Date of Submission



It is clear that life in the 21st century is and will continue to be very different from previous times culturally, economically, socially, politically and environmentally, and educators need to be able to understand and prepare young people for the challenges ahead. For example, in considering the tensions that are playing out into this century, Morin (2001a) advocates that society should urgently understand that technological and economic advances are neither the driving forces nor the guarantees of human progress. In order to promote a sustainable future for all life on Earth, the role of education needs to move towards Transdisciplinarity, encompassing the over-all development of the human person as an individual located in increasingly heterogeneous societies, and as a member of the human species located within the more-than-human biosphere. This challenge has been taken up by UNESCO, which, through the Delors report (1996), put forward four pillars of education for the 21st century: Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Live Together and Learning to Be. This research investigates the Learning to Be pillar within the context of learning for the 21st century. The needs and meanings of Learning to Be are studied, focusing on the epistemological and ontological dimensions. The study investigates whether the reasons why and how Learning to Be has come to be seen as essential learning in the global culture. As Learning to Be denotes a multidimensional concept, the theoretical Transdisciplinary methodology of research has been retained. The Transdisciplinary research questions relate to what founds, crosses and goes beyond all disciplines. It is a new epistemology and methodology that encompasses the principles of complexity, levels of Reality and the logic of the ‘‘Included Middle’’ (Nicolescu, 1996). This qualitative methodology includes a review of the literature, interviews with significant authors and a Transdisciplinary investigation, based on observations of and reflections on the dynamics of learning in grade Six and Preparatory classes. Two main categories of data were collected: one concerned with the meanings of and the other considering the needs of Learning to Be for the 21st century. The meanings of the Learning to Be pillar, acquired through a Transdisciplinary research methodology, were derived from Transdisciplinary knowledge. The relationships emerging from Transdisciplinary knowledge provided patterns which were mapped in order to locate epistemological and ontological themes and issues, individuals’ perceptions of, and access to, the different levels of Reality, in order to discover resultant new perceptions of reality and the ‘Included Middle’. This study will attempt to propose a new perspective of the dynamic emerging from a comprehensive understanding of Learning to Be. The purpose of this new perspective is to provide insight into how this innovative and epistemologically transformational pillar of Education for the 21st century might take place in the context of the classroom.


School of Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


346 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education

Included in

Education Commons