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Better education for a better world: Education International’s World Congress

This article was originally published on the Global Partnership for Education website on 20 July 2015.

By David Edwards

Two thousand people from 400 teachers unions and associations across 171 countries, (including both Global Partnership for Education and OECD partner countries) arrive in Ottawa this week to assess the impact of the collective efforts of educators the past four years and, in the seventh World Congress in our history, chart a new path for the organization.

Education International is the world’s largest federation of unions, representing educators in 171 countries and territories across the globe. We help build independent democratic organisations to represent teachers and other education employees to promote the principle that quality education, funded publicly, should be available to every student in every country.

 At our last World Congress in 2011 our members challenged the organization to mount a campaign on behalf of quality education; to take a broad and bold whole systems approach; aggressively take on those who put obstacles in the way of students access to quality education and take a leading role with partners new and old for the global adoption of an ambitious education goal and the financing to make it real.
That was no small ask. So, EI and its member organizations worked hard to mobilize its 32.5 million members (90% of the world’s teachers that belong to professional associations and unions) to pivot from reactive to collaborative, from describing the world to affecting change in our world. We increased our engagement in policy dialog and, alongside our partners from the Global Partnership, created new openings for teacher voices at local and global levels. Many of our closest supporters and friends will be addressing the Congress or participating in breakout sessions and side events.

Yet, the path we set, as we leave Ottawa will undoubtedly bring continued challenges. Teachers and students will still be the target of attacks as seen recently in Nigeria and Pakistan.

 While we have our new Global Goals for 2030 there are worrying signs from member states that the commitment to achieve them is waning or that they may be outsourced, downsized if not altogether ignored.
The Oslo Summit was a good step in shoring up those funding and humanitarian commitments to make the Framework for Action agreed at the World Education Forum in Incheon a reality however the lack of financing commitments and concrete steps towards ensuring increased tax revenues at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa is a cause of great concern.

EI is committed to holding not only ourselves but governments accountable as well. As we work to raise the bar regarding the quality for our profession and protecting education systems in general we know we have to maintain vigilance and pressure as these goals and targets are implemented.

For our members and their students getting the goals and framework agreed and adopted is only a step on a much longer road to ensuring an inclusive, quality education and lifelong learning for all. That path begins with our core values and commitments to defending the rights and principles of all people to live, learn and work with dignity.  For this reason, our pre-Congress “United in Diversity” events ranging from workshops focused on indigenous peoples, LGBTI and other minority groups are paramount so as to devise strategies that ensure rights are respected for educators and students alike. Similarly, other pre-Congress Caucuses and events will identify and tackle the main barriers to the participation of women and girls, the increased precariousness for further and higher education personnel and the crucial role teachers’ organizations can play in ensuring basic social protection and well-being for their members, their students and the communities they serve.

The Congress will also debate and adopt new policy and strategies that will inform and guide our actions to protect our school systems (from violent attacks, profiteering and austerity), reclaim our profession and strengthen our unions. This is the triangular task which Education International is to accomplish - through advocacy, research, solidarity assistance, capacity building and organizing across all sectors, from early childhood to higher education.

The specifics of EI’s action in the next quadrennial period will be decided through the democratic structure of our members in the Canadian capital this week, but the framework is set – EI will maintain its leadership and partnerships for a progressive vision of quality education for all.


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