Education International
Education International

EI remembers Vice President, a leading force for quality education

published 20 October 2014 updated 23 October 2014

Education International Vice President, Subramanian Eswaran, who for nearly 60 years led an illustrious career as a teacher, union activist and leader, died this morning at his home in Chennai, India.

The global education community is in mourning today after Mr. Eswaran, one of its fiercest advocates for education, and both the Secretary General of the All India Primary Teachers Federation (AIPTF) and Vice President of Education International (EI), passed away at age 76.

Mr. Eswaran is survived by his wife and children, a son and two daughters, the youngest of whom is a scientists and resides in England. A funeral will be held Tuesday, Oct. 21 in his hometown of Ramnad, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu

Known far beyond his native India for his work as a union leader, Eswaran, born in 1938, began his education career as a teacher in 1955. He then moved beyond the classroom to become the headmaster of his primary school, and later of a middle school, altogether spending an astounding 41 years dedicated to primary and middle school children.

Perhaps best recognised for the more than five tireless decades devoted to unionism, both at home and on the global stage, Eswaran assumed his first union post in 1961 as AIPTF’s Block Secretary, a position he held for 13 years before becoming the General Secretary of the Tamil Nadu branch of the AIPTF in ’74. During the 22 years he would spend in the position, he was also elected as AIPTF Vice President, and later President. Under Eswaran’s leadership as AIPTF’s Secretary General since 1997, the union’s membership grew beyond 2.3 million primary school teachers across the country.

When Eswaran made his move to EI, his dedication to quality education became evident to all who met him.

His tenure with EI began in 2001 as an Executive Board member. In Dec. of 2009, he assumed the role as EI Vice President, filling the vacancy of current President, Susan Hopgood. At EI’s Sixth World Congress, held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2011, Eswaran’s Vice Presidency was made official when he was elected to the position.

Popular among EI staff, Eswaran was embraced not only for his warmth and kindness, but also for his strict dietary vegan regime. He was especially no stranger to General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, who had the privilege of working together with him on the front lines of education activism.

“He will be remembered in EI for his concern for the welfare of teachers,” said van Leeuwen. “He was a well-respected mentor to many other leaders in his region, and his wisdom and leadership were greatly valued by all who knew him. For me, he was a kind and caring friend and will be missed by all.”

For the countless many who knew him, Eswaran will be commemorated around the world for his commitment to achieving quality education for all, the empowerment of women, and his efforts to eradicate child labour. But above all, he will never be forgotten for his determination to improve the lives and status of those he knew best: the teachers.