Education International
Education International

Address by Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary, at the 20th National Congress of the Persatuan Guru Republik Indonesia (PGRI), June 30 – July 4 2008, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

published 8 July 2008 updated 8 July 2008

"Improving the Quality of Education through Professional, Prosperous, and Protected Teachers"

Mr President of the Republic, Ministers and distinguished guests, colleagues, It is an honour to address your 20th Congress and to present to you the greetings of millions of teachers around the globe. Your organisation is a proud member of the Education International, which brings together 390 Education unions in 171 countries together representing more than 30 million educators. As many of you know we are a professional association, a labour union, and a development agency in one. And as all of you know, there is a lot of work to do in each of these three areas – in your country, in Asia and in the world at large. Being a teacher means belonging to the most honorable of professions. But, unfortunately, in many countries being a teacher also means not being treated fairly, not being paid properly, and sometimes even living in poverty. It is not surprising that the world faces an unprecedented shortage of qualified teachers. In the coming seven years 18 million teachers must be trained and recruited if we want to achieve quality education for every child on this planet (and to eradicate child labour for once and for all. We must remind our governments that the right to education is the right (of every child) to a qualified teacher. In this respect we commend the government of Indonesia for establishing the Teachers' Law. This is an important step. But now the law is to be implemented. Education quality is more than a matter of teaching basic skills. In today’s global community, it also means imparting democratic values, teaching tolerance; it also means making every student understand his or her own cultural identity while being aware of the diversity of cultures that make up the richness of humanity. Teachers must build bridges of understanding, like we in Education International are trying to build bridges between the teaching profession of the Muslim world and our colleagues in the so-called western countries. And you, the teachers of Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, have a very important role to play in helping us build that bridge. Teachers need strong and independent organizations to help protect our rights and professional freedoms, to improve our terms and employment conditions, and to advocate measures ensuring quality public education for all children. PGRI was established for that very purpose many years ago. Your organisation has a proud history. There have been good times as well as bad times. We have stayed with you throughout the years, trying to help you deal with sometimes quite difficult political circumstances. Could I be blunt and say that I think that since your last two Congresses you have made a quantum leap in re-inventing yourself as a truly independent and effective social partner? I commend PGRI President Dr. Surya – and many other national, provincial and district leaders - for engaging in a renewal of PGRI, for mobilizing classroom teachers, for encouraging them to play an active role in the union, and in this respect I also wish to express my appreciation to the members of the EI-PGRI consortium, who have supported this important renewal process. We want to continue to provide that support, to demonstrate to you that solidarity, international solidarity is not just a word, but a state of mind, a value, a mission if you will, that fuels our international teachers' movement. When we talk about solidarity I want to menion the tremendous support of many thousands of teachers from Indonesia and other nations, enabling PGRI and EI to help our colleagues in Aceh by constructing 35 schoolbuildings, providing scholarships to 3500 students and training of over 1000 teachers. May I again thank all those in this room who helped to make this effort successful. To conclude, colleagues, let me stress that we are passionate about realising the ideal of quality education for all children; that the key to quality education lies with present and future generations of qualified and dedicated teachers; and that investing in education is the best investment any nation can make in its own future. I congratulate you on having taken the very bold step of challenging your government in court to meet its constitutional obligation and increase the national education budget. It is important that we keep reminding our politicians of their responsibilities. You will do this in Indonesia. We will do this in the international arena. And together we will succeed in achieving what is the theme of this 20th Congress – improving the quality of education through professional, prosperous and protected teachers. We will continue counting on you, while you can count on your International. Thank you.