Education International
Education International

EI World Congress: Teachers advocate for quality education for all

published 26 March 2007 updated 26 March 2007

“Educators joining together for quality education and social justice:” This is the theme that will unite more than 1,500 teacher leaders from around the world who will come to Berlin 22-26 July 2007 for the 5th World Congress of Education International (EI).

The global union federation representing 30 million teachers and education workers in more than 160 countries and territories, EI is one of the world’s largest labour bodies. It works with more than 380 affiliated organizations around the world to advocate for quality public education for every child, decent working conditions in every school, and respect for the rights of both teachers and learners.

“At Education International we believe passionately in the inherent right of every child to a quality education — no matter his or her gender, colour, language, ethnicity, religion, abilities or disabilities,” said EI President Thulas Nxesi of South Africa. “That’s why we urge governments everywhere to make the necessary investments in strong and stable public education systems to meet the needs of every student.”

Education International also speaks up for the human and trade union rights of educators. “Here in Germany, teachers have the right to freely organize themselves into the democratic unions you see represented today,” said EI’s General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “But in many other countries, being a trade unionist means putting your life on the line. At EI we work to defend the rights of those who are willing to risk everything to give the gift of education to the next generation.”

Both Nxesi and van Leeuwen said they are very much looking forward to coming to Berlin, where teachers can share their experiences across cultures and learn from one another.

Ulrich Thöne, Chairman of the Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW) said, “Germany needs to correct its course. We must finally and seriously find a way towards a ‘school for all children.’ We need an integrated, inclusive school system that brings everyone along and fosters people individually.”

“A multi-streamed school system oriented towards the early screening of children is our main problem. In the past week, UN human rights inspector Vernor Muñoz rightly reprimanded Germany for discriminating against children from socially weak and migrant families, as well as for excluding children with disabilities, and suggested a scientific study of the correlation between disadvantage and the selective German school system. The example shows that the ‘Global Education campaign’ is not just an issue in so-called third world countries. Where the realisation of human rights in education is concerned in particular, Germany must look into its own affairs,” Thöne said.

The Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE) views the World Congress of Education International in Berlin in July as the ‘World Cup for teachers’ in a conscious analogy to the 2006 soccer World Cup. The VBE is preparing for this major international event under the slogan: ‘Educators of the world as guests with friends.’

“The VBE will advocate a global action programme to reinforce training and education at the Congress,” VBE federal chairman Ludwig Eckinger emphasised today to the press in Berlin. “Training and education are the key to solving social problems. This also applies to Germany.” The decision to hold the World Congress of Education International in Berlin provides powerful support for the German teachers’ movement. “The Congress will generate an important impetus for fairness in education and greater social recognition of the teaching profession,” Eckinger said. The VBE will send eight delegates and 53 observers to the Congress.

Berthold Gehlert, the federal chairman of the Bundesverbandes der Lehrerinnen und Lehrer an beruflichen Schulen (BLBS) said: “Professional training must be a central pillar of the educational system in all nations. This is a decisive contribution to reinforcing economic systems, employability and overall educational levels.”

“To fulfil this aspiration, the social recognition of teachers in vocational schools must be claimed very emphatically. The training and qualification of teachers for professional areas must prepare people to be able to give highly competent specialist classes in technical and commercial contexts,” Gehlert said.

“At the same time, teachers must also be able to facilitate higher education qualifications in addition to enabling the differentiated acquisition of certified vocational qualifications at various levels. As these goals are frequently not achieved at all internationally in approaches yet, BLBS and the French trade union SNETAA will jointly submit a resolution to this effect at the World Congress.”