Wilhelm Ebert/Youtube
Wilhelm Ebert/Youtube

International education movement mourns loss of founding father

published 13 July 2017 updated 28 July 2017

Education International mourns the death of Wilhelm Ebert (94), education champion and former Head of German EI affiliate Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE), and of the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession.

The global education community lost one of its giants on 28 June when former German union president Wilhelm Ebert died aged 94. He was a long-time friend and ally of Education International (EI) and one of the key figures of the German and international education movement.

Simone Fleischmann, current President of BLLV (the Bavarian Teachers’ Association), where he started his union life, said her organisation will miss “a great education advocate, democrat and humanist, whose actions were led by the conviction that education is a human right and that democracy can only be ensured and thrive on the basis of education”.

Advocate for professionalism

In post-war Germany, Ebert was one of the first advocates for professionalism, pushing for the recognition of teachers’ status in Bavaria, his home state, and in the rest of the country. He also helped to rebuild the Bavarian Teachers’ Association, BLLV, which he presided over from 1955 to 1962. From 1979 to 1993, he was chairperson of Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE), an affiliate of Education International.

One of the highlights of Ebert’s career was his presidency of the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) from 1975 until 1978. The WCOTP was one of the two international teacher union federations that merged to form Education International in 1993. Education Minister for Bavaria Ludwig Spaenle said Ebert would be remembered for being “one of the key players of education policy over decades, both nationally and internationally”.

Read EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen's eulogy for Wilhelm Ebert (in German) here.