On World Teachers’ Day 2006, Education International presented a major report to the ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts (CEART), which monitors application of the 1966 Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers and the 1997 Recommendation on the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel.
In adopting these Recommendations, governments unanimously recognized the fundamental importance of having highly-qualified teachers for quality education. On the 40th anniversary of the first landmark document, EI’s report notes that significant progress has been made: sustained reforms of education systems globally and the invention of mass public education in most countries. However, while governments claim to support the values and principles in the Recommendations, many do not demonstrate respect for the rights enshrined in them, nor do they implement policies that comply with them. In some parts of the world teachers make good salaries and are respected for their professionalism. They can count on reasonable classroom conditions, adequate learning resources and support from governments committed to educating their citizenry. Unfortunately, these are the lucky few. The vast majority of the world’s teachers still strive to do the best for children despite inadequate training, terrible salaries, unmanageable class sizes, shortage of basic supplies, lack of government support for education or even official repression of teachers and their unions. EI’s report to the triennial meeting of the CEART decries the fact that in all major areas addressed, key elements of the Recommendations are disregarded. The report addresses eight major issues: Teacher shortage There is a major shortage of teachers looming, with increasing numbers set to retire and few newly qualified entrants to the profession. Unfortunately most governments are applying strategies that only serve to undermine quality of education: the intensification of teachers’ workload in developed nations and the hiring of unqualified personnel in the developing nations. EI is calling for governments to invest in significant improvements to the living and working conditions of teachers to facilitate greater recruitment and retention in future. Teachers’ salaries Teachers’ low salaries are at the root of the shortage. The report documents ongoing long-term deterioration in teachers’ earning power. EI is calling for adequate pay levels across the teaching force, thus restoring high social prestige to the teaching profession as a long-term guarantee for social cohesion, progress and stability. Consultation with teachers’ organizations The two Recommendations clearly call for governments to recognise teachers’ unions and representative organizations as partners in policy-making. Unfortunately, nations demonstrate widespread violation of this provision. Without the full cooperation and participation of teaching professionals, no education reform can succeed. EI calls for governments to engage in social dialogue with teachers and their unions to build stronger public education systems. Academic freedom and tenure for teachers Academic freedom and tenure for teachers are crucial to education systems that are free from political, economic, ideological or religious influences.. Recently teachers experience more centralized control over curriculum and pedagogy, along with interference in educational matters by government authorities, the media and the church. Globalisation, commodification and market forces all increase these pressures on free academic inquiry and research. Collegiate governance While collective decision-making is acknowledged to be of utmost importance and faculty participation in governing bodies used to be guaranteed. Today however, academic personnel are excluded from governing bodies of higher educational institutions to an unprecedented degree. EI strongly opposes the trend toward unilateral management of higher education institutions and advocates a return to collegiate governance. Safe school environments and violence against teachers Living and working conditions of teachers are threatened by the growing phenomenon of violence in schools, a reflection of broader shifts in society at large. For teachers to be protected in their workplaces, effective insurance systems must be in place. However, this remains a dream for most teachers. EI advocates ongoing work with parents and communities towards a culture of cooperation and tolerance in schools. Private schools and institutions EI is particularly concerned with the spread of private institutions at the expense of public schools and universities. Education is a public good, and a service to the citizenry. It is not a commodity to be bought and sold, and it should not be privatized for profit. EI calls on the public authorities to shoulder their responsibility to open up access to education for all, not only for the elite few. HIV and AIDS The HIV and AIDS pandemic poses one of history’s most significant challenges to the medical and educational communities, and indeed to societies across the globe. The drastic scale of the problem and the lack of capacity to address it is of major concern to teachers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of the pandemic significantly undermines efforts to achieve Education for All, one of the Millennium Development Goals. EI calls for an end to discrimination against HIV-affected professionals, and is concerned about the gender issue, as most people affected worldwide are women. Conclusion Despite the many difficulties facing educators around the world, EI does not want to lose sight of the remarkable progress that has been achieved in public education over the past four decades. The 1966 and 1997 Recommendations they remain unachieved ideals, but there can be no doubt they are worth striving for. EI believes the Recommendations must be universally implemented because only then will all children have the opportunity to learn, grow and contribute to their fullest potential. The full report is available here.