2nd UNESCO World Congress on Open Educational Resources
The role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 was a central focus of the second Congress on OER, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, from18-20 September. The conference, with the theme of “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action”, was organised jointly by UNESCO and the government of Slovenia.
In side events and on the main panel, representatives of Education International (EI) and its member organisations in New Zealand, Canada, and Argentina highlighted the fact that quality education cannot ignore the importance of quality resources and their availability to educators in order to deliver quality teaching. They also addressed the supports needed for teachers to implement and develop OER policies.
The Congress also unanimously adopted the Ljubljana OER Action Plan 2017, which sets out Recommendations for Mainstreaming OER in support of SDG 4. UNESCO thanked EI and its affiliates for their feedback both before and during the conference. The Action plan addresses five areas for stakeholders to act on: building the capacity of users to find, re-use, create and share OER; language and cultural issues; ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality OER; developing sustainability models; and developing supportive policy environments.
EI and its member organisations have been actively involved in shaping the recommendations, and hope that UNESCO will reaffirm its commitment to advancing OER policies and practices globally to strengthen the democratisation of knowledge and contribute to the achievement of SDG 4.
UN General Assembly
EI was instrumental in getting sustainable education funding prioritised during the 72nd United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York, USA. EI President Susan Hopgood and Deputy General Secretary David Edwards represented the world’s teachers at the UN General Assembly during discussions on the future of education financing for the world’s 120 million students who are deprived of a free, inclusive and quality education.
In a series of meetings and events, Hopgood advocated for greater investment in and prioritisation of education, cautioned against short-sightedness, and condemned governments that outsource their responsibility to for-profit companies.
On 20 September, she was present with Malala Yousafzai, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, French President Emmanuel Macron and other dignitaries at an event to gather pledges to fill the global financing gap. Welcoming the news that France and Senegal would co-host the Global Partnership for Education (GPE)'s replenishment conference in February 2018 and the ambition of the funding target, she pledged EI’s commitment to uphold its part of the bargain if the donors increase their funding.
The same day, EI joined forces with the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and the Global Alliance for Tax Justice to co-convene a meeting to devise strategies for domestic resource mobilisation. Hopgood pointed out that 10 per cent of global GDP is hidden in off-shore havens and that quality public education requires predictable and sustainable long-term investment.
Global Education Industry Summit
Supported by a strong delegation, EI joined more than 100 representatives from government, industry, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) for the third Global Education Industry Summit (GEIS) which took place from 25-26 September in Luxembourg. Although there was much discussion about being unable to predict the technological future and criticisms that schools and educators had to be much more flexible, a number of encouraging features emerged.
Andreas Schleicher from the OECD placed great emphasis on innovation, arguing that highly skilled qualified teachers had to be at the centre of innovation. Being in control of innovation was a much greater incentive for improvement by teachers than performance-related pay, he said. EI Special Consultant John Bangs said that only teachers could determine what kind of IT support they needed and they needed time and space to collaborate on sharing knowledge and expertise.
Despite some minority hostility to teacher unions, the majority of the Summit was receptive to EI's arguments. However, the absence of the big education industry and global tech companies places a question mark over the future of the GEIS. The 2018 Summit will be hosted by Estonia with some suggesting that it may be the last summit.
EI’s Initial Reaction to the release of the Bank’s World Development Report on Education
The World Bank’s new education report reveals “a superficial and incoherent effort” that “brushes over complex issues, oversimplifies recommendations and opts for broad generalisations that should make even the most well-intentioned finance minister scratch her head”, according to EI Deputy General Secretary David Edwards.
In an initial analysis of the Bank’s World Development Report (WDR) by EI, Edwards graded the report incomplete and inadequate to address the challenges at hand. “If the intention was to build on the Education Commission Report on the Learning Generation and provide a manual for governments, then the Bank misses the mark,” he said. “If the intention was to cram a series of short paragraphs that skim around the edges of the education community’s elephant-in-the-room, namely the enormous resource gap, then it has succeeded.”
EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen added that the WDR is a missed opportunity to promote the sustainable financing of education, particularly “given the World Bank’s highly influential voice when it comes to financing”.
Given the unique nature of the report and the fact that it is the first WDR dedicated to education, EI will publish a series of thematic blogs and analyses over the coming months to dig deeper into the issues, evidence and assumptions contained in the report.
As the contributions and significance of teachers were recognised on World Teachers’ Day on 5 October, this year’s focus on “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers” highlighted the diminishing freedoms facing the profession and the empowerment needed to allow teachers to work effectively in a challenging world. From Uganda to Canada, Spain to New Zealand, educators worldwide celebrated their profession, asking for more freedom and autonomy to deliver quality education to all.
Educators highlighted the many challenges faced by the profession, from political persecution to precarious working conditions, poverty and harassment.
“Academic freedom is critical for teachers at every level of education, but it is especially critical for higher-education teachers, supporting their ability to innovate, explore, and stay up-to-date on the latest pedagogical research” reads a joint statement released by EI, UNESCO, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and UNICEF. “Across all education levels, political pressure and business interests can curb the ability of educators to teach in freedom.”
CSFEF Bureau meeting
Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, from 26-28 October, the Board of the Comité Syndical Francophone pour l’Education et la Formation (CSFEF) committed to promoting quality public education accessible to all, as well as to increase vibrant and respected teacher trade unionism.
On 23-26 October, the top Francophone education unionists participated in a Francophone civil society meeting against the privatisation and commodification of education. They expressed serious concern about state supervision of private schools, and the process which governs the development of private schools.
From 26-28 October, the CSFEF Board also reviewed education and teacher trade unionism in the francophone countries, including Europe, Quebec, and the various regions of the African continent in which French is spoken. It further expressed concern about the preparations for the Education System Analysis Programme of the Conference of Education Ministers of the States and governments of the Francophonie (PASEC) 2019 study, one component of which should cover the evaluation of teachers in 15 countries of francophone Africa. The CSFEF fears that the governments are using the study as a pretext to strike off thousands of contract teachers, as recently happened in Niger.
EI/PSI LGBTI Forum
A strong teacher union delegation participated at the EI/Public Services International (PSI) lesbian, gay, bisexual, and intersex (LGBTI) Forum, held on 30 October in Geneva, Switzerland. The forum was held prior to the 30th PSI World Congress and participants exchanged good practices, strengthened alliances, and shared information on current trends and guidance for future work.
“Education International has been one of the world's leading unions in the fight for the respect of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex workers,” EI Executive Board member Daniel Lafrenière said.
More than 80 delegates from all regions attended, with contributions from PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli and Daniel Lafrenière, as well as a panel discussion on fighting for inclusion and equality, moderated by Meredith Peace from the Australian Education Union (AEU).
Participants devised future steps and recommendations for their respective Global Unions. PSI discussed its draft resolution and upcoming action plans, and the EI delegation brainstormed ideas on actions related to the implementation of the 2015 EI resolution and suggested actions leading up to the next EI Congress around LGBTI issues.
20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation on Higher Education Teaching Personnel
The status of higher education teaching personnel was the focus of an EI event on 31 October, in Paris, France, where academics were joined by teachers’ unions to shed light on a sector under threat.
Marking the 20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation on Higher Education Teaching Personnel, the event, a report launch and panel discussion, was held at the Université Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne. The amendment to the 1966 Recommendation on the teaching profession specifically acknowledges the importance of higher education and the contributions of academics.
Led by EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, the event reviewed the UNESCO Recommendation and highlighted how many of its stipulated rights and freedoms are being stripped from academics.
The President of the Université Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, Georges Haddad, stressed the importance that research plays in higher education. Nelly Stromquist’s study, “Twenty years later: International efforts to protect the rights of higher education teaching personnel remain insufficient”, was also launched at the event.