Education International
Education International

Norwegian teachers’ union elects new president to take the helm

published 4 November 2015 updated 18 November 2015

Change was in the air during the Union of Education Norway’s congress this week as delegates elected a former teacher from Oslo as the organisation’s new president for at least the next four years.

Members of Norway’s biggest teachers’ union, the Union of Education Norway (UEN) took care of business this week at its triennial congresses in the city of Lillestrom, 20km west of the capital Oslo.

The congress tapped Steffen Handal, a former teacher from Oslo and a new member of Education International (EI)'s Executive Board, as its new president. Along with Handal, Mr. Terje Skyvulstad and Ms. Hege Valas were unanimously elected as deputies.

With the theme of “We educate Norway,” delegates from across the Scandinavian country passed important resolutions that set the objectives for the next four years. Most notable among them were:

-          To establish a council on professional ethics for the teaching profession (a platform for professional ethics was passed at the last Congress

-          An urgent resolution on the refugee crisis

-          A call for democratic control of the Trade in Services Agreement, or TiSA, free trade negotiations

In her remarks to congress, the President of EI, Susan Hopgood, focused on growing inequality around the world, and the importance that properly-funded public education plays in balancing the scales.

“Quality education for all is not a luxury. It is not the right of certain regions or the inheritance of some cities or postal codes,” she said. “For the planet’s very existence, young people especially, must be afforded equity in a common future, paid for by governments and backed by strong and diverse civil society that demands continuous investment in democracy.”

Her comments came as ministers from around the world met in Paris to develop a new framework for global education. In September, the United Nations adopted a new global development agenda, which includes a focus on free education.

Hopgood also extended warm thanks to UEN members that played key roles within EI.

“Being here with you in Lillestrom gives me also the opportunity to thank UEN for the excellent leadership you have provided to EI over the years,” said Hopgood. She also extended a “special thanks to Ragnhild Lied who was a member of Education International’s Executive Board until July when we had our 7th World Congress in Ottawa, and my congratulations to Steffen Handal who succeeded to get elected.”

One major structural change made during the week was to extend the period between congresses from three to four years. This extends the president’s term to an additional year, with the possibly of being elected for four more. The congress, which kicked-off 2 November, runs until tomorrow.