School leaders and representatives of EI’s member organisations have raised serious concerns about the impact of the economic crisis on education budgets and trade union rights.
At the ‘Empowering school leaders to meet present and future challenges’ seminar, organised by EI in Paris during October 2010, almost 50 school leaders and representatives of EI affiliates from around the world discussed the challenges faced in schools. Notable concerns included shrinking school budgets as a result of austerity measures adopted by many governments and the narrowing of curricula because of international assessments, standardised testing and the publication of league tables. The participants also noted with concern the trend for authorities to use the economic crisis as cover for trampling on trade union rights and undermining quality education. They urged EI and its affiliates to intensify the campaign against regressive measures being adopted by many governments in dealing with the crisis. EI Deputy General Secretary, Monique Fouilhoux, briefed participants about the measures being taken by EI in its campaign on the crisis, including undertaking regular surveys and organising conferences and training for union leaders. UNSA-Education General Secretary and EI Executive Board member, Patrick Gonthier, voiced his concerns about the French government’s unilateral decision to raise the retirement age (with full benefits) from 65 to 67. This, and other austerity measures would have a very negative impact on education quality and equity in France. Prof. Petros Pashiardis, a specialist in Educational Leadership at the Open University of Cyprus, argued that we live in a “golden era of educational leadership,” with more recognition given to the role of school leaders in achieving quality education. He shared research findings that showed how effective school leaders use a combination of five styles: instructional, participative, personnel development, entrepreneurial and structuring. The seminar concluded with a number of recommendations, emphasing the need for EI and its member organizations to continue to move the school leadership agenda forward through advocacy, research, policy development and sharing of information. The participants stressed the importance of pedagogy, asserting that it should be at the core of the school leadership function. The seminar also urged EI and teachers’ unions to develop strategies to protect workers’ rights and education budgets while campaigning against regressive policy measures adopted by some national governments and international financial institutions in response to the economic crisis.
By Dennis Sinyolo