The debate concerning the ethics of education that took place in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century has gained renewed, worldwide interest in the past two decades. The contemporary debate targets two overlapping sides of the role morality plays in education: the moral behaviour of the teacher and the morality children learn in school.
In 2001, Education International (EI), officially entered this debate when the Declaration on Professional Ethics (DPE) was adopted by EI’s 3rd World Congress held in Jomtien, Thailand. The document was further updated at its 4th World Congress in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2004.
The DPE is mainly intended as a blueprint for EI affiliates' own guidelines. It is complementary to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) and draws on the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948).
Its objectives are:
- to raise consciousness about the norms and ethics of the teaching profession;
- to help increase job satisfaction in education; to enhance status and self-esteem, and;
- to increase respect for the profession in communities.
The EI Declaration on Professional Ethics represents the core values of the teaching profession itself. As a document drafted by the teaching profession worldwide, the Declaration recognises the great diversity of the profession among all nations and cultures. Its aim is not to impose a set of fundamental rules but to provide a basis for EI affiliates to develop their own guidelines or professional codes of ethics. At the same time, the Declaration also puts forward fundamental values that the worldwide teaching community recognises as core components of its professional ethics.
The 4th World Congress also passed a resolution to have the Declaration translated into as many languages as possible. Presently, it is available not only in all four official languages of EI, but also in Arabic, Russian, Chinese and Portuguese. The Education Policy Paper, adopted by the 6th EI World Congress in Cape Town in 2011 reinforced EI’s commitment to the teaching profession, its status and values.
A Task Force on the Declaration of Professional Ethics was set up in early 2007 to review the document. In the same year, a study was also commissioned to explore the use and implementation of the Declaration.
To help propagate the the Declaration, EI translated it into as many languages as possible with the help of its member organisations worldwide. Many EI member organisations have used the Declaration to develop and enforce their own codes of ethics.