Despite the global crises facing the world, the power and optimism inherent in education will always provide hope for our future. To move forward from this pandemic, and the deepening inequities it exposed, we need to transform education by fully funding public education systems and investing in, supporting, and respecting teachers and education workers.
On the 19th of September, heads of state from around the world will come together to focus on education. The United Nations’ Transforming Education Summit (TES) to be held in New York, seeks to mobilise the political action necessary to achieve inclusive and equitable quality public education for all.
The focus of the Summit could not be more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the education sector. At the height of the pandemic, 1.6 billion students were out of school. Millions are still out of school or struggling with trauma. As the economic crisis, the climate emergency, and wars intensify the effect of the pandemic, educators have become the lifeline of nearly every school system in the world, the critical link for tens of millions of students. However, this critical lifeline is at risk.
While there is an increased public appreciation for the work teachers do, most governments have failed to make the necessary investments in education systems or provide the support teachers and education support personnel desperately need.
In too many places, the great applause has been replaced by devastating education budget cuts and impossible demands that leave teachers exhausted and burned-out.
Research by Education International points to an overworked, underpaid, and undervalued teaching profession. Experienced educators are leaving in droves the profession they love, fewer candidates aspire to replace them, and the global teacher shortage is reaching epic proportions. The dedication of teachers and education workers cannot make up for financially starved education institutions, top-down policies, or systems that fail to trust and respect the people dedicated to our students.
Therefore, as heads of state gather for the TES, Education International leaders around the world are calling on heads of state to commit to:
- Increase investment in quality public education systems.
- Guarantee labour rights and good working conditions for teachers
- and education support personnel.
- Invest in quality teacher training and professional development.
- Trust and respect teachers and their pedagogical expertise.
- Involve teacher unions in policy through social dialogue.
The critically important role and responsibility of governments as guarantors and providers of free quality public education has never been clearer. The critical role of teachers and support personnel has never been clearer. Therefore, if the TES is to be successful, heads of state at the Summit must commit to increase education funding to empower and retain a qualified teaching force and guarantee free quality public education for all.
Governments must invest more in public education, a crucial public service and key to pandemic recovery, and invest more in teachers, the single most important factor in achieving quality education. A more just, inclusive, democratic, and sustainable future is impossible without a clear and meaningful commitment to education.
All countries must fulfil their commitments to the international education financing targets laid out in the Education 2030 Framework for Action. That is, prioritising education by designating at least six per cent of Gross Domestic Product, and 20 per cent of total national expenditure, for public education.
Debt relief and debt justice is also crucial to ensure education spending is not undercut by debt servicing obligations. Increasing the size of government budgets through tax justice and progressive taxation is key.
Austerity must be rejected and harmful loan conditions and advice from international financial institutions that limit public sector spending must end. Education privatisation that threatens quality and equity, the proliferation of profit hungry private schools, commercialisation of public education must be reversed. Education must be sustainably funded.
It is time commit to the transformative power of public education for each and every student, in nations large and small. It is time to move from words to action. We call on the world's governments to fulfil their obligation to free quality public education. The world’s teachers, students, and learning communities are ready to build a better future. The world’s governments must step up and do it right.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.