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Global unions urge G8 not to leave education to market forces

MOSCOW -- In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin held at the Kremlin on 6 July, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen urged leaders of the G8 nations not to abdicate their responsibility to invest in quality public education.

"Education should not be left to the market," said van Leeuwen. "In some G8 countries the notion is fading that government has a crucial role and responsibility in the delivery of quality education. We recognize the private sector has a role to play, and in some areas we welcome public-private partnerships. But these partnerships should not be a substitute for the role of public authorities. Governments must remain in the driver’s seat." Van Leeuwen was speaking in his role as chair of the Conference of Global Union Federations, which formed part of an international labour delegation meeting with Putin in advance of next week’s G8 summit in St. Petersburg. The delegation comprised leaders of the national confederations of the G8 countries, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the European Trade Union Confenderation (ETUC), and TUAC, the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD. The labour leaders discussed with Putin various concerns with respect to human and trade union rights, energy, health care and developments in education. To read the full statement, click here. For his part, Putin stressed the importance the G8 attaches to education, and said he would convey the unions' concerns to the other G8 leaders. Van Leeuwen asked Putin to urge the G8 leaders to keep the promises they made last year in Gleneagles. "The debt relief programmes have not generated enough funds for the Fast Track Iniative to help the poorest countries achieve universal primary education by 2015," he said. Van Leeuwen also stressed the need to improve quality of education, both in developing and industrialized nations, a goal that requires adequate public investments and a highly-qualified teaching profession. Finally, he recommended the G8 leaders discuss measures to prevent the looming teacher shortage. A recent UNESCO study predicts a shortage of 18 million primary school teachers by 2015.

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