The Syrian refugee crisis is promoting a surge in privatisation

The interplay between crisis and private profit in the education sector is highlighted in a new study that focuses on the refugee crisis in Syria and the access to education of almost one million displaced children.

On April 12, in Beirut, Lebanon, Education International will be releasing its latest report produced as part of the Global Response to the growing commercialisation and privatisation in and of education.

The Syrian conflict has caused an education crisis among migrants of breath-taking scale: in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon combined, 900,000 Syrian children have no access to education. This has triggered a flood of aid offers from the private sector, the size and intention of which is explored in the report, Investing in the Crisis: Private participation in the education of Syrian refugees, by University of Massachusetts Assistant Professors Francine Menashy and Zeena Zakharia.

The study explores the complex interrelationship between conflict and private sector participation andraises serious questions about the growing role of corporate actors and the ethical tensions between humanitarian and profit motivations to engage in this crisis.

Africa: Unions work towards unity and education priorities

The importance of trade union unity in terms of development cooperation activities in Africa was underlined during a recent meeting between African education unions and their development cooperation partners.

Unity and the need for better coordination and harmonisation of development cooperation (DC) work and activities were at the heart of a planning meeting in Accra, Ghana, attended by African education unions and partner educator organisations. The meeting, organised by the Education International African Regional (EIRAF) Office, from 20-22 March, included representatives from partner organisations, such as Lärarförbundet (Sweden), Utdanningsforbundet (Norway), the Danish Union of Teachers and the Danish National Federation of Early Childhood and Youth Educators (Denmark), and the Centrale des syndicats du Québec(Canada).

Participants identified the needs, financially and in terms of activities, and attributed DC projects, following up on political priorities adopted by the EIRAF Committee.

Funding partner organisations learnt about target themes devised in accordance with these priorities for more efficient action and support in the context of restrictions around human resources and financing.

Update

“This meeting was important for us to update the EI Africa Regional Committee’s action plan and priority areas and, together with development cooperation partners, to look at the budget and adopt the general programme of priorities for Africa,” said Wilson Sossion, Secretary General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and President of the EIRAF Committee.

“This has been a wonderful brainstorming session, because we could align the agenda set by our regional governing body with those of the DC partners,” he added.

Unity

Unity was chosen as the main priority by the EIRAF Committee in September 2016 as “the cornerstone driving the programmes within the continent”, Sossion said, because “the capacity of the labour movement in Africa, within the teaching service, to advocate and drive its agenda has been heavily affected by splinters that we can avoid, and by the fact that trade unionism generally is collapsing in many countries”.

The EIRAF Committee has realised that “we cannot talk about the sustainable development agenda or the Global Response against the privatisation and commercialisation in and of education in countries, at the national level, where teachers are deeply divided, where there are many unions, where unions are cannibalising each other, and therefore they have lost focus in facing the government as a united voice”.

One voice

Sossion added that African education unions are trying to rediscover “a united voice of teachers within their countries. It came out very strongly that we cannot advance anything unless we address unity”.

The traditional spirit of the labour movement, he noted, which is power in numbers, and speaking with one voice, has been lost due to structural weaknesses.

“We will address the key sources of weaknesses, the key causes of splinters and we will look at the capacity of various union to run their affairs democratically and transparently and to engage members directly,” he highlighted.

Sossion said the benefits of a more united teaching force are clear: their voice vis-à-vis governments, vis-à-vis their employers, will be respected, and members, learners, and ultimately the education community as a whole, will benefit from it.

Work required

The key agenda of African education unionists –  to deliver quality public education in the whole continent, which requires a lot of effort to urge governments to adopt proper legislation – cannot be achieved unless the unions are very strong, he said.

African education unions will “now be able to achieve the sustainable development goals’ agenda, as well as the agendas around school-related gender-based violence, the Global Response or the early childhood education while, at the same time, enriching unity and cooperation among the trade unions within the continent”, Sossion added.

Educators globally celebrate science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity

Education unions across the world are joining the March for Science today, celebrating scientific research, academic freedom, and freedom of thought.

In its statement to mark the March for Science on 22 April, Education International (EI) declares its support for the mission of the March for Science, “to champion well-funded and publicly accessible science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity”, and “to unite a diverse, nonpartisan group to support science for the common good”.

Value of research

In solidarity with the broad movement joining the March for Science to defend scientific research and academic freedom following the recent attacks on those freedoms, especially in the United States, EI emphasises the following points:

Research must be free. Researchers must be free to initiate and conduct research without fear of retribution and must always be protected against any and all pressure that would limit or alter their findings. Research is an endeavour that is key to both human and societal wellbeing. As such, it must be pursued in the broadest sense so that it contributes to increasing knowledge across all fields of study. Yet, research can only contribute to improving the planet’s prospects and the collective human interests when two fundamental freedoms are guaranteed: the freedom to conduct research and academic freedom.
Democracy requires that scientific knowledge be publicly available as a global common good. The State must take measures to achieve the progressive realisation of scientific democracy by promoting debates and developing opportunities for knowledge exchange between researchers and civilian stakeholders. To this end, the State must guarantee intellectual freedom of research and the professional autonomy of the scientific field upstream of the decisions aimed at developing public policy. The aim of EI and its affiliates is evidence-based public policy making and not public policy based evidence.

UK: Urgent need to address negative impacts of teaching on teachers

Education unions in the UK have reasserted the need to support overworked teachers, helping them to reach an adequate balance between their professional and personal lives.

NASUWT: Teaching takes “unacceptable toll” on health and wellbeing

Significant issues over teachers’ work-life balance have been revealed in a survey by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).

Over two-thirds  of teachers (68 per cent) say their job prevents them from giving adequate time to their partner, family and friends. Over half (58 per cent) say their family and friends get fed up with the pressures that teaching puts on their relationship.

Worry

More than four out five teachers (84 per cent) say that they frequently worry about work problems when they are not working; just 11 per cent are able to relax at home. Over half (56 per cent) say their job satisfaction has declined in the last 12 months.

The pressures of teaching are sapping teachers’ morale and energy with more than four out of five teachers (83 per cent) saying their job has had an adverse impact on their wellbeing. Over half do not look forward to going to work and a similar number of teachers are often too worn out to give their job their best effort.

Mental health

Nearly six in 10 teachers (59 per cent) say their job has adversely impacted on their mental health in the last 12 months. One in two teachers say it has had a detrimental impact on their physical health. Moreover, teachers report turning to medication, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine to help them cope with their job – 22 per cent report increased use of alcohol, 22 per cent have increased their use of caffeine, and five per cent increased their use of tobacco to help them manage work-related stress.

Unacceptable

“It is clear that, for too many teachers, the job is taking an unacceptable toll on their health and wellbeing and that this is affecting all aspects of their personal and professional lives,” said NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates.

She noted that if most teachers are unable to relax away from work and feel constantly worn down and worried about work issues, their mental and physical health is inevitably going to suffer and they will not be able to give their best to the children they teach.

Employers have a responsibility for the mental health and wellbeing of their staff but few address this seriously, she said. The driving factors behind the rise in teacher stress, including excessive workload and working hours, need to be effectively addressed by Government, she said. This must be done in order “to tackle the growing epidemic of low morale, burnout and stress which is conspiring to make teaching an increasingly unattractive profession”.

NUT: Teachers work over 54 hours per week

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has also insisted that teacher workload is at unprecedented levels. It reiterates that the most recent Department for Education (DfE) teacher workload surveyshowed teachers working on average 54.4 hours a week.

“We are losing far too many good teachers,” said NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney. “An exhausted, dispirited teacher is not what children or parents want or deserve.”

The NUT’s campaign to make the Government lift the pressures on teachers and schools is beginning to secure some outcomes, he acknowledged. However, “far too little is still being done to reform the high-stakes accountability system that is the root cause of excessive workload.”

EI responds to World Bank’s framing of World Development Report on Education

Based on our first-hand knowledge of education systems, policy and practice, Education International along with member organisations in regional consultations around the world have responded to the most recent concept paper from the World Bank on its World Development Report (WDR), “Realizing the Promise of Education for Development”, due out later this year.

“While we share the World Bank’s stated concern about improving learning, our concerns are much broader,” stated Education International General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Decades of prescriptive, test-based reform and the ensuing fatigue experienced by educators across the world demonstrate that the simple use of and reliance upon summative assessments does not equal quality.”

The WDR is an annual report published since 1978.  Each year it provides an in-depth analysis on a particular aspect of development. The report is influential in shaping the World Bank’s policy recommendation and equally advises governments, particularly finance ministers in the Global South and North.  After 40 years of publication, this year’s World Development Report (WDR) will focus on education.The World Bank is a central actor in shaping education policy agendas as it the largest provider of external funding to the sector.

Read EI’s full response here

Invest in trained, qualified, motivated and well-supported teachers and education support personnel

While the concept paper claims that this report will be about “getting education right”, decades of education reform efforts funded by the World Bank have undermined the attractiveness of a career in education. In fact, by imposing structural adjustment policies leading to salary caps on teachers and reduced investment in the public sector, the World Bank has largely contributed to the learning crisis. Investing in the education workforce requires addressing the structural factors impacting directly on the work of teachers, such as large class sizes, lack of training and professional development as well as low and irregularly paid salaries.

Ensure social dialogue and the consultation of relevant education stakeholders for meaningful education reform

As correctly stated in the concept paper, it is important to “effectively guide reform.” This can only be achieved through effective policy dialogue with teachers and their unions.   Education Unions are equipped with valuable insights into the reality on the ground and  can play an important role in ensuring best use of resources and developing meaningful education policy.The World Bank is well advised to make better use of the expertise of education unions and civil society during the drafting process of this report. It will certainly make for more relevant recommendations and advice.

Education communicators come together in The Netherlands

Held on the eve of the Unite for Quality Education and Leadership Conference in Rotterdam, communication leaders from EI affiliates gathered to exchange ideas and share updates on campaigns and initiatives underway around the world.

The 40 communication experts from Education International (EI)’s affiliates who were on hand for the annual Communicators Network meeting had the chance to put faces to names and dig below the surface of the latest projects being developed by both EI and their global colleagues.

From EI’s latest work on the Sustainable Development Goals, social dialogue and quality terms of employment, to learning how to produce podcasts, the agenda helped prepare everyone for the conference, which is set to host 300 delegates. Learn more about Unite Rotterdam here.

TEN Global

Still in the pilot phase, the TEN Global teacher network was introduced to ComNet members, giving them the opportunity to learn how the project is being built and organized with affiliates.

We the Educators

Francine Filion from the Canadian Teachers’ Federation was on hand to provide a sneak preview of a new project set to be launched during the conference.

A joint initiative of EI and CTF, ‘We the Educators’ explores the impact of educational technology and the personalization, standardization, and datafication of public education. The project looks to empower the teaching profession and kickstart a conversation among teachers, parents and students.

Also, as a unique feature of this year’s ComNet, participants will integrate with the first day of the Unite Conference to boost the event’s exposure.

Leadership and passion shine through on final day of Unite Conference

Inspirational talks showcased the heart of the teaching profession in Rotterdam as education leaders looked toward the future with optimism and a determination to strengthen the standards needed to ensure quality education around the world.

“Education is a tool for reconciliation,” said Maggie MacDonnell, the recipient of the 2017 Global Teacher Prize in her talk at Education International (EI)’s Unite for Quality Education and Leadership Conference. “Teachers can build amazing relationships with communities.”

MacDonnell, a teacher in Quebec’s arctic region, moved delegates with her high-energy words.

Following MacDonnell, renowned education scholar Pasi Sahlberg examined the influences that small and big data play on influencing education policy.

The Unite Conference brought together nearly 300 education leaders from around the world with a focus on leading the profession.

UK: MPs call halt to high-stakes primary testing

Teacher unionists have welcomed a new report by the UK Commons Education Select Committee on Primary Assessment, highlighting the need to reform high-stakes tests in primary school.

High-stakes tests at an early age put pupils and teachers under “unnecessary stress”, the report says, adding that education in England is being skewed by the use of such test results to construct school league tables.

Primary pupils need a broad, balanced and fulfilling curriculum

In 2016, new, tougher tests for 11-year-olds saw pass rates drop sharply. The report maintains that parents have a right to expect testing in schools to show whether their children are gaining the right skills in math and literacy, but, the Committee says the close link between the tests at 11 and school accountability can “lead to a narrowing of the curriculum and ‘teaching to the test’, as well as affecting teacher and pupil well-being.”

Accordingly, the current system should be discontinued, with three-year rolling averages for schools published instead of the results of individual year groups. The report also calls for greater emphasis in Ofsted inspections on a broad and balanced curriculum, reminding that poor implementation of the new system last year, with “guidance delayed and test papers leaked online”, caused significant disruption in schools.

The MPs want ministers to reconsider the new writing assessment which highlights “technical aspects like grammar and spelling, over creativity and composition.” They also want spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for 11-year-olds to become non-statutory.

Unions: report “lays the basis for a serious conversation about primary assessment”

Education unions in the UK have welcomed the report. For example, National Union of Teachers (NUT) General Secretary Kevin Courtney highlighted that “it lays the basis for a serious conversation about primary assessment, going well beyond the narrow limits of the Department for Education’s current consultation.”

“The report’s publication shows that the deep unhappiness of parents and teachers about primary assessment is now reaching the higher levels of politics,” he added, noting that “the case for the current system has been demolished: it is riddled with problems and cannot continue.”

Denmark: Union campaign against continuing cuts in education

The Gymnasieskolernes Laererforening strongly condemns and is mobilising against the financial cuts imposed on the public education sector.

Danish education union Gymnasieskolernes Laererforening (GL) strongly opposes the government’s plan to drain or, at the very least, stop resourcing the country’s public sector even though the economy is growing again. The Danish government plans to cut its education budget by two per cent each year over the next four years, with cuts having started in 2016.

Last year, these reductions resulted in major layoffs, with teacher numbers down 1,000 out of a total of 14,000. School leaders are planning the coming school year, with further layoffs and reductions in teacher numbers likely.

Opposition

In April, the GL started its campaign of opposition to these measures, with additional campaigns planned for September and October. These will be timed just before the start of Parliament negotiations for the coming fiscal year in November, and will aim to prevent the annual two per cent education budget reduction.

The union believes there is no excuse for the government to cut public services and education further, as GL members have been loyal and taken economic responsibility during the last two periods of collective agreements, i.e. since 2011.

The GL meets regularly with Parliament and education ministry representatives, especially with regards to a new education reform to be implemented from August.

Work underway to improve teacher training on climate change education

Education International has injected the voice of teachers into a recent UN climate change event, highlighting the need for and ways to better train teachers to improve greater climate awareness curricula.

The global teachers’ federation joined the international community in Bonn, Germany, from 8 -18 May, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The conference was aimed at reviewing the progress made on the 2015 Paris Agreement and the implementation work conducted at the 22nd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) held in Marrakech, Morocco, in November 2016.

Exchange of best practice

The mid-point review, held prior to November’s COP23 in Bonn, enabled interested parties to share their ideas and best practices on climate change education and training. This took place in the framework of the Dialogue for Climate Action, an initiative launched at COP18 which adopted guidelines on education, training, and awareness-raising for the greater public. This was in line with Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change which addresses the need to better inform, educate, and train people on the issue of climate change.

The work took place over the course of two sessions, enabling stakeholders to note that, despite sporadic yet major progress in certain countries, most teachers desperately lack the training and resources to provide quality climate change education.

Action-based resources

Marie-Christine Ghanbari, lecturer at Germany’s Münster University, and finalist of the Global Teacher Prize 2017, told attendees that “it is difficult to teach this subject whose abstract nature can easily put off students, and younger students in particular. This is why it is important to use teaching methods geared towards action and cooperation. Our teachers are currently teaching the future agents of change in our societies. Therefore, providing them with resources to match their responsibilities is a matter of urgency!”

This observation, shared by Education International (EI), could also apply to all issues related to the challenges faced by sustainable development education for which the teaching profession remains woefully under-prepared. This is particularly true in a global context of teacher shortages and mass recruitment of under-qualified staff.

Belgian success

However, while gaps in training and a lack of resources remain considerable, increasing numbers of climate change teaching tools make it possible to conduct promising experiments. In Belgium, for instance, a web tool called “Mon2050” (My 2050) targets the public and secondary school students and encourages discussion on climate change. It enables various scenarios of transition to a low-carbon society by 2050 to be explored. This and other examples demonstrate that although resources may be lacking, imagination and creativity are not.

However, EI highlights that these encouraging experiments should not overshadow the urgent need to mobilise sufficient financial resources around the world in order to ensure adequate teacher training, which is a prerequisite to quality climate change education.