Teacher unions have a key role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their voices must be heard. That’s according to Education International in its latest contribution to the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report consultations on non-state actors.
On 30 November, representatives of Education International’s member organisations from all over the world took part in a consultation meeting to discuss the 2021/22 Global Education Monitoring Report on non-state actors, and more specifically the impact of non-state actors on the education workforce.
The consultation was organised by the GEM Report team in collaboration with Education International and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030.
The role of non-state actors in education
Non-state actors refer to a wide range of non-governmental actors involved in education, including for-profit education providers, educational technology (EdTech) companies, non-government organisations (NGOs), religious groups, philanthropists, civil society, student organisations, and education unions. The 2021/22 GEM report will assess the implications of their increasing influence in the achievement of SDG 4 and provide key recommendations for governments and the global education community to reach the goal of quality education for all.
This is an important addition to the report as it is likely to influence international discourse and action in relation to non-state actors. In the context of Education International’s Global Response campaign against the privatisation and commercialisation of education, the global union federation is particularly concerned about profit-making corporations’ involvement in education. In addition, Education International would like to see the GEM report recognise the important role and contribution of education unions in influencing education policy and strengthening education systems through social and policy dialogue.
UNESCO: Teachers are the backbone of all education systems
Borhene Chakroun, Director, Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems, UNESCO, stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the influence of non-state actors in education. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted that “teachers are the backbone of all education systems, and that consulting them and involving them in the policy process is the key to formulating effective education responses”, he said.
Education International: Educators, through their unions, should be involved in dialogue
Dennis Sinyolo, Education International’s chief regional coordinator for Africa, emphasised the need for the GEM report to reaffirm education as a fundamental human right and a public good, in line with UN mandates, principles, and commitments. “Governments should take legislative, financing, and programmatic measures to guarantee this right, including the right to decent work for teachers and education support personnel,” he said.
Noting that education unions are themselves non-state actors, he also stressed that “teachers are not just implementers of policy, they are also pedagogical experts, leaders and change agents. That is why educators, through their unions, should be involved in institutionalised and genuine social and policy dialogue”.
The consultation covered four key themes: working conditions in non-state schools; governance, regulations, and private supplementary tutoring; influence (social dialogue and EdTech); and teacher professional development.
Working conditions in non-state schools
Education International member organisations highlighted numerous important issues for the GEM report to take into consideration. Regarding working conditions in private institutions, it was made clear that health and safety standards applicable in the public sector must also be adhered to in the private sector. Furthermore, member organisations reported that many education workers had been laid off since the start of the pandemic.
Governance, regulations, and private supplementary tutoring
The group on governance, regulations, and private supplementary tutoring discussed the importance of ensuring that regulatory frameworks put equity and quality front and centre and that public systems are best equipped to ensure the right to education for all. The group also discussed the discrepancy between regulation and enforcement, the need to address and regulate private tutoring. It also highlighted the need to strengthen mechanisms such as social dialogue during COVID-19 when regulations for working conditions need to be negotiated.
Influence of non-state actors
Participants discussing the points of influence of non-state actors in education explained that EdTech companies had become increasingly involved in policy making and design in the context of the pandemic. In Latin America, for example, it was noted that EdTech companies often provided standardised curricular content, leading to longer-term curricular reforms that were not negotiated with the profession. Member organisations stressed that governments should ensure that digital solutions for public education are designed by public universities and other state actors and with the participation of teacher unions, and that they are free and public. It was further stressed that education unions, as representatives for the profession, should be consulted on all education policy decisions.
Teacher professional development
On the theme of teacher professional development, it was pointed out that the profit motive can overshadow quality, and that teachers should have the right to free professional development opportunities. Furthermore, it was argued that education unions should be recognised for their contribution in providing professional development to their members.
If you have evidence you would like to share with the GEM report team, please send it to [email protected] by 14 December. Alternatively, you can send it to us at [email protected] – Education International will be providing further input to the GEM report authors.