Education International
Education International

Norway: trade unionists give their vision of quality education

published 7 March 2013 updated 15 March 2013

EI’s largest national affiliate in Norway, the Union of Education Norway (UEN), has participated in a post-2015 MDG consultation meeting in Oslo.

“As a teacher I believe, and have seen, that a holistic approach to learning is essential,” said UEN Vice-President Steffen Handal at this event organised on 5 March. “Education and quality education is much broader than achievement in, for example, mathematics or knowledge, or in how to operate a milling machine or about joining methods in industrial textile industries.”

Quality education

He also stressed that quality education nurtures human talent and creativity, contributing to the personal and professional development of the individual. But equally important, he said, quality education contributes to social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental development of societies at large.

He reminded participants of former EI President Thulas Nxesi’s statement: “We shall not ask what kind of education we want, we must ask what kind of society we want.”

“Furthermore, does society want children who echo how the elder generation want the world to be or children who question the status quo,” Handal asked. “This year, we celebrate 100 years of women’s right to cast their votes in Norway. The women who fought for their right more than 100 years ago were educated and strong enough to question the status quo.”

Quality teachers needed

He also said that EI figures show that 1.7 million more teachers are needed to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

It is logical that teachers need to be well-trained, he emphasised, as teacher training is crucial, not simply to improve children’s rate of learning, but also to develop teacher’s skills and behaviours so that they can promote diversity and support children’s wellbeing.

Handal also demanded decent pay and working conditions for all teachers. “In Norway, we know that where teachers and principals have the freedom, and time, to practice their profession, results are good,” he said.

Government/trade unions dialogue crucial

To support his advice to governments to invite and work together with teacher trade unions, he quoted the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): “The better a country’s education system performs, the more likely it is that this country is working constructively with its unions and treating its teachers as trusted professional partners.”

Education is a human right and must be treated as such, Handal insisted. “To respect this human right, education must be free, and to make sure it continues to be free, it must be public. To be public, the state has to guarantee the right and access to quality education for all. Equal, inclusive and quality education requires the national authorities’ involvement. Privatisation and private-public partnerships are not the solution to quality education for all.”

He further regretted that “it is not likely that we will reach MDG number 2, Education for All (EFA), by 2015. According to the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report, there are still 61 million primary school-aged children out of school.”

Re-iterating the need for a holistic approach to education, Handal advocated for future MDGs, which should clearly state that:

  • Education is a public good and a human right
  • A broad approach to learning is essential
  • Education quality must be considered an integral part of access
  • Quality education requires quality teachers

“Democratically elected governments, whether at local, regional or national level, should be the guarantors and primary providers of education systems,” said EI Deputy General Secretary David Edwards. “Public authorities have the key responsibility for ensuring that free, universally accessible education is well-resourced and constantly updated and developed.”

He went on to say that in cooperation with teachers, public authorities should oversee and regulate the education sector and aim to constantly improve its quality, establishing and implementing a legislative framework that ensures a high quality service, professional standards, access for all and a representative governance system.”

To learn more about EI’s principles for a post-2015 Education and Development framework, click here