Education International
Education International

Teacher unions discuss education issues in Europe

published 20 February 2013 updated 4 March 2013

On 7 February, a meeting was held between two EI affiliates, the Greek Federation of Secondary State School Teachers (OLME) and the German Gewerkschaft Erziehung and Wissenschaft(GEW) in Athens, Greece. They held a press conference focused on common problems in the education sector and for teachers in their countries, as well as employees across Europe.

OLME: serious problems for students and teachers

In his opening speech, OLME President Nikos Papachristos stressed the serious problems that students face in schools, such as malnutrition, and the dropout rate during compulsory education.

Teachers in Greece face serious problems, he also said. “In particular, newly appointed teachers are often compelled to move to the place they are appointed, receiving a salary of only €600 per month.”

He also complained that there are still 1,600 vacant teaching posts in the middle of the school year. He explained that, for the first time, pupils risk being excluded from final examinations due to the state’s inability to provide teaching staff and fill the vacant posts.

“Unemployment is a huge problem, leading to the forced migration of qualified and well-trained scientists, when they could contribute to the country’s economic growth and prosperity,” Papachristos pointed out.

GEW: a new European vision based on growth

GEW President Ulrich Thöne expressed his conviction that education employees and teachers in particular can solve their problems through dialogue and cooperation.

The problems that Greece and other countries in Europe are facing, he said, unless they are resolved, will spread with the same intensity across the continent. Europe’s workers need a new European vision, not based on the current crisis management and recession, but on growth.

“We need a contemporary Marshall Plan, and employees’ trade unions in Europe have worked methodically in this direction,” Thöne stressed. “At the moment, what is required to boost the economy is investment and the creation of new jobs, so that the economy will flourish, unemployment will be restricted and further funds given to maintain and reinforce both the welfare state and education.”

He explained that resources required for the implementation of such a plan can be obtained either by capital gains taxation (of three per cent) or by issuing bonds for this purpose.

He further criticised the low spending on education in Greece and mentioned that, even in Germany, spending on education is insufficient and one per cent below the OECD average. “This is the source of problems such as the large percentage of illiteracy as 7.5 million citizens, aged 14-64, are functionally illiterate and, as a result, they are socially excluded,” he denounced.

He added that 1.5 million young people, aged 22-30, lack the necessary education for their professional inclusion, whereas at the same time high-skill vacancies in Germany and Greece, and generally  through Europe are filled by scientists and other professionals from other countries.

In commenting on malnutrition in Greek schools, Thöne reiterated that the state is responsible for ensuring children’s basic nutritional needs, so that their education is not hindered by poverty.

At the end of the meeting, both trade unions expressed their intention to continue their beneficial cooperation.

ETUCE: Collaboration and unity among teacher unions crucial

“We strongly encourage such collaboration between affiliates. There is a strong need for unity and cooperation among teacher unions at European level,” said Martin Rømer, Director of the EI European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE). “Only united will educators be able to ensure quality education in Europe, despite the economic and financial crisis that leads to too many governments cutting education spending.”