Education International
Education International

Teacher unions should embrace diversity

published 19 July 2006 updated 19 July 2006

"Anti-immigrant political movements have developed across the OECD countries - from Denmark to Austria to Britain, France and Italy. So-called mainstream political parties are jockeying to recuperate the slogans of the demagogues, and in countries like Australia governments have played cyncially on anti-immigrant sentiments for electoral gain."

That was part of the message in a keynote address to the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF) on 13 July from EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. He told the audience that, today, the former emigrant countries have to address the same issues of multiculturalism as the countries of historical immigration. Elaborating on the theme of CTF's AGM this year, "Celebrating Diversity", van Leeuwen commented that EI has a responsibility to play its part in developing a different vision of the world – a vision based not on building barriers but on building bridges.Taking the numerous examples of conflicts around the world today, van Leeuwen showed that the "vision of celebrating diversity – of all kinds - is the only viable way forward". "EI and all its member unions have a responsibility in helping create the conditions that allow societies to be diverse," he said. "There are three important areas where our International and its member organisations should make contributions: - by promoting democracy and human rights, - by helping to achieve quality education for all children of this planet, - by building a strong, independent world trade union movement." Van Leeuwen also talked about the need to maintain our strong alliances with the other member of the Council of Global Unions and with the new International Trade Union Confederation which will be formed in Vienna this November. Through such co-operation, EI is able to put the case for education at global decision-making events. For example, in advance of this year's G8 Summit, global union federations met with Russian President Putin, host of this year’s summit, to press the need for goverments worldwide to increase investment in quality public education for all children and youth. CTF's National Poll on Diversity in Schools The CTF published the results of a national poll on diversity in schools, on the occasion of their AGM. According to the poll released today, most Canadians give an excellent or good mark to public schools in their area with respect to diversity and inclusion issues, but recognize the need to invest more resources and to provide specialized personnel and training to help all students realize their full potential. In releasing the poll findings, CTF President Winston Carter expressed mixed feelings: “As teacher organisations, we must not be satisfied with these findings. We believe that more must be achieved to help all students feel respected, welcome and included at school.” “The poll shows 84 per cent of Canadians believe specialized staff, such as psychologists and guidance counselors, along with additional in-service training for teachers, would go a long way to ensure that public schools are more inclusive and respectful of diversity. We strongly agree with this approach,” Carter emphasized. The poll was conducted from April 20 to May 16, 2006, and involved 2,539 adults throughout the country. In sampling theory, in 19 cases out of 20, the results will differ by no more than plus or minus 1.9 percentage points. For more information about CTF's poll, please visit their website. To download the full text of Van Leeuwen's speech, please click on the link below.