EI Third World Women’s Conference
The theme of the Conference, held 5-7 February in Marrakesh, was, “Finding a Way Through the Labyrinth: Women, Education, and Leadership”. Participating in the Conference were 305 persons from 79 countries.
The focus on leadership was both in education and in education unions. There remain striking variations in most countries in gender distribution in education sectors and there are, in general fewer women than men in leadership positions within those sectors.
It is also clear that women are, in general, under-represented in trade union leadership positions. The conference was an occasion to review these issues and “connect” with others, share experience in overcoming barriers and stereotypes. Both leadership priorities are highlighted in the 2015-2019 EI Gender Equality Action Plan. Leadership issues will continue to be addressed at the Regional and sub-regional levels and in policy discussions during the 2019 EI Congress.
62nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women
EI, with other Global Unions, participated in the CSW 62 in New York on 12-16 March. In the discussion on “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and in the empowerment of rural women and girls”. EI pointed out that, although there had been progress, overall, in access to and completion of education for girls, achievement of the right to education in rural areas remained a major challenge. For example, there are problems of transportation, availability of teachers, particularly women teachers, salary delays, security problems, and poor schools and equipment, including sanitation facilities. Considerable political will and resources were necessary to ensure that good, quality public education and life-long learning are available in rural areas and that there is gender equality for pupils and teachers.
World Bank Reality Check
The World Development report of the World Bank for 2018 was, for the first time, devoted entirely to education. The report, entitled, “ Learning to Realise Education’s Promise” was a disappointment, but not a surprise to EI and to others interested in free, quality education. Instead of seeking answers to the problems confronting education, including, principally, the need for public financing, it repeated increasingly discredited, misguided short-cuts to education reform, including in areas like assessment and measurement and acceptance of un-verified “evidence”.
Nevertheless, because it is a major World Bank document and will have impact on the global and national debates, EI organised a series of responses. This was necessary because, unlike the OECD and other fora for discussion and debate on education policy, the World Development Report on education was not informed by social dialogue. It failed to take advantage of the experience of those who make education happen, education professionals. Over a six-month period EI published in “Worlds of Education” a series of blogs by practitioners and academics that address and correct mis-information and dis-information in the report. These blog pieces and other information have been brought together in EIs “ Reality Check” which will be available in three languages.
This publication includes some common-sense advice in line with its original mandate to the World Bank from EI General Secretary David Edwards. He writes, “We would encourage the Bank to focus its energy and resources on helping bridge the gap in funding to meet Education 2030 and leave education policy and practice to the experts: the education community”.
International Summit on the Teaching Profession, 22-23 March Lisbon
The sixth annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession on 22-23 March in Lisbon, organised by the OECD and EI, brought together as in previous meetings, OECD governments and EI member organisations from the same countries. Its focus is clear. It is on the role of professional teachers. The summits are not just one-off discussions, but also help to determine priorities on education for the OECD.
The Lisbon ISTP focused on three themes:
Schools and Communitiesthat stressed the ties between schools and their communities, including in such critical areas as building support for social cohesion, tolerance, integration and strengthening active citizenship.
Pedagogies for the Future on innovations by teachers to help shape the future of education. Unlike too many discussions, the debate was not about teachers and students adapting to new technologies, but rather using those technologies and other tools to enhance the teaching profession.
Teacher well-being, confidence, efficacy, and effectiveness, which has long been an EI priority was a theme that promises to open up interesting areas for future collaboration. It is clear that, on all continents, stress has become part of the classroom and that the well-being of teachers has a direct bearing on the quality of education.
25th Anniversary of EI celebrated in late January in Brussels
During the meeting of the EI Executive Committee, the 25th anniversary of EI was celebrated, including at a special dinner for that purpose on 25 January to which were invited many of the leaders who participated in the founding of EI. It was an occasion to celebrate the coming together of diverse traditions of teacher organisations to build a powerful global union of teachers and other education workers. EI brought together professional organisations and trade unions and, that combination has enabled EI to be more effective, both in building strong trade unions and enhancing and defending the profession.
This was also an opportunity to express appreciation to the founding General Secretary of EI, Fred van Leeuwen, who also shared his reflections on this mile-stone and outlined how the merger had strengthened the profession and teacher trade unionism at a time when education is becoming an increasingly global issue. He also said, “It is quite a privilege to work for an organisation that is of such crucial importance to so many members of the teaching profession”.
Education and Democracy
A seminar composed of members of the EI Executive Board, leaders in the creation of EI and staff discussed a first draft of a book by Fred van Leeuwen and Susan Hopgood on “Education and Democracy”. Examples and reactions to the chapters discussed in small groups will be incorporated in the final publication.
“Education and Democracy”, which is intended to be ready for World Teachers Day in 2018, is based on concern that democracy is under threat not just by authoritarian governments or military coups, but because many existing democracies are losing public confidence and trust and that the institutions of democracy are being weakened. It will explore contributions that education and education trade unions can make to strengthening democracy and elements related to it like critical thinking, tolerance, free discussion, and active citizenship.
Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM)
On the occasion of the CCEM, held from 19-23 of February, the Commonwealth Teachers Group (CTG) met. Much of their discussion focused on the privatisation and commercialisation of education and the EI Global Response campaign. Participants compared experiences with a focus on Bridge International Academies.
Education International and its affiliates took part in solidarity actions for Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, all over the world. As part of the global solidarity movement championing democracy, EI has urged Brazilian President Michel Temer to ensure that the principles of democracy and human rights are respected in the country. EI’s General Secretary, David Edwards, reminded President Temer that his (Temer’s) leadership in these critical times will determine “whether the flickering light of Brazilian democracy restores itself as a beacon for the world”.