Continuing on the fast-track process set by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the UN High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession opened its in-person sessions Thursday with urgent calls to recruit, retain and support professionally trained teachers worldwide.
After weeks of evidence-fueled discussions and consultations, the 18-member global panel advanced what panelist and EI President Susan Hopgood called “clear, concise, concrete and actionable recommendations to guide governments towards transformation of education systems.”
The HLP was formed at Guterres’ direction of as an outcome of the 2022 Transforming Education Summit. More than 100 countries submitted Statements of National Commitment on subjects including elevating the teaching profession, financing education, and digital learning. The Panel will produce a set of recommendations towards ensuring every learner has a professionally trained, qualified, and well-supported teacher who can flourish in a transformed education system. The recommendations, expected to be a significant contributor to the UN’s Summit of the Future in 2024, are due to be finalized by the end of 2023.
The Panel is co-chaired by two former Heads of State, with representatives from member states, employers’ organizations, teachers’ unions, civil society, academia, and youth. The union representatives include Hopgood, Manal Hdaife, Primary School Principal and Chair of the Arab Cross Country Regional Structure (ACCRS) of EI, Lebanon, and Mike Thiruman, General Secretary of the Singapore Teachers Union.
Since mid-July when the Panel structure was established, EI has reached out repeatedly to member organizations for information, opinions and other input. In an August call, General Secretary David Edwards called the Panel’s work “a once in a lifetime opportunity".
UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed opened the two-day session with a strong endorsement of education funding, specifically to advance the transformative role teachers must play to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The ‘T’ in Transformation stands for teachers and it requires that we invest for the long haul. This message will infuse everything we say,” said Mohammed. She noted that too often, education systems and unions do not collaborate and interactions between them occur only at times of conflict. “We need to see the value of investment and representation; they are two sides of the same coin,” she said. “But this investment comes with the understanding that there must be accountability.”
Throughout the written work and discussions, the need to elevate teacher pay and protect public-sector financing of quality education has been prominent. The financing situation was brought into sharp focus in July when the United Nations released the latest totals for the global debt crisis, now at a record $92 trillion. Some 3.3 billion people live in countries that spend more on debt interest payments than on education or health.
As the panel worked through a draft of 55 recommendations, Hopgood said that the notion of transformation should be viewed as a series of interlocking activities, beginning with transforming education systems: “The success of our education systems is directly tied to the success of the teaching profession. When we focus on transforming education systems, we can transform conditions in our schools, transform the practice of teaching, transform learning and transform lives.”