production of two tapes. According to the children who have participated in this process, story telling, writing and reading poetry have been very effective learning media motivating search for more knowledge, respecting others, and understanding in simple clear ways what are child rights.

For more information, ibrikelzeit@yahoo.com



6.2 Udaipur and the Learning Web (Manish Jain)



·        We need a shift in our thinking from schools and ready-made funnels to learning webs…

·        The issue is not changing policies but it is about regenerating options and life styles

·        Dismantling the indoctrinating dominant system

·        Distinguishing between the school where information is indoctrinating and life where knowledge is learned



·        Appreciating and revaluing our talents, capacities, resources, and dreams

·        Strengthening caring, trusting, and collaborative relationships

·        Challenging dehumanizing and explorative institutionalization

·        Regenerating our own visions and practice of Swaraj


Udaipur as a learning city

·        Identifying community resources: artisans, nature, farmers, artists, story tellers, local businesses, and spirituality groups…

·        Community expressions and dialogues: Community media (wall papers, magazines, video, dance, and theatre…), community surveys, community festivals… 

·        Unlearning workshops: Waste, work (hands, head, heart), identity, institutionalization, demystifying intellectuals, leadership, play, intuition, creativity…

·        Regenerating learning spaces: Apprenticeships, learning parks and neighborhoods, roof-top organic farms…



·        Breaking the stigma of “failures”, “illiterates”, and “drop outs”…

·        Identifying opportunities / resources for building our own learning webs outside schools


International forum on Unfolding learning societies, Udaipur, 2002

·        Why do we always look for solutions and answers?

·        How can we move from being consumers to being creators and critics of ready-made ideas?

·        Diversity in learning is not mutiny against school system

·        The issue is not an educational philosophy and the change is not partial. It is a comprehensive vision, a political choice, a way of life

·        We need to reclaim the world…

For more info, http://www.swaraj.org/



6.3 IDSP – Pakistan (Wasif Rizvi)


            The aim of the Institute for Development Studies and Practice (IDSP) is to “create and develop human resources that will change the power structure by demystifying the development processes and create sustainable partnerships with communities.    

The fields of research and work are diverse: local community, resources, agriculture, education, environment, social learning, information technology, drugs, fish, culture, poverty, health and hygiene, gender, among others. The institute organizes courses regularly on these issues for interested people.

Four of its programs are the Academic Program (AP), the Institutional Development and Core Support Program (IDCSP), the Learners and Community Development Program (LCDP), and the External Relation Program (ERP). AP consolidates the core course of IDSP and introduces research as the component in every programmatic activity besides developing short course for focused audience. IDCSP has three sub programmatic areas i.e. the central intellectual resource for IDSP’s programs on continuous basis for improved mechanisms, structure, and programs. LCDP, as a community-based initiative, provides the building blocks for long-term people centered development processes. ERP provides links IDSP with a network of national and global partners, which include donors, intellectuals, and research outfits.

For more info, http://www.idsp.org.pk/



6.4 Liberate School (Sheila Pimpare)


Liberate School was a seed sown in an Organization called “Aide et Action” a French funding organization founded in 1981, based in Paris and operating internationally on Basic Education programs. 

Liberate School was an idea aimed at enabling the organization to free itself from narrow frameworks and understand and promote pluralism in education. It understands school as one learning space among many other important learning spaces and wishes to recognize, validate, and promote knowledge and learning beyond school walls and integrate school into the authentic learning environment of children, families and communities.

In order to allow people and organizations to liberate themselves from this narrow framework of 'schooling as the most valid means for good education’, Liberate School promoted a field methodology called Participatory Conceptualization. This methodology consists of:

1. Setting these dialogues in an appreciative framework by focusing on the strengths of the people, on what they are able to do well, on their achievements. This is opposed to the deficit framework within which most development programs operate and which focus on what the communities "need" in order to reach a certain threshold of development.

2. Raising foundational questions about changes in the village that have come with development as well as the role, positive and negative, of the school in the village. This is opposed to the superficial questions (like why are you sending or not sending your child to school?) raised in development programs.

These dialogues with people allow for a very wide range of responses to emerge with regards to their learning needs. These responses are specific to the context and environment of people and based on their strengths. These responses are so specific that they are not meant for replication in other parts of the state or country. It leaves people to decide on their needs and learn accordingly. The typical question one may have is “but don't they need to learn to read and write?' The answer is "if they need to learn that, they will do it. The spaces available to learn to read and write are several and they know of them. And that desire for literacy is surely longer lasting and more efficiently dealt with than all the efforts of schools and development programs.'

 Liberate School as a concept has given rise to three different responses in three different parts of India.

For more information on the concept please read, "Developing Learning Communities - Liberate School, A case study" a joint publication of Aide et Action and UNESCO and/or visit website: http://www.unesco.org/



6.5 Naba’a: Developmental Action without Borders (Ali Salam)


Developmental Action without Borders (Naba’a) was founded in Sep 2001 as a non-stereo-typed, non-patterned alternative for change in the developmental field. It is a local organization in Lebanon joining children and local communities in order to reach global education and more effective societal participation – from children in the Palestinian refugees’ camps to the children in Lebanon and their community.


Through its holistic vision built on a child centered approach, Naba’a facilitates active efficient learning within the society. Active learning is a lively approach with a strategy based on interaction, experience, and the participation of all. All actors are given the opportunity to participate in planning, building the objective and achieving it at the same time, in addition to learning form each other and finding solutions for daily problems. Learners’ awareness is increased through this operation – whether children or parents-, and knowledge of attitudes, behaviors, and skills are developed so that they make changes within their community. They learn to redefine their roles within society.

For more info, please visit: http://www.nabaa-lb.org/



6.6 Story-making Program in Morocco (Asma Ageznay)


Story-making (Sabk El Hikaya) is a new vision for child education, initiated by Dr. Najima Ghazali in Morocco. It includes listening to popular tales, creating a collective story, and writing it.

The objectives of the program are:

·        That children acquire listening, understanding, and expression skills (oral and written)

·        To create a suitable atmosphere for children to create stories and present it to audiences

·        To fight school failure and shame stemming out of physical, psychological, economic, or social disabilities

·        To have the students accept cultural, linguistic, ideological, and racial differences

·        To allow children to meet with other cultures



6.7 El Shona Museum (Ishak A’zmi)


El Shona’s International Biennale Children’s Art is organized by Alexandria International Museum of Children’s art and it gathers drawings by children from different parts of the world. The project was initiated by Dr. Ishak Azmi, and it contains five programs:

·        The museum education program

·        “Practicing” creativity outside the school

·        Creative summer camps

·        Developing the talented’ skills

·        Participation in local and international competitions



6.8 Al Jeel Center in Cairo (Ahmad Abdallah)


Al Jeel Center was founded in 1993 by Dr. Ahmad Abdallah as an academic center and was soon transformed into a society service center: research and action.

The center worked for 5 years in a project of partial care for working children where the center provided food, play, treatment, and a learning space for working children of the neighborhood.

The center’s current programs are:

·        Academic and scientific research and providing resources (books, articles, manuals…)

·        Childhood care

·        Diverse youth activities

For more info, please contact jeelcent@yahoo.com.au



6.9 Arab Education Forum and Qalb El Umur (Munir Fasheh and Sirene Hleileh)


The Arab Education Forum was initiated in 1998 by Dr. Munir Fasheh and supported by the Contemporary Arab Studies Program in the Middle East Center Studies in Harvard University.

The Forum grew to elaborate a common vision on teaching and learning in the Arab Region; a vision based on peoples’ work and experiences, contemplating, expressing, discussing, and reflecting on them.

As for Qalb El Umur, it is a major project of the Forum for learning through expression. It aims at finding spaces for people and societies to work in small groups, reflect on their experiences and lives, express, and build on them.

For more information, please visit: http://www.almoultaqa.com/



6.10 Zayd Al Mushki School in Yemen (Jalila Shuj’a El Dine)


“I was appointed as a school director when I was 20 years old. My age was thus similar to the students’ and I almost knew nothing! Most teachers were older and more experienced than I was. They scared me with their academic and philosophical words, so I felt ashamed. I called the Baccalaureate students for assistance. Then, I met with them, some parents, and some younger teachers. This is where we started collective participation in taking all decisions that have to do with the school, the curriculum, the teaching tools and evaluation.

We faced lots of challenges, some of which the lack of support from the local community, the teachers who were not ready, and the political manipulations. Some tried to get rid of me – as a director – as I was out of the country for a while. The students defended the school with love and aggressiveness. They were neither defending the administration nor me! They were defending their achievements and the changes they had made. The school remained, and the politician who had caused that ‘incident’ apologized to the school. I really felt very proud that the initiative - that I had started unintentionally years ago - has succeeded!”



If we behave ourselves, it will come to pass. We will all see the same images and hear the same sound and wear the same clothes and eat the same hamburgers and enjoy the same solitude in our houses all alike in neighborhoods all alike in cities all alike where we will all breathe the same garbage and serve our cars with the same devotion and carry out the orders of the same machines in a world that will be marvelous for all who have no legs or wings or roots.”

(From: Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down, Picador, 2001, p. 233)



7- Thoughts, impressions, and stories from the participants


Unlike most seminars and conferences, this workshop did not end with recommendations and conclusions. It ended with sharing diverse impressions, opinions, stories, and thoughts (in the workshop itself and/or through correspondences right after the workshop). Once again, the diversity and differences among participants were manifested when they expressed what they would take with them from the workshop:

-         Samir: This workshop was very important to me to quit for a while my daily routine and find new perspectives and get to know great experiences

-         Jalila: My coming here helped me to reconcile with myself after a long time of isolation I had lived

-         Wasef: I found myself trying to convince people here of things that had become obvious to me. It is as if there is much difficulty in reflection and reconsideration in this region than ours (Pakistan and India). I was expecting questions to be “What to do next?” I found we are still at the level of “Why?”

-         Sheila: I came with lots of questions on the meaning of life and diversity. I am carrying more as I am leaving the workshop! I am not trying to fight or revolt against any institution. I am trying to change my mind and myself.

-         Higazi: I expected to find some “solutions” at the end of the workshop! Here we are with more questions!

-         Manish: If we have more spaces like this, we can really generate something to and regain life and meanings. We need to interrogate terms that are imposed on us and not to fall in the trap of labeling and categorization.

-         Hisham: I wanted to deepen the discussion on the links between the super structures that transform the humans into consumers or even into products and that compartmentalize the issues! I found the discussion led more into a compromise or reform

-         Claire: For a while, I had thought that my mission was to reform and to develop what is called the “Third World”.. Little by little, I found that my mission has become to be a “virus” in what is called “Developed Countries”, to dismantle and reconsider the reigning “wrong” concepts there!

-         Hayfa: My mother used to tell me before she left that every human being is a source of inspiration. I feel she has accompanied me during this workshop.

-         Sirene: I lived in this workshop a very concrete example of the difference between teaching and learning, between the “dominance” of the traditional teacher and the “freedom” of the learning space. I hope neither anyone else nor I live this hard experience. This is my mission in life and work. (…) On the other hand, a major question is how children and youth can learn art by using different ways than the traditional mode of teaching? How can we save art from “development” and “training”? And how can we recreate a normal process for learning that leaves the opportunity for learners to open their hearts and minds to creativity inside them instead of learning “professional skills”?

-         Asma: The experiences I learned of in this workshop helped my critical thinking to generate knowledge and thought against the sweeping unilateral current.

-         Rana: I remember how important it was for my parents to be the first in class. This blocked me, and I could overcome it with great difficulty. When I put my children in school, I will be demanding a lot from this institution.

-         Manal: School does not teach. I learned from the land. We are tools in a system that we did not contribute to create. This workshop (and before in Udaipur) confirmed my reflections and my trying

-         Munir: There is an anecdote about someone who lost his ring one night. He went to look for it under the light of the street. A friend of his passed by and asked him what he is looking for. He said to him he is looking for his ring. “Are you sure you lost it here?”, his friend asked. “No, I lost it there in the dark, but there is no light there, so I am looking for it here!” The story describes the state of many people including the Arab region where our treasures lie in the darkness of the present era and we find ourselves like this man searching for meanings and solutions under the lights. The lights here are the super highway that reflects the one way road to progress and development – which contradicts diversity, wisdom, and creativity.


10 lies my school taught me


10- Western science and technology can solve all our problems

9-       Big bombs and big armies will give us security, protection, and peace.

8- Competition and greed will bring out the best qualities in us. I can only win when others lose.

7- Only Western-style parliamentary democracy can lead to a more just and free society. It gives people a real voice and real choices in the decision-making process.

6- All life and happiness revolves around money; without money you can’t do anything meaningful. If the rich get richer and GNP increases, then the benefits will someday trickle down to the rest of the society. So, it is good for the poor that the rich people become richer and consume more.

5- America and European countries are financially richer because they are smarter and work harder. Poor people around the world are poor because they are lazy and stupid.

4- Human beings are separate from Nature. Nature is our biggest enemy and it must be conquered/controlled/exploited in order for human beings to progress. Furthermore, common people cannot be trusted to take care of their natural resources.

3- Over-population is the biggest problem the world today. If the poor people would just stop reproducing, everything would be great.

2- English is a superior language and my local language, Mewari, is an inferior dialect.

1-       India became independent in 1947 and I am a free human being!

(From a previous workshop, Udaipur, Manish Jain)





In the Victorian period, one did not speak of trousers in the presence of an unmarried woman. Today, there are certain things one can’t say in the face of public opinion:

-          Capitalism wears the stage name “market economy”

-          Imperialism is called “globalization”

-          Opportunism is called “pragmatism”

-          The victims of imperialism are called “developing countries”

-          Treason is called “realism”

-          Poor people are called “low-income people”

-          The expulsion of poor children from the school system is measured by the “drop-out rate”

-          The right of bosses to lay off workers with neither severance nor explanation is called a “flexible labor market”

-          Official rhetoric acknowledges women’s rights among those of “minorities”, as if the masculine half of humanity wee the majority

-          Torture is called “illegal compulsion” or “physical and psychological pressure”

-          When thieves belong to a good family they’re “kleptomaniacs”

-          The looting of the public treasury by corrupt politicians answers to the name of “illicit enrichment”

(From: Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down, Picador, 2001, p. 40)




8. Moving on


Follow some of the suggestions that the participants contributed with to follow up after the workshop. The suggestions varied between issues to deepen and discuss further and concrete actions:


-         To spread the thoughts on diversity in ways of learning that were discussed in this workshop inside the prevalent educational institutions

-         What can be done in the absence of schools? How can we find resources for learning outside prevalent “educational institutions”?

-         How can we “unlearn” what we had learned and learn again or relearn?

-         How can we regain what is existing but cannot be seen in the dark and highlight it?

-         To reconsider and interrogate “commonly accepted” terms, meanings, and concepts

-         How can we link the macro to the micro and escape “imposed” compartmentalization of issues?

-         Are institutions important in our lives or a threat?

-         Can we build “educational systems” that promote knowledge, wisdom, and diversity?


Dr. Ishak Azmi offered to convene workshops in the Center for Development of Creativity to train animators to push the learning process towards discovering the talents and creativity of the young and developing them. He also offered to present a design for an equipped building of 50 m2 that would not cost more than 5000 US $ to be in a backyard of a school to develop students’ creativity with music, theatre, painting, and several other workshops…




9. At the End of the Report


As I was writing this report, I felt several times how difficult this task was, and wished I had not accepted it. Strange is that it was the same reason that made the task difficult for me that had made me accept it and that was my interest in the issue, the rationale and background and what might follow. I was therefore not only documenting in the workshop. I was involved in issues that matter to me and upon which I constantly reflect: diversity, choices, life, learning, meanings, change, and happiness…

Moreover, before, during, and after the workshop, I was a little worried of considering diversity as an “absolute value”. I felt the need to define diversity and its meaning: Does the existence of rich and poor in the world represent the diversity advocated here? Injustice? Occupation? Where are the limits? What other human values does “diversity” include? Then I remember again the story of the flowers and the diversity in their colors and forms without exploitation or one canceling the other. Maybe, and simply, the diversity in nature is the most beautiful explanation of the “diversity”.

Besides, I went back to an issue raised in the workshop: Would what was done here be a kind of an “intellectual luxury”: working sessions and “interesting” discussions in a “nice” hotel surrounded by a lovely and calm surrounding in the mountains? Would the options have been available to those who are advocating now diversity and walking out had they not been IN? Are institutions inhuman just by being institutions?

Again, during the writing of the report, I went again to the dilemmas of learning in or out of the institutions, reform or no reform, partial change or comprehensive… Then, I realized that these dilemmas are themselves a pitfall where we are obliged to choose between two alternatives with no third! The options and probabilities in life are too diverse for us to limit ourselves, and it is very important to see the opportunities, to reconsider, to choose, to relearn, and to move on with others walking in or walking out…


According to Alvin Toffler, the illiterates in the future will not be those who do not know how to read and write, but those who do not know how to learn, unlearn, and relearn.



Development and View of Dusk at the End of the Second Millennium


A bridge with no river

A façade with  no building

An escalator to nowhere

A highway to the places the highway destroyed

An image on TV of a TV showing another TV on which there is yet another TV

No partners, only partnerships

Companies instead of nations

Consumers instead of citizens

Agglomerations instead of cities

No people, only audiences

No relations, except public relations

To praise a flower, say: “It looks plastic”.

(From: Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down, Picador, 2001, p. 223 & 226)



10- References suggested


10-1 Books and reports


-         Fasheh Munir, The trouble with Knowledge, 2000

-         Freire Paolo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1977,

-         Gandhi MK, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, 2001, Navajivan Trust, 14th ed

-         Galeano Eduardo, Upside Down, 2001, Picador

-         Johnstone Keith, Improvisation and the Theatre, 1987, Routledge

-         Jain Shilpa and others, The poet's challenge to schooling: Creative freedom for the Human Soul, Indian Innovations in Shiksha Series, 1, 2001, Shikshantar

- Pimpare Sheila, Developing Learning Communities - Liberate School, A case study, 2002, Aide et Action and UNESCO

-         Vimukt Shiksha, If the Shoe Doesn't Fit? Footprints of learning societies in South Asia, 2003, Shikshantar, UNESCO, IDSP, Abhivyakti, and Pioneers of Change



10-2 Websites


- Arab Education forum: http://www.almultaqa.org/

- Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, Udaipur, India: www.swaraj.org/shikshantar

- Pioneers of change: www.pioneersofchange.net

- UNESCO: http://www.unesco.org/

- Abhivyakti Media for Development: http://www.abhivyakti.org.in/

- Creating Learning Communities: http://www.creatinglearningcommunities.org/


11. Participants List









Ahmad Abdallah

JEEL Center- Cairo




Isaak Azmi

Art Center Agamy Alexandria- Egypt




Mary Iskandar

Art Center Agamy Alexandria- Egypt




Haifa Najjar

The Ahliah School for Girls- Amman




Hisham Bustani

Socialist Thought Forum




Munir Fasheh

Harvard University




Farah Daghistani

Jordanian Hashimite Fund for Human Development- Amman




Sirene Huleileh

Arab Education Forum




Manal Zahreddine

Tuftf University- Medford Massachussets/USA




Samir Jarrar

Rawdah High Scool




Rania Saheli

Arab Resource Collective-  Beirut




Samer Jabbour

American University of Beirut- Beirut




Fadi Riyachi

Creative Associates International




Rana Rahhal

Creative Associates International




Diala Jawhary

Creative Associates International




Ghada Hmadeh

American Community School – Beirut




Ali Salam

Naba’a Association – Tyr




Yasser Mroueh





Mustafa Kanaan

Center of Educational Research for Development




Iman Kteish

Mercy Hearts Association for Development




Ali El Housn

Mercy Hearts Association for Development




Abdel Nasser Fares

Mercy Hearts Association for Development




Ahmad Karaoud

Amnesty International




Jumana Barazi Damon

American Community School – Beirut




Manish Jain





Asma Agzenay

Ebn Zahr University-  Morocco




Wasif Rizvi





Jalila Souhjaa’ El Din

Zaid Al Moshki School – Taaz, Yemen




Higazi Idris

UNESCO- Beirut




Nakhle Wehbe

UNESCO – Beirut




Sheela Pimpare

UNESCO – Paris




Claire Mollard

Miel Video




Jumana Jaafar

UNESCO- Beirut