Speech by EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, at the UNESCO General Conference held on 22 October 2007, Paris
Below is the speech, in English, of EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, at the UNESCO General Conference held on 22 October 2007 in Paris, France.
----------------- Mr President, Delegates and Guests, Let me come right to the point. Education International, speaking for more than 30 million educators around the world, is concerned that this body is moving away from what we believe should be its prime concern today. To help find the 18 million young people needed in the coming eight years to become teachers - qualified teachers able to ensure quality education for all children. Yet, large numbers of teachers are leaving the profession, sometimes after only a few years of service. Why? Dissatisfaction with low salaries, poor teaching and learning conditions, no career progression and inadequate professional training: these are all factors. Plus, we must replace the many experienced teachers who will retire soon. On top of that, the AIDS pandemic is hitting the profession very hard. We agree that the plans laid down in document 34 C/5 are important. But collecting data, undertaking studies and convening conferences on the management of education will not overcome the looming shortage of qualified teachers. Frankly, too little attention is given to those who are expected to play the key role in education: the educators. On 5 October 2007, we signed a joint message with you, with, ILO, UNICEF and UNDP here in this building, re-affirming that teachers are the most crucial factor in the achievement of EFA and of the other Millennium Development Goals. This message should be better reflected in the program. Action is required. Now. At its World Congress three months ago Education International decided to assist our national education unions to become actively involved in teacher education, initial as well as in service training, in setting professional standards and in the development of quality training programs. We will aim to reach talented young people in the low income countries, as well as the so called volunteers and para professionals who have been hired in recent years, and help them to become qualified, certified teachers. We will develop a program to promote public quality education, building on a partnership between education unions, NGOs and governments. Suffice it to say that we are open to partnership and links with UNESCO programmes such as TISSA and EDUCAIDS. In Africa alone, the shortage of teachers will be as high as 4 million if we do not act! Could I remind all of us that guidance on key policies for effective teachers and teaching is provided by the joint ILO/UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Teachers of 1966, and by the UNESCO Recommendation on Higher Education Teaching Personnel of 1997. But both recommendations continue to be ignored by many member states. This must change. Higher education is today an agenda-topping sector for many international organisations. Reforms that are being rolled out are compounding insecurity among academic and research staff. The CEART report endorsed by UNESCO this year summed it up: "Violations of academic freedom based on security or private commercial concerns were growing in parallel with the decline in collegial self-governance and participation of staff in institutional decision-making processes". Academic staff are deeply concerned. Today, political leaders invariably recognize that education is essential, that it is at the heart of the knowledge society. Public opinion is now moving away from a narrow market approach, placing more importance on quality of life and sustainability. But the share of most national budgets for education is decreasing. Education is still not considered to be a public good, a key element in achieving responsible democratic citizenship and the corner-stone of sustainable development. Last Friday's Ministerial Round-table was about education and economic development, but failed to address the themes we are concerned about: shortage of teachers, quality education, and also] migration and mobility, which have a growing impact on our schools. We need resources and policies which will enable our schools to respond well to that impact. We also have to address sensibly the growing migration and mobility within the teaching profession. Obviously, we will continue to advocate an approach to migration based on non-discrimination, as we will remain fervent advocates for respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We mean respect for the rights of women. We mean non-discrimination on any grounds. We cannot and will not accept discrimination from authorities, public or religious, against teachers on any basis: gender, race or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation. Nor can we ever accept attempts by any authority to make education a tool of ideology. Mr. President, only political will and courage will enable UNESCO and its Member States to achieve real progress towards the Dakar objectives – quality education for all. EDUCATION INTERNATIONAL and its members are ready to cooperate with all those who share our principles and values: the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and in UNESCO's own constitution.