Trade unions in Belgium have responded positively to the announcement of the Pact for Excellence in Education by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, one of Belgium’s three federal communities. However, the unions have also set out conditions for their support.
“The aim is to really improve the quality of our education,” said Joëlle Milquet, Vice-President and Minister of Education, Culture and Childhood in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. The pact was a consultative process with “very clear priorities and a very clear framework”, she said.
“There are fabulous teachers who innovate, who find new practices, who are committed and professional, but it is regrettably a profession that is not valued as such,” Milquet stressed. “We believe this is the most crucial profession for the future of our francophone world, which means that we must invest in it even more strongly,” she said, adding that teachers are at the heart of the Pact’s process which “is not imposed from on high”.
“This ambitious project presented by the Minister seems to respond to various aspects of the pact that we wanted to have before the 2014 elections and to the appeal for reform that we signed,” said Eugène Ernst, General Secretary of CSC-Enseignement. However, he considered the Pact’s timetable to be quite tight. “While we cannot drag our feet, we must not act too hastily because too many reforms that have required a huge effort from our staff suffer from a lack of means, of preparation, of training,” he said.
The CGSP Enseignement said it would be an active but vigilant partner at every stage and every process of this participatory and voluntary initiative. CGSP Enseignement President Pascal Chardome said its participation would follow the union’s long-term criticism of “the shortcomings of our educational system that this Pact aims to deal with”.
The pact centres on the headmaster/mistress who has a fundamental role in coordinating the educational approach and the teaching team in school, said Milquet.
She said she was also in favour of the policy of steering the process that was included in the pact, because “with the targets and the culture of evaluation that we want to see practiced much more, we can have rapid results”. In addition, she supports the targets and evaluations for financing the policy, “organising ourselves much more effectively to prevent the mis-allocation of resources”.
Main concerns for the CSC-Enseignement include the need for greater harmony and more de-compartmentalisation, particularly in vocational education, with the socio-economic world; greater autonomy for those in positions of authority/responsibility; the culture of evaluation proposed by the Minister; and the absence of compatible regulation.
Chardome also stressed that the scope of the work to be carried out and the involvement of the actors concerned was such that teachers and education personnel should be given the right to:
- Be able to work with all the actors concerned but with full autonomy, respecting their specific characteristics (education should not be subject to socio-economic diktats or commodification)
- Avoid the disjointed approach experienced in previous initiatives and focus on innovative and emancipatory strategies
- Rapidly initiate, at the end of the process, specific steps, that can be shared and guided and have the human and material resources needed to carry them out
- Be given the mediation necessary in the event of ideological drift or a need to refocus on the set objectives