International Day of Education: Unionists celebrate the right to education by campaigning for quality public education for all

published 26 January 2024 updated 26 February 2024

On January 24, the International Day of Education, education unionists from around the world came together to reaffirm their commitment to the universal right to education and to mark the first year of the Education International global campaign Go Public! Fund Education. The campaign is an urgent call for governments to invest in public education, a fundamental human right and public good, and to invest more in teachers, the single most important factor in achieving quality education.

Susan Hopgood, Education International’s President, kicked off the discussion by sharing her reflections on the first year of the Go Public! campaign and the imperative need to unions to keep fighting for public education and the teaching profession.

The global fight for public education

The first anniversary of the Go Public! Fund Education campaign was a good moment for the global education movement to reflect on the challenges and successes so far and strategise the way forward. Education unionists from around the world shared their experience fighting for public education and educators in their own countries, learning from each other, and building collective strength.

Participants had the opportunity to hear from Mugwena Maluleke, General Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and EI Vice-President for Africa. A key figure in the Go Public! campaign, Mugwena Maluleke brought the voice of teachers everywhere to the United Nations Transforming Education Summit and delivered a sobering message to world leaders on the global teacher shortage and its impact on the profession, on students, and on education systems. On the International Day of Education, he was joined by Manuela Mendonça (President of FENPROF, Portugal and member of the EI Executive Board), Tsetsegmaa Gendenjamts (International Secretary of the Federation of Mongolian Education and Science Unions - FMESU), and by Jane Porter (New Zealand Educational Institute - Te Riu Roa - NZEI) who presented the challenges they face in their national contexts and effective strategies to strengthen public education and educators.

Educators in Latin America and North America have also resonated strongly with the message and mission of the Go Public! campaign and brought it into their own contexts over the last year. Fatima da Silva (General Secretary of CNTE Brazil), Yves De Repentigny (Vice President of FNEEQ, Quebec), and Paola Gimenez (OTEP Auténtica, Paraguay) reflected on their efforts to advocate for increased financing for public education, the obstacle they faced, and successful strategies.

All participants stressed the importance of international solidarity for their work, highlighting the sense of a global mission and vision that the Go Public! campaign brings to their national efforts.

United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession: From recommendations to action

As part of the Go Public! Fund Education campaign, Education International and its member organisations successfully lobbied for the United Nations to take action to address the global teacher shortage that is threatening the right to education around the world.

During the Transforming Education Summit of 2022, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed announced the creation of a High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession tasked with developing a set of recommendations to help states address the teacher shortage. Education International is represented on the Panel by its President Susan Hopgood. Manal Hdaife, school principal in Lebanon and Chair of the Education International Arab Countries Cross Regional Structure Committee, and Mike Thiruman, General Secretary of the Singapore Teachers Union, are also members of the High-Level Panel, bringing the voices of teachers to the discussions.

During the Education Day event, education unionists had the opportunity to find out more about the work of the Panel from Manal Hdaife and Mike Thiruman in dialogue with EI’s Director of Research, Policy, and Advocacy Antonia Wulff. The conversation covered the work of the High-Level Panel, the recommendations that will soon be launched, and how unions can help translate them into action in their own contexts.

David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, welcomed the work of the High-Level Panel and highlighted the value of the recommendations as an advocacy instrument for unions working to strengthen the teaching profession around the world. Edwards encouraged EI member organisations to analyse the recommendations and make full use of them in their negotiations with governments.

Participants were able to take the floor and ask questions regarding the potential of the High-Level Panel recommendations to address real issues teachers face, committing to work in their national contexts to bring the recommendations to life.

Once the recommendations are published, EI will launch a set of materials to help member organisations make the most of this new advocacy tool.

Learning for lasting peace

The dire situation of teachers in crisis contexts was brought to the fore by the intervention of Haneen Bazian from the General Union of Workers in Kindergarten and Private Schools, EI member organisation in Palestine. Haneen’s poignant testimony of the horrifying situation students, teachers, and the people of Gaza are facing was met with broad support and solidarity from participants.

EI member organisations have been active in supporting colleagues in Gaza by advocating for an immediate ceasefire and contributing to the EI Solidarity Fund. EI also condemned the 7 October attack by Hamas against Israel and called for the release of all hostages.

In his message on the International Day of Education, EI General Secretary David Edwards highlighted the essential role of education in building lasting peace around the world:

"We know that lasting peace, social and climate justice all start in our schools. Investing in public education and the education workforce is investing in the future. So let’s make it happen. Let’s continue to Go Public! and call on all governments around the world to fund education!"

Solidarity with the educators, workers, and people of Argentina

On January 24, educators and workers across Argentina participated in a large-scale strike action to protest President Milei’s attacks on democracy and labour rights. Sonia Alesso, General Secretary of education union CTERA and member of the EI Executive Board, addressed colleagues during the Education International online event to explain the challenging situation in her country and the defence of democracy and labour rights mounted by the union movement.

An EI delegation also participated in the solidarity protest held in Brussels, sending a strong message of solidarity with the people of Argentina.