Meeting in the historic city of Sevilla, Spain, last week, the World Confederation of Teachers (WCT) approved the agreement negotiated by the two Executive Boards to join with EI in a new integrated structure.
Speaking at the opening of the Congress, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said EI and WCT had grown steadily closer. “To confront changes in a complex world, we must recognize and respect the diversity within our movement – a founding principle of the EI and a key principle within the agreement”, he said.
Fred van Leeuwen drew attention to the contribution WCT members could make to EI’s endeavour to build bridges of understanding between cultures. “One of the issues to be addressed is the role of religion in schools,” he said, while underlining EI’s commitment to the pursuit of quality public education for all.
He emphasized that the EI integration agreement had come about after both Boards had adopted a Common Declaration of Aims and Principles in 2003. Presenting the agreement, WCT General Secretary Gaston De la Haye pointed out that it had been approved by the WCT Board in 2003 and 2004, with a differentiated timetable for implementation which had also been accepted by the EI Board.
On that basis, WCT members in Europe had joined EI at the Porto Alegre Congress in July 2004, and had since participated fully in European activities, while discussions had continued in the other regions. He saluted the efforts of the WCT representatives and the cooperation that had developed in each region.
An important factor was that since EI and WCT had began their discussions, the two international trade union confederations, ICFTU and WCL, had began talks, which had progressed rapidly, aimed at forming a new international Confederation by November 2006. WCL General Secretary Willy Thyss addressed the opening of the WCT Congress, and Deputy General Secretary Jaap Wienen explained the implications for sectoral organisations. After the vote, by a clear majority, in support of the Agreement with EI, the Congress took the final statutory step of voting new statutes for the WCT/WCL group that will function within the EI structures.
Previously, the Congress received a major report presented by former WCT President Louis Van Beneden on “Teaching in Private Schools”. The report shows the great variety of arrangement for private schools in different countries, the frequent exploitation of teachers in these schools, and the need for union organization and support. Louis also pointed to new trends towards commercialization of education, and the shared conviction of WCT and EI that education is more than a commodity to be bought and sold.