1.4 Advocacy on Education and Employment with international organisations
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)Co-operating closely with TUAC, EI has established excellent working relations with the OECD Education Directorate. EI has participated in meetings of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) participating countries, and in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) governing board which took the decision to invite EI as a regular participant with observer status. Following this recognition, EI attended two PISA governing board meetings, presenting EI standpoints on such issues as the curricular expansion of future cycles of PISA, the development of longitudinal aspects, the avoidance of superficial representation of countries’ performance in the form of league tables, and, most importantly, the inclusion of teachers’ background questionnaires alongside those of principals, students and parents. EI has consistently and energetically argued for this instead of the link between PISA and TALIS survey, promoted by OECD and some governments.
Other OECD education programmes in which EI participated included school leadership and vocational education and training. EI also contributed critically to OECD analysis of a proposed new Assessment of Higher Education Learning Assessment Outcomes (AHELO) and the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). EI is also now contributing to a new OECD project on Early Childhood Education.
This effective co-operation has not been translated satisfactorily into policy at the level of committee meetings attended by OECD member states. An evaluation of the Education Directorate and Committees by the OECD Secretary General’s office was expected to report on this matter by the end of the year.
In co-operation with TUAC, EI has also participated in consultations with the OECD Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Committee (ELSA) and the directorate. EI and TUAC have continued to raise the issue of labour rights in Korea at the ELSA Committee, despite opposition from the Korean government. ELSA works with the Education Directorate on the new PIAAC indicator of adult competencies and migration, and produced a significant study on equity.
Assessment of Higher Education Learning Assessment Outcomes (AHELO), 15-16 MarchEI and its member affiliates have expressed serious concerns about the feasibility and desirability of a standardised test for higher education students, particularly in light of the diversity of institutions, missions and programs across OECD countries. EI attended the OECD stakeholders’ meeting in relation to AHELO in Paris, France, on 15-16 March. EI reiterated its concerns and its written comments about the feasibility study made at the meeting were acknowledged.
OECD Ministerial Council and Forum, 26-28 MayIn early May, EI participated in a joint consultation of TUAC and BIAC in Rome with the chair of the OECD Ministerial Council, the Italian Finance Minister, and the vice-chairs from Australia and Norway. Later in the month, at the OECD forum held prior to the Ministerial Council, EI was represented in a well-attended panel discussion entitled ‘Matching skills to jobs’ with the OECD Education Director among others. EI was able to enlarge the discussion to include the importance of general education. EI joined other Global Unions in pressing for more co-operation between the OECD and ILO, including on vocational education. The forum was preceded by a meeting of the TUAC Plenary, which finalised the Global Unions’ statement to the next G8 and G20 summits in Canada. Richard Trumka, President of AFL-CIO, USA, was elected as the TUAC President. This year, for the first time, the ITUC and TUAC Presidents attended throughout the Ministerial Council meeting. EI consistently provided input to all Global Union statements, ensuring that key EI messages were presented on all such occasions.
Education at a Glance 2010, 7 SeptemberEI conducted an analysis of the latest annual report by OECD and sent it to all EI affiliates in OECD countries. As in previous Education at a Glance publications, the OECD compiled impressive statistical data from governments about education systems in OECD and partner countries, which also gave strong policy messages and recommendations. EI recognises the difficulties of evaluating national education systems through such statistics. In this report, the OECD argued for more efficient spending and further strengthening of market mechanisms in public education, even after several years of the harsh impact of economic crisis, caused by unrestrained markets, resulting in education budget cuts, school closures and teachers redundancies. The report said that improving performance of education systems and increasing value for money were key tasks for public policy. The future, according to the OECD, will measure the success of education systems not by how much countries spent on education or by how many individuals completed a degree, but by educational outcomes achieved and their impact on economic and social progress. An emphasis on social outcomes from education was the most welcome part of the report. Given the increasing amount of evidence suggesting the significant role of education in attaining these outcomes, the report suggested it would be of interest for policymakers working on education, health and social welfare to take into account the social outcomes of education. In its analysis EI criticised OECD emphasis on economic efficiency and welcomed its recognition of the social outcomes of education.
Education ministers from 38 countries met in Paris, on 4-5 November, with the theme of ‘Investing in education and training’. The chair’s summary, released by Claudia Schmied, Federal Education Minister of Austria, said: “Education and training are fundamental for economic recovery.” The Ministers addressed four issues:
OECD Education Ministers' Meeting, 4-5 November
- Tackling the effects of the crisis on education;
- Matching skills to new needs;
- Equipping effective teachers for the 21st century;
- Bolstering the social benefits of education.
While the statement from this important conference was long on generalities and short on details, it did include significant recognition of points raised by EI and TUAC. These included:
- Sustainable economic recovery and social progress rest upon maintaining adequate levels of investment in education and training.
- More than ever education has to be seen as an investment and as a driver of long-term growth and social cohesion.
- Education is a public good, teachers are the key, and Schools need a climate of trust.
A strong EI/TUAC delegation of 20 representatives participated in an Education Policy Forum co-chaired by education ministers from Mexico and New Zealand which preceded the ministerial meeting. The keynote speaker at this forum, billed by the OECD as ’an author and former advisor to Tony Blair’, cited numerous examples of innovation outside public systems, based on a global tour he had undertaken while preparing a report for CISCO Systems, the major IT corporation which provides Wi-Fi and other forms of internet connectivity. This corporate funded study was described by one EI participant as “global education tourism from the perspective of the right.” It was superficial, but harmful, and the OECD’s judgment in inviting him to give the keynote speech at the forum was questioned. The active EI/TUAC delegation put forward the case for quality and equity in education, highlighting the key role of qualified teachers.
These points were developed in a consultation of TUAC and BIAC with the chair and vice chairs, prior to the start of the ministerial meeting, based on a substantial paper sent to the OECD and ministers. While there was some overlap between the TUAC and BIAC papers, the BIAC presentation tended to focus on performance-pay schemes for teachers, and included an intervention by the CISCO representative who argued for alternative approaches to learning.
TUAC and EI emphasised that education ministers should engage with trade unions, particularly education unions, and stated that constructive engagement was the best way of rising to the major challenges which the ministers themselves recognised in their statement. These matters were followed up at a consultation with the OECD education policy committee on 18 November.
The meeting addressed various issues related to OECD research projects published in 2010 or under way such as Education at a Glance 2010, The Nature of Learning (CERI) and new activity under the working title ‘GPS’. In particular the latter project which the OECD intends to launch in the near future may raise serious concerns for EI as it will provide governments with short-cut policy guidelines for various issues, drawn from all other OECD indicator based studies and policy papers. In this way the OECD will consolidate and strengthen its policy advisory function. An important part of the agenda was an update on PISA developments.
TUAC Working Group, 29-30 November
Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009, 7 DecemberEI has been following the development of PISA, as one of its key research activities. Employing constructive interaction with the OECD Secretariat, EI and TUAC organised a one day pre-launch information meeting for affiliates. In addition to this, EI prepared and distributed information on the main conclusions of the new PISA Report. PISA 2009 was a massive publication, consisting of five separate volumes addressing such issues as overall performance of students in reading, maths and science, equity issues, enjoyment of reading, policy recommendations and performance trend analysis over the last decade. Continuing emphasis on countries' performance in league tables has been one of the most detrimental features of PISA to the quality of education. It is expected that PISA 2009 results will make ever more increasing impact on education policy debates.
UNESCOEI continued its close co-operation with UNESCO and attended key events to present the EI vision and ensure that the voice of teachers was heard.
EFA High Level GroupEI President, Susan Hopgood, participated in the High Level Group meeting on EFA in Addis Ababa on 22-24 February. The meeting discussed the impact of the crisis and how to outreach marginalised groups on the basis of outcomes and recommendations of the 2010 GMR. The issue of financing education and necessary reforms of follow-up mechanisms of EFA in parallel with necessary reforms of the FTI mechanism were also discussed. For more information see the communiqué released: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001871/187149E.pdf
Conference on Early Childhood Education (ECE), 27-29 SeptemberEI participated in UNESCO’s World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education in Moscow on 27-29 September. This was the first UNESCO organised international conference on this sector and it noted concern that, despite being the first EFA goal, the ECE goal remained largely neglected. Experts provided strong scientific evidence supporting the need to intervene early in children’s lives in order to prevent potential barriers to physical, cognitive, social, emotional and other domains of human development. The presentation by Prof. Jack Shonkoff was interesting because it provided ‘new’ and powerful evidence from neuro-science, indicating the need for early intervention and proving that different sections of the brain as responsible for different domains of development (cognitive, physical, social, emotional, etc.) which are interconnected and they (should) develop simultaneously.
The conference was unanimous in advocating for a holistic approach to child development, an approach meeting the developmental (physical, cognitive, social, emotional etc), educational, health and nutritional needs of young children. Governments were called on to develop legal frameworks, policies, strategies and enforcement mechanisms to ensure the right of children to ECE from birth. UNESCO was tasked to work with national governments and partners to develop and implement a Holistic Child Development Index. EI emphasised the need to invest in teachers and cautioned against privatisation, a move which was promoted by some speakers at the conference. EI will continue to monitor developments and present its perspective on this and other ECE initiatives, including those undertaken by the ILO, UNICEF and OECD. For a copy of the framework visit: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001898/189882E.pdf
EI participated in the 11th meeting of the EFA GMR Advisory Board, held in Paris on 20-21 May. The board received and discussed an independent evaluation of the GMR. The evaluation affirmed the GMR as a solid and credible publication but revealed that the report was not widely known about or used in developing countries. The board also discussed future GMR themes and content. The 2011 report will focus on ‘Education and Conflict’ while the 2012 report will deal with the learning needs of young people and adults through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes. Once again, EI produced a brochure analysing the 2010 GMR and shared it with member organisations and other partners. The analysis clearly pointed out that, on current trends, the six EFA goals would not be met and called for immediate action and more investment in education and teachers.
Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2010
UNESCO Collective Consultation of NGOs on EFAThe UNESCO collective consultation of NGOs on EFA was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 21-24 March. The meeting evaluated the results of the EFA high level meeting and monitored the work done at global, regional and national levels by civil society organisations in official relations with UNESCO. EI reiterated the key role of teachers and their representative organisations. A declaration was adopted calling for reform of the entire EFA follow-up mechanisms including the CCNGOs.
In previous years EI and other actors appealed for a drastic reform of the FTI mechanism including the opportunity for more civil society organisations (CSO) involvement. Under the new chair, Carol Bellamy, some reforms were implemented. Consultations were undertaken and some important changes were decided by the board of directors including the move from the World Bank, the establishment of a new EFA fund and reform of the board of directors’ composition. The representation on the board is constituency based with each constituency grouping (donors, partner countries, multi-laterals, CSOs and private sector) was invited to nominate representatives. Three seats were allocated to the CSOs including one for teachers. EI was invited to nominate a member and an alternate for the board and a member for the financial advisory committee. EI has long argued the importance of being represented on this board and welcomed the reforms.
EFA Fast Track Initiative (FTI)
The International Task Force on Teachers for EFA was created following a decision of the eighth High Level Group (HLG) meeting on EFA, held in Oslo, Norway, from 16-18 December 2008. As a voluntary global alliance of EFA partners working together to address the ‘teacher gap’, the task force was mandated to enhance the global effort to fill the teacher gap to achieve EFA by 2015. The task force addressed three issues: the policy gap, the capacity gap, and the finance gap. EI, as one of the initiators and founder members of the Teacher Task Force, serves on its steering committee. The task force is jointly chaired by the European Commission and the Government of Indonesia and hosted by UNESCO at its headquarters in Paris.
EFA Task Force on Teachers
Since its formation, the task force engaged in research and advocacy activities designed to raise awareness about the importance of qualified teachers in achieving EFA. The task force organised two policy dialogue forums, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 23 February, and in Amman, Jordan, on 6-7 July. A major conference on teachers is planned for 2011 in Africa.
EI views the establishment of the task force as a positive step, but insists that the alliance should be more visible and take concrete steps to ensure every child is taught by a properly trained, qualified and motivated teacher.
G8 and G20
G8 Summit, 25-26 June; G20 Summit, 26-27 JuneIn June, Canada hosted the ‘twin summits’ of the G8 in Huntsville, Ontario, and the G20, in Toronto. EI participated on behalf of the Global Union Federations in the pre-summit consultation with the G8 and G20 host, the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Although the meeting was polite, the Prime Minister did not deviate from his emphasis on “exit strategies” to reduce fiscal deficits, nor his opposition to a financial transactions tax to finance the MDGs.
EI’s Canadian affiliate member, CTF, wrote a strongly-worded letter to Mr. Harper, to convey EI’s key messages, while EI’s American affiliates, the NEA and AFT, wrote a powerfully argued joint letter to the USA’s President Obama. On the day of consultation with Prime Minister Harper, the CTF president, Mary-Lou Donnelly, held a successful press conference at Parliament House in Ottawa, which was well-reported, especially over electronic media. As the union delegation waited to meet the prime minister, copies of the US President’s letter to other G20 leaders were received, urging them to continue co-ordinated stimulus measures to achieve sustainable recovery, and to avoid premature ’exit strategies’. Although Prime Minister Harper downplayed differences between himself and President Obama, this letter was widely reported in global media the next day, as an example of major difference among summit participants. Critics pointed out that the amount spent by the host government on ‘over the top’ security in Toronto, in excess of CAN$1 billion, would have gone a long way to closing the EFA finance gap! The outcomes of both G8 and G20 summits were inadequate in terms of advancing the Pittsburgh G20 agenda for recovery through jobs, and the L’Aquila G8 agenda for education.
G20 Summit, 11-12 NovemberThe G20 Summit held in Seoul, Korea on 11-12 November was marked by growing tensions between the world’s two biggest economies – the USA and China – and a failure to address fundamental issues required for sustainable growth and prosperity, including investment in education.
After two days of meeting, G20 leaders issued a declaration which papered over their differences on trade and currency imbalances. They attached a more detailed ‘Seoul Summit Document’, including ‘The Seoul Action Plan’ which made one reference to education and training and the promise ‘to undertake labour market and human resource development reforms, including better targeted benefits schemes to increase participation; education and training to increase employment in quality jobs, boost productivity and thereby enhance potential growth.’
The summit adopted the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth reflecting the transfer of the development agenda from the G8 to the G20. Placing the emphasis on low income countries (LICS) this document included an annex entitled ‘Multi-Year Action Plan on Development’, with two actions to: ‘Create internationally comparable skills indicators’, and to ’Enhance national employable skills strategies’.
EI participated in drafting the Global Unions’ submission to the G20. This was finalised by the TUAC Working Group on Economic Policy in Paris in late September.
The ITUC evaluated all three documents adopted in Seoul, and came to the conclusion that with regard to the role of education the Seoul Declaration falls far short of the G20 Toronto Declaration or the 2009, G8 communiqué from L’Aquila. One positive element was the inclusion of UNESCO to work on the two action points, alongside the ILO, OECD, World Bank and multilateral development banks. However, the policy prescriptions failed to recognise the role of education as an investment with importance beyond a narrow concept of skills for employability. The ITUC noted that the omission of education as a key factor in growth, prosperity and social justice does not measure up to trade union demands.
One of the most worrying parts of the G20 Seoul Declaration was its recommitment to the G20 Toronto decisions to cut fiscal deficits by 50 per cent by 2013, irrespective of the context of growth other than an ambiguous reference to national circumstances.
In a generally gloomy picture there were some glimmers of hope. The ITUC and TUAC convened a G20 labour summit on the eve of the political summit, and worked on a strategy to present the views of their many million members to the political leaders as they gathered in Seoul. Prior to the opening, a trade union delegation of ITUC and TUAC general secretaries, the presidents of FKTU and KCTU and RENGO of Japan, met with the summit host – South Korea’s President, Lee Myung-Bak.
Meanwhile, trade union leaders met with other G20 presidents and prime ministers as they arrived in Seoul. As a result of these efforts, the political leaders added a paragraph to an earlier draft stating that, ‘we recognise the importance of addressing the concerns of the most vulnerable. To this end, we are determined to put jobs at the heart of the recovery, to provide social protection, decent work and also to ensure accelerated growth in low income countries’. Another reference in their detailed summit declaration committed to ‘building constructive partnerships with trade unions’. They also reiterated their commitment to achieve the MDGs.
EI worked closely in Seoul with the Global Unions and GCE. The EI President, Susan Hopgood, held a press conference which was widely reported in the South Korean media. This followed meetings with EI affiliates KTU and KFTA, which dealt with the situation of trade union rights in Korea and education matters. Susan. Hopgood was joined by EI’s Asia and Pacific Regional Chair, Yuzuru Nakamura, who is a member of the EI Executive Board and President of JTU, Japan, as well as EI’s Chief Regional Co-ordinator for Asia and the Pacific, Aloysius Matthews, who also attended the labour summit.
A positive outcome of the Global Unions’ meeting with the South Korean President was a commitment by him to meet both Korean labour federations after the G20 in order to address outstanding trade union rights issues.
The strong union and EI presence in Seoul was critical to keeping the door open to further intervention on jobs, education, and achievement of the MDGs. Unfortunately, the unsatisfactory G20 outcome revealed the extent of challenges that confront EI and its member organisations. The influence of host governments at these summits was significant, and emphasised the need for Global Unions and EI, to consider how more effective strategies ought to be developed.
The next G20 Summit will be held in Cannes, France, on 3-4 November 2011. France will also host a G8 Summit during the year. EI will work closely with the ITUC, TUAC and GCE to press the case for education and for teachers, while working with members in both G20 and non-G20 countries.
Rather than wait until the eve of this summit to meet trade union leaders, French President Nicolas Sarkozy convened an early meeting in December, soon after taking up the G8 and G20 chair, in order to discuss priorities. EI participated on behalf of the Global Union Federations and put the case for education and training to be given higher priority, drawing attention to the grave risks for social cohesion, including across national borders, presented by massive growth in youth unemployment.
EI’s General Secretary followed up quickly, in writing, to President Sarkozy, with specific proposals which EI was ready to work on with education, labour and employment ministers. EI expressed support for French initiatives to mobilise resources for the MDGs through a tax on international financial transactions. At the end of the year, EI wrote to member organisations in G20 countries to urge them to follow up with each of their national leaders.