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Take a stand for teachers and education unions on October 5th!

At the occasion of World Teachers’ Day (WTD) on 5 October, EI will continue to stress the value of educators in the world. It will also highlight the need to pay more attention, on WTD and throughout the year, to the fact that education organisations are important actors in any effective education system. Education trade unions help shape a profession which will continue to attract and keep the “best and the most committed” to become educators.


In 1994, UNESCO created the World Teachers’ Day, scheduled annually on 5 October, to commemorate the “vital contribution that teachers’ organisations make to education and development”. EI is proud to have been associated with the creation of this special day. However, the original message of WTD has become diluted and public recognition of the role of educators’ organisations in education throughout much of the world is lower than it has been in the 18 years since the day was created.

Opposition to independent education organisations and worker rights for teachers and related public employees has always existed. Clearly, non-democratic governments try to quash any attempt to establish independent unions, both public and private. Even in some established democracies, teachers are denied the core right to strike and bargain collectively. Now, there is a growing movement against educators’ organisations and public education that is fuelled by conservative political forces under the guise of education reform and innovation.

In times of economic and financial crisis, education funding competes even more with defence spending as the highest single ticket item in most national annual budgets and educator salaries represent a relatively high per cent of education budgets. When budget cuts are necessary, education becomes a prime target. In most countries, tough economic times result in cuts in educator funding, increased classroom size, and increased school fees for parents. Often, education unions are blamed for trying to defend their members’ interests. The slogan of many conservatives and even liberal political groups is, “We can’t afford unions”.But educators’ unions around the world have initiated or are cooperating with projects to help improve the quality of teaching in their respective countries.

“Being a teacher means being a member of one of the most honourable and rewarding professions,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. He regretted that, yet, the current debate on what teaching is about has been narrowed to neat measurable outcomes that are generally limited to what is testable via a series of multiple choice items … and teachers alone are held accountable for the results.

He condemned: “Time spent on anything but that is considered off topic and off track. Many colleagues who joined teaching to make a difference in kids’ lives and build learning communities are leaving the profession in droves because in too many places it is being reverted to a service delivery industry based on control, sanctions and compliance.”

Van Leeuwen also reminded that “just a few years before the 2015 deadline we have 60 million children who are going without a primary education and at least three times more without access to secondary. Millions more new teachers are needed so that these children aren’t just warehoused and babysat.”

EI and the Global Campaign for Education new report address this in detail.

UNESCO will be organising discussion panels on the theme“Take a stand for Teachers” on 5 October in Paris, France. One of the panels, on “Improving Teachers’ Status”, will be chaired by EI Deputy General Secretary, David Edwards.

In Brussels, EI will organise a conference on “Teaching in Developing Countries” on 11 October, in partnership with the Belgian Development Agency and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education for All.

Around the world, EI member organisations are set to celebrate this year’s World Teacher’s Day by organising peaceful marches, public gatherings with teachers, students, civil society organisations, as well as debates at national and local levels amongst others. To name a few, the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association has started the WTD celebrations with the launch of the education report card on 1st October. The South African Democratic Teachers Union is organising a national event at their Mpumalanga province to celebrate the 2012 WTD. The Federação Nacional dos Professores Portugal, inpartnership with Delta Cafés, held a contest of drawings and paintings, in Portuguese schools, about the image that students have of their teachers.

“On this World Teachers’ Day, we must take a stand for teachers,” van Leeuwen underlined. “Now more than ever teachers need the communities we serve to be with us – the future of our profession, our schools and our students depends on it.”

The EI website for the 2012 WTD can be found here

To read EI Deputy General Secretary David Edwards's interview published in ACTRAV INFO, please clik here

The article written by EI Senior Coordinator Dennis Sinyolo, and published by Equal Times on the occasion of WTD, can be read here

Video message of EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen at the occasion of the 2012 WTD:

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