The work of the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF/FCE) in International development cooperation work started back in the sixties, when two volunteer teachers travelled to Nigeria.
1. When and how did your organisation decide to get involved in international cooperation?
The first international DC activity of the CTF/FCE took place in 1962 when two Canadian volunteer teachers travelled to Nigeria to collaborate with local colleagues to design and deliver a professional development program for local teachers.
2. Is there a mechanism in your union to allocate some of the union's funds to international cooperation?
Funding for our DC work comes from the CTF/FCE Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is overseen by a six-member Board of Trustees. Revenue for the Trust Fund comes from voluntary contributions made by CTF/FCE Member Organisations across Canada.
3. What are your union's priorities in international cooperation work?
Our international program is supported by three pillars, which are:
- Teachers’ Action for Teaching (TAT): professional development for teachers;
- Teachers’ Action for Gender Equality (TAGE): empowerment of girls and women;
- Teachers’ Action for Teacher Organisations (TATO): leadership development and capacity building for teacher unions and organisations.
4. What do international cooperation projects bring to your union?
Our international DC projects:
- Are part of our mission, vision, and values;
- Affirm our commitment to publicly funded public education around the world;
- Permit us to engage with our Member Organizations and directly with classroom teachers and education workers;
- Connect us with Education International and other national teacher organizations that also engage in international DC work;
- Make a contribution towards the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly #4 and #5.
5. Is your union's international cooperation work something that your union members care about?
Some care very deeply about the international DC work that the CTF/FCE does. In particular, those teachers or those employees of our Member Organisations who have had the opportunity as volunteers to work on the ground directly beside their colleagues in the Global South are transformed both personally and professionally. They have the opportunity to see – firsthand – the enormous impact that international DC can have. Raising awareness among Member Organisations and among teachers in general is challenging, though.
6. Do you have any concrete examples of success stories from a cooperation project?
Over almost six decades, tens of thousands of teachers throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean have had professional development opportunities through the CTF/FCE’s Project Overseas.
Our partner in Benin, SYNAEM, has been able to provide meaningful and practical training numerous pre-school and kindergarten teachers throughout the country.
In Sierra Leone, SLTU instituted a Peace Education programme with our support in an effort to make schools into places where educators and learners feel safe and included.
The John Thompson Fellowship programme has facilitated leadership training and helped to build organisational capacity among teacher organisations throughout the developing world.
With funding from the Government of Canada, the Simameni project in Uganda, done in partnership with UNATU, seeks to influence norms and to improve conditions in schools for girls at the secondary level.
Our most recent project, also with funding from the Government of Canada, seeks to support young women teachers working in rural and remote areas of The Gambia through mentoring and participation in virtual professional learning communities.
7. What is the most difficult thing about international cooperation work?
- Conducting MEL (monitoring, evaluation, and learning) which is meaningful, participatory, timely, affordable, and immediately useful;
- Navigating cultural norms and expectations;
- Securing reliable long-term funding;
- Overcoming challenges such as natural disasters or political instability that have an impact on our work.
8. What advice would you give to a trade union wanting to get involved in international cooperation?
- Do as much online research as possible – on a country and a potential partner – before beginning DC work. Speak with colleagues at EI and at other national teacher organisations who may have experience.
- Set realistic expectations: meaningful change takes a long time to achieve.
- Doing good monitoring and evaluation is expensive, difficult, and time-consuming but always worthwhile.
- Be patient, flexible, and open-minded. DC projects very rarely go exactly as planned.
- Be prepared for intercultural misunderstandings and miscommunications. Your perception will likely be different from your partner’s.
- Recognise that your context is radically different from the context within your partner’s organisation, education system, and country. Strategies and approaches that work for you will likely not work – either in the same way or at all – for your partner.
- Pay attention and be open to all new learning. Often, the most important and impactful learning comes from project results that you did not expect.