Francophone education unions want to put governments back on track to achieve quality education

published 26 October 2022 updated 5 December 2022

The Comité syndical francophone de l'éducation et de la formation (CSFEF), which brings together trade union representatives of French-speaking organisations affiliated to Education International, held its 18th CSFEF meeting in Hammamet, Tunisia, from 13 to 15 October. The debates focused, among other things, on the conditions for trade union activity, gender equality and the right of all to quality education.

Women's pre-meeting

For the first time at a CSFEF meeting, a women's pre-meeting was held before the main event, with 25 participants.

They recommended:

  • Formalising the networking begun for this meeting by setting up a CSFEF “women’s” group; and
  • Keeping this group going through online meetings, information sharing and exchanges of experience, tools for the promotion of girls' and women's rights in education, at work and their participation in trade unions.

PASEC Analysis

One of the round tables, on the Programme for the Analysis of Education Systems (PASEC) of the Conference of Ministers of Education of the States and Governments of the Francophonie (CONFEMEN), aroused a lot of interest.

In his presentation on PASEC 2019, the CONFEMEN representative, Konan Noël Kouassi, recalled that, at the request of the CSFEF, an Ethics and Professional Conduct Committee was set up. The CSFEF was able to delegate two representatives.

At the first meeting of this committee, a charter was adopted to ensure that the data from the PASEC survey, which now includes an evaluation of teachers, cannot be used for purposes other than the intended aim of improving education systems. This ethical charter stipulates that the survey should be anonymous, will not identify teachers or schools, and that the results should not be used to denigrate or sanction the teaching profession.

A second meeting of the Ethics Committee took place after the announcement of the results of the PASEC report on 21 December 2020 in Dakar, Senegal, to consider how to disseminate the results of this study. The CSFEF gave assurances that the data would remain anonymous and could not be used to sanction teachers. If the dissemination of the data were to enable a country or a group of researchers to identify teachers or groups of teachers, the committee should be convened.

In view of the education unions’ strong expectation of social dialogue on the outcome of this survey and the recommendations in line with trade union demands, the CONFEMEN representative guaranteed that the objective is to ensure that initial and in-service teacher training is better adapted to educational needs.

He added that another important factor is having the satisfactory material conditions (premises, staff, teaching tools) with which to exercise one's profession, and that this is far from being the case in several countries.

The CONFEMEN representative also stressed the need to pay teachers properly for their work and to provide career prospects, which should be a key element for the quality of the education system.

Finally, he recognised the need to start learning in the child’s mother tongue, not in French, for greater efficiency and success.

Statement ahead of the Francophonie Summit

The delegates also unanimously adopted a Statement ahead of the Francophonie Summit to be held on 19 and 20 November 2022 in Djerba, Tunisia. CSFEF President Jean-Hervé Cohen noted that States make commitments that are then not kept, so the role of trade unions will also be to ensure that the official statement that will conclude the summit of heads of state and government is implemented in practice.

CSFEF Secretary General Luc Allaire regretted that “we are clearly moving away from Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education for all. Because of the economic and energy crisis, there are many cuts in the budgets allocated to education. This is dramatic. We can only observe and deplore a shortage of teaching and educational support staff.”

Condemning the creeping privatisation of the education sector, he noted that “less public money in education means more private actors in the sector. This leads to more inequality, more inequity in access to quality education. Moreover, the educational staff hired by private institutions are often underpaid, underqualified and their unionisation is much more difficult.”

This is why, in their statement, the French-speaking education unions ask the Heads of State and Government to commit, as the World Bank has done, to freezing all direct and indirect investments in private for-profit education, in pre-school, primary and secondary education.

The Meeting also elected the members of the CSFEF Executive Board for a period of two years. This was an opportunity to thank the outgoing members, in particular Jean-Hervé Cohen who is stepping down as chair. He welcomed the election of the new Chair, Claire Guéville (SNES-FSU, France). It should be noted that, for the first time in its history, the CSFEF will be chaired by a woman and its Bureau will be composed of a majority of women: nine women and six men.