Every 18th of April is the International Day for Monuments and Sites. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) celebrates the day with a different theme. This year’s theme is The Heritage of Education.
Education is, among other things, the transmission of beliefs, values and knowledge, making it one of the main methods for constructing the future.
Initially, education consisted of adults passing on the knowledge and skills that the young people in their societies needed to master in order to survive. Before written languages were developed, this would be done through story-telling and demonstration. As written languages emerged, this knowledge could be preserved permanently in written form, but even still the oral traditions persisted and continue to to this day.
At some point, the amount of recorded knowledge would hit critical mass and formal education and schooling emerged. Records show that this was taking place in Egypt as early as 3000 BP. Though Plato’s Academy in Athens was the first institution of higher learning in the western world, Alexandria in Egypt eventually succeeded Athens as the intellectual centre of the western world.
Education took place in all sorts of places and buildings, from open spaces to buildings built specifically for leaning. Schools, universities, libraries and so on were places where knowledge was both housed and transmitted. The UNESCO World Heritage List has many heritage properties linked to education on it. Sites like the Bauhaus in Germany, the University and historic precinct of Alcalá de Henares in Spain and the Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) are a few examples of sites of significance inscribed on the WHL. Unfortunately, there are many cultural properties linked to education with historic, artistic or social values that are not on the list and thus are not being protected and recognized as they should. Conservation activities often focus on the education programs themselves instead of the buildings and places where they take place, in some cases for hundreds of years, something that needs to change if we do not want to lose these cultural heritage resources.