Ei-iE

Students' and teachers’ unions call for education to be carved out from global trade agreements

published 13 July 2016 updated 14 July 2016

Education International (EI) and the European Students' Union (ESU) urge governments in Europe, the United States, and beyond, to explicitly carve out education from global trade agreements such as the TTIP, the Trade in Services Agreement and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

As the 14th round of negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) commences, the two organisations issued a joint statement.

“We believe that these agreements pose direct threats to the provision of high-quality public services, including education, in particular through restricting governments’ capacity to regulate in the public interest, encouraging further liberalisation of services and expanding the rights of multinational corporations,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.

“Also, we note the lack of clear and unambiguous exemptions for the education sector. Commercial trade rules must never restrict the ability of governments and designated public authorities to provide decent jobs and high-quality public services like education.”

Van Leeuwen went on to stress that governments have the responsibility to provide the human right to free public high-quality education for all, welcoming the partnership of “students, the future generations of citizens and leaders, who, more than anyone else, are and feel concerned about ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future, for which public services, like education and health, have a great role to play.”

“Education is a human right, and access to it should not be determined by socio-economic or any other background of people. It requires public support and governance to assure that right,” reaffirmed the European Students' Union (ESU) President Lea Meister.

ESU believes that open access to all levels of education is the cornerstone of a socially, culturally and democratically inclusive society, and a pre-requisite for individual and societal development and well-being.

“We see education not as an investment in ‘human capital’, but as a source for value creation and greater economic growth, in the context of a knowledge-based society. ESU is of the view that education should never be a commodity. Students are against the undemocratic and inequitable limitation of education by the market, and the instrumentalisation of research and teaching by private decision-makers to fit commercial interests. ESU therefore calls for an emancipation of education policies from economic policies and its exclusion from trade agreements.”

ESU and EI will make a joint presentation on the topic of “Education in TTIP: implications for Europe and the US” at the TTIP stakeholder event taking place during the 14th round of TTIP negotiations organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade to be held in Brussels, Belgium, on 13 July.