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Italy: A trade union Manifesto for inclusive education

Italian education trade union is asking educators to sign a manifesto laying out seven points for inclusive education during COVID-19.

Following the epidemiological emergency arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Italian Government has ordered containment measures for many public services, including the education sector. Among the measures included was advice to educators to implement “distance learning activities”.

The Federazione Lavoratori della Conoscenza-CGIL (FLC-CGIL) has responded by highlighting how distance learning is an emergency tool and cannot replace the teacher/student educational relationship.  In response to the Government’s measures, the union launched a manifesto entitled “Distant, but not too far – School in the time of COVID-19 – Manifesto for an inclusive education”.

Shaping the future

In a letter, dated 5 May, to its members, FLC-CGIL leaders Graziamaria Pistorino and Claudio Franchi said: “We are living hard times. We worry about our own lives, about our children, our friends, our society. The pandemic suddenly interrupted our ordinary life, with huge consequences for all countries, both at economic and social levels. But we, as trade unionists, need to bridge the gap and, at the same time, we need to defend society as a whole. Our battlefield is the education system. We choose it since, for us, it is via the education system that the future, a future for everyone, is shaped.”

The Manifesto

The FLC-CGIL Manifesto focuses on seven key areas:
• During an emergency crisis, contacts with pupils must be safeguarded to ensure value and continuity of the educational relationship.
• Teaching must remain education for students’ critical abilities and citizenship.
• Distance teaching, an emergency tool, cannot replace the educational relationship between educators and students.
• Technologies and media are tools, not a panacea.
• Unequal access to remote education must be avoided.
• Collective elements in education protected: schools’ autonomy and collegial bodies.
• Comprehensive and constructive evaluation of students’ performances.

Distance learning

Focusing on teacher professionalism, the FLC-CGIL leaders added that “as teachers, we undertook the responsibility to keep on teaching, in whatever situation, whether present or at a distance. In these times of crisis, we want to build an opportunity for teachers’ professionalism to become a value of freedom and democracy. We are now facing a large worldwide dispute on distance learning, whether it is good or bad, whether it is going to be the future or not.”

Joint effort

They also acknowledged that, to find an adequate solution for education during the public health crisis, a joint effort is needed from pedagogists, psychologists, philosophers, and education specialists.

With the Manifesto for an inclusive education, “we want to talk about real educational relationships, technology as a tool, collegiality, as well as dangers like discrimination,” they stressed.

The union letter to members concluded by urging pedagogists, psychologists, philosophers and, above all, teachers to sign this manifesto. Such an action would “contribute to the ongoing debate in our country, so that teaching continues to belong to the most important scientific and cultural advancements, with prestigious roots and ramifications in our country, and should not be transformed into profitable market operations leading to increasing inequality”.

The FLC-CGIL will then deliver the signed manifesto to the Italian Ministry of Education.