Education International raised a wide range of issues related to the status of teachers with the Joint ILO-UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel.
EI asked that consideration be given to expanding the reach of the Joint ILO-UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART) to cover personnel in early childhood education.
EI Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst, met with CEART, which is convened once every three years, in Geneva. She raised a range of EI concerns about the status of the teaching profession, which she indicated is being challenged in many countries.
She stressed that the two Recommendations, which date from 1966 (K-12) and 1997 (higher education) are “more relevant than ever”. Holst argued that they still guide the profession and are central to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4. Holst also underlined their importance in light of an overall mission of education that goes beyond employability skills and serves as “a cornerstone of democracy and human rights”. Education’s calling, she said, is to, “develop the whole person and promote critical thinking, peaceful coexistence and equity”.
EI transmitted to the experts, “Education International Submission to CEART 2018”, which was, in part, based on the EI survey of its member organisations on the status of teachers. EI General Secretary David Edwards, in his introduction to the submission, stated that EI continues “to labour to provide real education, the kind that builds lives and makes them better and more exciting and rewarding…”
The report expresses concern about the deterioration of democracy in many countries and re-affirms the importance of the status of teachers in re-building support for democratic values and practices. It outlines major challenges for education for democracy as:
· “Placing greater emphasis on building understanding of universal values;
· “Teaching critical thinking so that students can sort out the deluge of information with which they are confronted, including separating facts from opinions; and
· “Developing active citizenship skills and competencies so that they can listen, argue, and engage in shaping their futures.”
A related section of the report expresses concerns about attacks on and restrictions on academic freedom and professional autonomy that are coming not only from governments, but from “non-State” actors including community groups, extremists and, in some cases, parents and communities. Academic freedom may also be compromised by the increasing dependence of universities in many countries on corporate financing.
Teacher well-being/precarious work
The report argues that work-related stress is a growing threat to the health of both education workers and students and needs to be seriously addressed. However, it maintains that, “stress for teachers is not inevitable. In the right environment, teaching is an enormously satisfying profession. What is more rewarding than making a difference for a child, building understanding, social skills, and development?” Measures contain and reverse de-professionalisation and other stress risks will also help with the recruitment and retention of teachers.
Stress also comes from the growing prevalence of precarious work, particularly in universities. Fixed-term contracts, exploitation of graduate students and other forms of insecure employment is a status issue and may compromise the autonomy of educators, including by undermining the exercise of academic freedom and collegial governance. It also compromises the quality of education.
An important focus of the submission is the impact of so-called education reforms, which often undermine the provisions of the two Recommendations supervised by CEART. These reforms, using corporate models to measure and, consequently, narrow education, have not only restricted the ability of schools to develop the “whole child”, but have also limited professional autonomy, failed to invest in professional development, does not factor in the need for support and preparation time, and chips away at public education with privatisation and public-private partnerships.
The report also contrasts teacher “accountability” including by judging teacher performance through results of standardized tests, with the concept and mandate of educators as expressed by the Recommendations. Protecting the profession and giving voice to teachers also requires improvements in the quantity and quality of social dialogue.
Trade Union Rights
The submission called attention to the persistent and most brutal form of suppression of the voice and rights of education workers, depriving them of their fundamental human rights to form and join trade unions and engage in collective bargaining. It highlighted the extreme repression of education unions in Iran and Turkey, for example.
In many countries, there are also limits of the scope of bargaining, strike bans and other restrictions. Among other things, such restrictions often make it difficult for teachers to participate in the development of their profession and influence education policy.
Early Childhood Education
Just prior to the previous meeting of CEART (2015), a meeting of experts agreed on Guidelines for decent work for early childhood education personnel. The experts suggested that that the ILO and UNESCO consider mandating CEART to supervise those Guidelines.
The EI working group on early child education, meeting on 26 September in Nairobi, recommended to the EI Executive Board that the ILO and UNESCO should “include the Policy Guidelines in the CEART monitoring mechanism and request the ILO to organise regional workshops to promote them”. The EI submission to CEART reminded them of the ILO expert meeting proposal and suggested that serious consideration should be given to that expansion of the CEART mandate.