Education stakeholders convened in Brussels’ Norway House last week to prepare for July’s Oslo Summit on Education for Development that is set to tackle the global sector’s most pressing challenges.
The Brussels’ briefing session, which was moderated by Education International (EI) Deputy General Secretary David Edwards and hosted by Norwegian Ambassador to the European Union Hans Brattskar, brought together dozens of policy experts from various organisations, including UNESCO and the European Commission, for preparatory discussions in advance of the global Summit on Education for Development, 6-7 July in Oslo, Norway.
“We need to listen to teachers and their organisations to work on education policies,” and that “many more qualified teachers are needed, which requires increased investment,” said the ambassador in his welcome remarks.
The Summit, which is going to allow teachers and civil society to give views on education an opportunity that education experts embraced.
Going into July, the Summit’s seeks to deliver on:
- Investment in education: increased external support and domestic resource mobilisation for education, for efficient and results oriented progress towards universal education.
- Girls’ education: increased and targeted support for enrolment in secondary and higher education, with a particular focus on the links between health and education.
- Education in emergencies: increased and targeted humanitarian and post-crisis support for education, with a particular focus on marginalised groups.
- Quality of learning: increased and targeted support for more and better qualified teachers, improved learning materials, use of innovation and technology, and skills tailored for labour market demands.
Listening to what teachers have to say
Ramadevi Rathinasamy, teacher and member of EI affiliate the All India Primary Teachers’ Federation, talked about challenges to education she faces each day, such as working with a large diversity of students, child labour and the caste system.
“Can you believe it? My students don't like holidays, because their families then send them to work, sometimes for 14 hours per day, in factories, especially matchboxes factories,” she said, enforcing the fact that her students want to study.
She also underlined special barriers to girls’ education: early marriage for girls and unhealthy and unsafe school environment, with no separated sanitary structure and sexual harassment.
Offering participants another national and trade union perspective, James Tweheyo, General Secretary of the Uganda National Teachers' Union, another EI member organisation, asked if “donors are getting value for their money” in relation to their investment in education. “Why do [donors] always come to Uganda to talk to our ministers, but never ask to speak with our teachers?”
He reflected on his time as a student, when teachers had classes of 45 students, and compared it to today’s unsustainable reality. “Of course, there is low morale among teachers and their professionalism is endangered when they have to teach more 120 students in the classroom,” he said, adding that teachers are forced to live off of salaries of $100 USD per month.
James Townsend, a teacher working with the organisation STIR Education, a teacher-led movement to improve learning in developing countries, reminded that “as teachers we have a moral responsibility to take leadership.”
Townsend’s key question was “How do we engrain the networks, the ability of teachers to impact on education policy?”
Participants Edem Adubra, Head of the Secretariat of the Education for All (EFA) Teacher Task Force, Karen Mundy, Chief Technical Officer at the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), and Manos Antoninis, Senior Policy Analyst at the EFA Global Monitoring Report all agreed that the role of teachers is meaningful in policy-development. They also stressed that government funding must increase to keep pace with over-burdened systems.
The global Summit on Education for Development will see the who’s who of development attend, notably the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as heads of states from 40 countries, heads of international organisations and international advocates for the right to education.