Education International
Education International

Hopgood delivers strong message for teachers

published 26 September 2015 updated 1 October 2015

Celebration was in the air at the Global Education First Initiative in New York, where leaders proclaimed victory with the new education goal and EI President Susan Hopgood made clear that teachers are the key.

President Susan Hopgood delivered the strongest message at the UN Secretary General's Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) yesterday at the UN where leaders gathered to celebrate the new development agenda.

General Director of UNESCO Irina Bokova, UN Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and Nobel laureates Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were among speakers. Education International (EI)'s President Susan Hopgood was among them. Despite the celebratory mood surrounding the new Sustainable Development education goal 4, Hopgood was not ready to proclaim victory. She turned focus to the needs of teachers and how they are central to achieving education for all.

Read Ms. Hopgoods remarks in full below:

Education International represents 32 million teachers in 171 countries. I am one of them. I am proud to represent them.

Yesterday, the governments of the world reached an historic agreement. They said that a critical priority of this generation is free quality primary and secondary education for all with qualified teachers in a safe environment.

Let us not be humble about Goal 4. Education’s inclusion is a major success. For the last two years Education International has worked tirelessly to see education made a goal for 2030. This wasn’t the case even a short time ago. Global stakeholders viewed education for all as mission accomplished and saw no need to continue to prioritize it. We won that fight.

So, is this a ‘game-changer’ as they say? No.

No matter how profound or unprecedented, these are words, not deeds. The game changes after the speeches when the players take the field; when the governments who’ve made the grand promises of the SDGs make the commitments to finance the goals.

This is the tough part, because the SDGs force us to break down the silos. Look at the millions around the world displaced and on the move due to natural and human disasters; parents risking everything to give their children a quality education, a healthy start and an upbringing free of violence.

The success of a single goal does not resolve this misery. The SDGs force us to think whole child, whole community, whole system. The SDGs are an ecosystem where education, poverty reduction, healthy lives, decent work and environmental sustainability are linked and embedded in shared national interests.

On education, the world is more than ready for quality; it’s sick and tired of pretend solutions. Tablets don’t replace teachers any more than cassette tapes did. More than two millennia of teachers and students have watched fads come and go while study after study reports the value of high-quality professional teachers. Teachers matter. They are not merely a ‘means of implementation,’ but change agents with transformative powers when they are qualified teachers supported with professional development, quality tools and safe environments for teaching and learning.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics said this week that 74 countries face an acute shortage of teachers. They tell us that achieving universal primary education by 2030 means countries will need to recruit a total of 25.8 million primary teachers.

In the meantime, teachers in Lebanon are working unpaid double and triple shifts to accommodate Syrian refugee students. Teachers in the U.S. are spending nearly 500 dollars per year on school supplies for their students. Nepalese teachers gave up two weeks salary so the education ministry could have resources to rebuild the 5,000 destroyed schools.

No single goal addresses these conditions of poverty, conflict, natural disaster, health, hunger, infrastructure. Civil society efforts and philanthropy are not enough. And those Public-Private Partnerships that drive private agendas with public money are a hoax that prey on weak governments and pick winners and losers among the population.

The Sustainable Development Goals will guide our success in the next 15 years. Not only because we reached a consensus today, but because we make commitments for tomorrow and the day after.

The SDGs are a collaborative path for a world in crisis and chaos. They not only provide a framework for effective government, they give us all a mandate to fight to shape government as an instrument of sustainable development that leaves no one behind.