Education International
Education International

EI members in Europe join forces to challenge crisis impact on education

published 24 January 2012 updated 6 February 2012

EI's European Region, ETUCE, organised a special meeting on the causes and impacts of the economic crisis in the education sector. Participants from 26 European countries met on 20 January in Brussels to discuss about “Education, a response to the crisis”.

The meeting aimed to offer member organisations a debate platform to exchange information on their national experiences and solution mechanisms to fight the current threatening challenges arising from a new cycle of the economic crisis.

Indeed, analysts are predicting a global recession involving new peaks of unemployment in 2011-2012, as economic growth is again showing signs of slowdown and stagnation due to EU Governments’ austerity measures.

EI’s member affiliates from all over Europe attended the meeting, chaired by ETUCE President Ronnie Smith. Keynote speakers included the European Commissioner for Education and Culture, Ms. Androulla Vassilliou, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee, John Evans, and EI’s Senior Research Co-ordinator Dr. Guntars Catlaks.

The European Commissioner for Education highlighted that education and training are among the core objectives of EU's growth strategy for the coming decade (the so-called Europe 2020). Vassilliou added that she deeply shared EI and member affiliates’ view on education “as a key part of the solution to the crisis” and, therefore, will reinforce the message in the European political arena that “education must be spared from major cuts”.

Additionally, a panel of experts made different presentations on various aspects of the economic and financial crisis in Europe with a special focus on the impact on education.

The panel included a member of the European Economic and Social Committee, Mario Soares, EPSU Deputy General Secretary Jan W. Goudriaan, ETUI Researcher Christophe Degryse, and ETUCE European Director Martin Romer.

Romer insisted on the need to protect education in the current context. “The gap between the wide recognition of the importance of education and the behaviour of many national governments illustrates the vulnerability of education in a political context dominated by short-term solutions,” he stated.

Among participants, Manuela Mendonça, from EI’s affiliate in Portugal, FENPROF, took the floor to share some of the actions the union is currently undertaking at national level. These include joining forces with social movements to build common responses to the crisis. “FENPROF has been pushing for the creation of an Education Platform composed of teachers, parents, students, psychologists, inspectors and school staff to propose alternatives to budget cuts and promote public education,” Mendonça said.

She went on to explain that, apart from protest actions such as demonstrations and strikes, the union was also acting on three fronts: Firstly, organising press conferences with headmasters to denounce the degradation of schools working conditions; secondly, leading debates on public tribunes; and thirdly, holding meetings with political parties.

The ETUCE Bureau has asked the secretariat to come up with a possible plan of establishing a frame for a European Action from ETUCE and our member organisations based on the situation in each country. The nature and the scope of the actions should be determined by Member Organisations and the plan should include coordination with ETUC activities

To see the main conclusions of the ETUCE meeting, please go here.

For additional information please visit the ETUCE webpage