Due to the World Bank's support for hiring unqualified teachers, increasing class sizes and introducing market mechanisms into the public education sector, the quality of education is declining in countries that are dependent on the Bank for funding.
In a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen urged the G8 leaders who will meet in Germany next month to take a critical look at current World Bank education strategies. "In view of looming teacher shortages, the international community must focus on improved recruitment, training and retention of teachers," van Leeuwen said. He criticized the international financial institutions for forcing indebted countries to reduce education spending, even as they are struggling to improve the quality and accessibility of their public school systems. The governments of Nicaragua and Kenya are two prime examples of this problem, he said. At previous G8 summits, laudable initiatives were launched to help achieve Education For All and other Millennium Development Goals, but implementation has been very slow, van Leeuwen told Merkel. Van Leeuwen also said that public authorities should seek the involvement of trade union organizations in the achievement of the development goals. He mentioned the work already undertaken within many different sectors including education, transport, and mining, to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. "No organizations are closer to the deprived groups targeted by the Millennium Development Goals than are labour unions," he said, adding that the trade union movement supports the German initiative to mobilize funds to help low income countries develop their public health systems. Van Leeuwen, who chairs the Council of Global Unions, was part of a small group of labour leaders from the G8 countries who met with Chancellor Merkel in Berlin on 7 May to discuss issues on the agenda of the G8 Summit to be held next month in Heiligendamm, Germany. The heads of the trade union centers of Germany, the United States, Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Italy and Russia and the General Secretaries of the ITUC and TUAC presented a statement advocating an equitable social dimension to globalization. Click here to download the trade union statement in English, in pdf format.