Education International
Education International

OECD Education Ministers recognise the challenge

published 6 November 2010 updated 6 November 2010

Education Ministers from 38 countries met in Paris last week, 4-5 November with a theme of investing in education and training.

“Education and training are fundamental for economic recovery”, they said in the Chair’s summary released by Claudia Schmied, Federal Education Minister of Austria.

While the statement coming out of this important conference was long on generalities, and short on details, it did include significant recognition of points raised by EI and TUAC . These included:

  • “Sustainable economic recovery and social progress rests upon maintaining adequate levels of investment in education and training”.
  • “More than ever education has to be seen as an investment and as a driver of long-term growth and social cohesion.”
  • “Education is a public good.”
  • “Teachers are the key.”
  • “Stimulus spending has accelerated educational reform and increased the capacity and quality of education systems.”
  • “Schools need a climate of trust.”
  • “We need a ‘whole of government’ approach and ‘whole of education’ perspective.”
  • “Teachers are the key professionals in our education system. When they succeed, our students are effective and motivated learners. We need to give teachers and school leaders the tools and support they need to do their job well.”
  • “We need more focus on high quality teacher training and professional development, particularly in initial teacher training, teacher induction and early teaching support.”
  • “The economic recession has a social dimension, reflected in rising unemployment, especially among young people, affecting not only material living conditions but also the broader well-being and quality of life of many people. In tackling these effects, education plays an important role.”
  • “The benefits of education go beyond the economic returns to individuals and societies, contributing also to better health, citizenship, lower crime rates, more trust and tolerance.”
  • “We recognize the urgent need to address inequality of opportunity and equity issues”.

A strong EI/TUAC delegation of 20 representatives participated in an Education Policy Forum which preceded the Ministerial meeting, co-chaired by the Education Minister from Mexico and New Zealand. The keynote speaker at this Forum was Charles Leadbeater, who was billed by OECD as “author and former advisor to Tony Blair”. Leadbeater proceeded to cite examples of innovation outside public systems, based on a global tour which he had undertaken while preparing a report for CISCO systems, the major IT corporation which provides Wi-Fi and other forms of internet connectivity. This corporate funded study was described by one EI participant as “global education tourism from the perspective of the right”. It was, frankly, superficial but dangerous, and OECD’s judgment in inviting him to give the keynote as such a Forum is to be questioned.

In any case, the EI/TUAC delegation did well in putting the case for quality and equity in education, and in highlighting the key role of qualified teachers.

These points were developed in a consultation of TUAC and BIAC with the Chair and Vice Chairs, prior to the start of the Ministerial meeting. Our verbal presentations were underpinned by a substantial paper that had been presented beforehand. While there was some overlap between the TUAC and BIAC papers, the BIAC presentation tended to emphasize performance-pay schemes for teachers, and included an intervention by the representative of CISCO who argued for alternative approaches to learning. The corporate lobby at OECD evidently needs watching!

TUAC/EI emphasized that Education Ministers should engage with trade unions, and in particular the education unions. Constructive engagement is the best way of rising to the major challenges which the Ministers themselves recognized in their statement.

For the statement presented by Bob Harris on behalf of EI and TUAC at the Forum, click here.

Link to TUAC/EI statement to the Education Ministers here.

Link to OECD Chair’s summary here.