Quality education is a public good and a basic human right
I have written and spoken these words many times across the world as part of Education International’s continuing 20-year mission advocating for the teacher training and the teaching tools and the learning environments to provide quality education to every student.
Today that mission is helping to lead a global movement, with EI’s more than 30 million educators from 170 nations mobilising and joining with parents and students, communities and governments, NGO’s, business leaders and international organizations, to demand access to a quality education for every student.
We saw that movement on display July 12 at the United Nation’s Malala Day, named for the young Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for daring to defy them. Her demand for education, especially for girls, inspired the world and led to a “youth sit in” of the U.N., where a Youth Outcomes document entitled “The World We Want” was presented to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
Among other things, the document asked the world body to:
· Work urgently to ensure all children have access to quality learning
· Provide at least nine years of quality education to every child
· Recruit and rigorously train teachers who implement the highest standards of teaching
The youth delegations included a contingent from Education International. A young Egyptian teacher spoke, saying her union fights “for the right to education, especially for girls” and urged the U.N. “to create laws that make going to school an obligation for all children.”
Across the world, a call for access matched to quality is changing the dialogue about our future
This young teacher from Egypt spoke for many who want more than what can be tested from their education; they want the tools to participate and succeed in building the future.
Quality education contributes to the personal and professional development of the individual person, as well as to social, cultural, economic, political and environmental development of society as a whole.
The right to education is recognised as a fundamental human right in key international legal instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). Various legal instruments under international human rights law oblige the state as a duty-bearer to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to education.
Education International (EI) believes that quality education must be viewed multi-dimensionally in terms of providing sufficient resources/adequate inputs, engaging in professional processes, including teaching and learning, and achieving broad-based outcomes which meet the diverse needs of learners and society. In that regard, quality education is more than measurable learning outcomes. It includes, but is not limited to numeracy and literacy. While these are important, they are not sufficient to contribute to the full development of the individual and society. Higher order capabilities, including problem solving, innovation and creativity are essential and so are social and other life skills such as good citizenship.
This year on October 4th, the eve of World Teachers Day, Education International will be launching a year of action, an initiative for quality education in New York, and in Paris and around the world. The purpose of the initiative is to raise awareness among governments, inter-governmental organisations, financial institutions, community leaders and the general public about the indomitable role quality education plays in the development of the individual and society. It is to also remind decision makers that education is a sine- qua- non to development and that it must therefore be the bedrock of any post -2015 development agenda.
The three pillars of the initiative are:
Quality teaching – ensured through the recruitment of high calibre candidates to teaching, high quality initial teacher education and continuous professional development and attractive salaries and conditions of service determined through collective bargaining and other forms of social dialogue.
Quality tools– appropriate curricula and inclusive teaching and learning materials and resources, including textbooks and ICT. A quality curriculum that is flexible and designed through an inclusive process that guarantees teachers participation is highly desirable. ICT can be a powerful tool that can support teaching and learning. However, ICT cannot and must not replace the teacher.
Quality environments – healthy, safe, secure, supportive and comfortable teaching and learning environments with appropriate facilities to support student learning and to enable teachers to teach effectively. Learning environments must cater for the needs of all learners, especially girls and children with disabilities.
A year of action
The initiative will run from World Teachers Day 2013 to World Teachers Day 2014. In order to officially launch this mobilization year, EI is organizing two main events in New York, in the UNICEF Building, and in Paris, in the UNESCO offices, on Friday 4th October, 2013. The official launch will consist of a press conference; a high level event with statements from EI leaders and partner organizations; an unveiling of EI’s campaign web portal and a Global Teachers’ Forum. EI leaders and partners at both sites will discuss the main challenges and propose solutions to ensure that the right to quality public education is realised in every corner of the globe.
Following the launch of the initiative, EI and its member organisations will continue to engage in advocacy and dialogue about quality education with partners and national governments. This includes the pressing need to invest in quality education and teacher development. EI and its members will be sharing a teachers’ perspective to the education quality and equity challenge, including the educators’ views on Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In that regard, EI is currently carrying out EFA regional and national assessments, and identifying the main education challenges confronted by countries around the globe.
In May 2014, EI will convene a Global Education Conference. The conference, which will be held in Montreal, Canada, from 26 to 30 May 2014, will provide an opportunity for EI members and organisations with similar aims to join forces for quality education for all.
The EI initiative will culminate in a Day of Action on World Teachers Day 2014. On this day EI and its member organisations around the world will call for the right to quality public education to be realised for the benefit of every child, youth and adult. We invite all partners who care about the education of our children to join forces with us in our call for quality education for all.
By Fred van Leeuwen