International Labour Organization: COVID-19 recovery requires investment in education and in training and decent work for educators

published 1 June 2021 updated 8 June 2021

Delegates at the International Labour Organization (ILO) technical meeting on the future of work in the education sector have agreed that education workers need more support if they are to provide the additional learning needed to build a more resilient and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

Taking place virtually from the 17th to the 21st of May, the meeting brought together governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations from around the world.

“Teachers and education personnel are the key element in quality education systems. Providing them decent work is critical for ensuring education quality.”

Mahlet Hailu Guadey | Ambassador of Ethiopia, Government Vice-Chairperson of the ILO meeting

Educators must be supported to take on expanded responsibilities

Effective lifelong learning and quality education for all are essential for a better future of work. If teachers, trainers and support workers are to fill this need and pave the way to address the challenges that lie ahead, they will need to master new technologies and learning techniques, understand the skills’ needs of the labour market and receive support to deal with their expanded responsibilities.

“The future is going to require investment in education and skills, and we need teachers and education workers that are motivated and well-supported so they can prepare learners for life and work.”

Chad Blackman | Ambassador of Barbados, Chairperson of the ILO meeting

The meeting adopted conclusions that give governments, employers and workers a strong mandate to invest in quality education and training and decent work for educators. Participants emphasized that education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility, and not a commodity.

Technology in education: social dialogue is imperative

The factors that are affecting the working conditions of educators need to be addressed and the best way to do it is through social dialogue, participants at the technical meeting stressed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption in education and has led to the rapid introduction of technology on a massive scale. These changes, on top of additional roles and responsibilities, are transforming the jobs of teachers, administrators and education support personnel.

“Social dialogue is crucial to promote decent work, including job stability, adequate wages, well-being, management of workload, educational policies and professional autonomy. The conclusions of the meeting also include provisions for collective bargaining on the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and data protection and privacy which will be important to ensure that educators have a voice in the many changes shaping education.”

Jelmer Evers | Worker Vice-Chairperson of the ILO meeting

David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, also welcomed the inclusion of the use of technology in collective bargaining, stating:

“This is the first time the ILO has included tech recommendations in the education sector. It’s high time governments paid attention and started talking to education unions about tech. These outcomes from the ILO have the potential to make a real difference for educators around the world. We will continue to do our part and push for better conditions for all education workers.”

Increased focus on technical and vocational education and training

Another challenge ahead is connecting the world of education with the needs of employers and investing in technical and vocational education and training.

The provision of technical and vocational education and training must be aligned with decent work priorities and this sector must move away from short term and precarious contracts for educators in order to prepare students properly for the world of work.

In the following period, Education International will work closely with the ILO to expand the 1966 UNESCO/ILO recommendation on the status of teachers through a series of regional meetings between governments, employers and education unions. Education International will also engage its member organisations around social dialogue on the use of technology in education, which has been alarmingly absent during the pandemic.