The importance of trade unions' role in helping realise quality education was the message delivered by Education International this week as union delegates from around the world met in Berlin.
"Trade Union Centres must demand quality education for all," according to Fred van Leeuwen, Education International (EI) General Secretary, speaking to the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) third World Congress.
He emphasised the importance of quality education to the personal and working lives of people and the major contribution which it makes to socio-economic development. He pointed out that there are still almost 60 million children, most of them girls, across the globe who are not in school. He said that unless action was taken soon it would be their great grandchildren who finally got into school!
He also referred to the recent kidnapping of almost three hundred girls in Nigeria, to keep them out of school, and advised the ITUC conference that this tragic event, together with the assassination of 171 teachers in the same area, underlined the fact that the terrorists responsible recognised the power of education to liberate and empower people.
He said that the links between levels of education and personal success were well established. In that context trade union centres should advocate that everyone should have the opportunity to advance themselves through access to quality education.
He invited the delegates to support the EI Unite for Quality Education campaign, describing its aims and objectives. He pointed out that this was a unique campaign where educators across the world, supported by parents and students and other civil society organisations, were demanding not just access to education but access to quality education. This was a recognition that some of the efforts which had been made to get children into school had little regard for what happened to them there. Many of such schemes were formerly supported and encouraged by the international financial institutions.
However, EI is winning the argument as most governments now recognise that the quality of the education that children receive in schools is critical, and to maintain that quality they need trained, well-supported teachers.
"Trade Union Centres," he said, "were in a unique and powerful position to influence governments and persuade them to provide quality education for all."