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UNESCO member states should put quality education and education professionals first

EI has called on governments attending the 39th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO to put quality public education and educators high on their policy agenda.

Speaking at the High Level Ministerial Panel Discussion on accountability in education, EI Senior Coordinator, Dennis Sinyolo, insisted that accountability of education systems starts with governments, which are the guarantors of the right to free quality education for all. Sinyolo argued that governments should guarantee the right to education at all levels in their national constitutions and related legislation.

He went on to urge governments to provide adequate investment in education and teachers, “ensuring that all children, young people and adults are taught by highly trained, qualified, well-supported, well-remunerated and motivated teachers, and that they learn in safe, healthy and well-resourced schools, education institutions and classrooms”.

Sinyolo called on governments to ensure institutionalized, genuine and effective social and policy dialogue with teachers, education support personnel and their unions.

Sinyolo challenged competition and test based accountability systems, arguing that they are detrimental to the provision of inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

“Good education systems are not driven by assessment, but by the desire to give every child and student the opportunity to realise their fullest potential.

“Good systems empower teachers by promoting professional autonomy, academic freedom and collegial responsibility”, he concluded.

Governments must take concrete measures to implement SDG 4

Intervening in a debate on how to move sustainable development goal 4 on quality education forward, former EI Board member and General Secretary of National Tertiary Education Union (Australia), Grahame McCullock, reiterated the critical role of education to individuals and society.

“Education develops informed citizens committed to social and democratic values, and these are essential ingredients for nation building, social cohesion and peace”, argued McCullock.

McCullock went on to urge governments and donors to meet their education financing commitments. “EI urges member states to make the necessary public investments, and we call on rich countries to honour and increase their aid commitments”, he stressed.

McCullock reminded governments that the success of SDG 4 depends on the supply and knowledge of qualified education professionals in all sectors, and went on to urged governments to work with the unions. “Education unions are part of the solution, not part of the problem”, he asserted.

EI Chief Regional Coordinator for Africa, Assibi Napoe, reminded governments to address ongoing challenges related to exclusion and discrimination in education. Napoe called on governments to ensure the right to quality education for girls and women, ethnic minorities, indigenous groups, migrants, refugees, the disabled and other vulnerable groups.

Soralla Bañuelos de la Torre, a representative of SNTE (Mexico), urged governments to promote peace, human rights and fundamental freedoms through education, arguing that “public education is the best tool in the fight against poverty and exclusion”.

De la Torre also called on  governments to implement the 1974 UNESCO Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Cooperation and Peace, and Education related to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

This can only happen if educators are trained and empowered to support young people develop the values of peace and non-violence, social justice, democracy, respect and dignity for all, she insisted.

Cross-border recognition of qualifications in higher education essential

The EI delegation noted UNESCO’s plan to come up with a global convention on the recognition of higher education qualifications, but argued that such an important instrument should be developed in close collaboration with the teaching profession.

In contributing to the General Conference debate on this issue, Yamile Socolovsky, a representative of EI affiliate, CONADU (Argentina), warned governments against privatisation and commodification of higher education. She argued that, rather than reproduce inequalities, international mobility should occur within the framework of a policy of strengthening national and regional academic and professional capacities.

Socolovskyurged governments to establish appropriate mechanisms for ensuring the recognition of studies and qualifications of migrants, refugees and displaced persons.

Socolovsky went on to encourage UNESCO and governments democratize the development of such important instruments, asserting: “we demand the participation of higher education and research unions in all instances of design and implementation of these agreements…”.

In addition to adopting its work programme for the next two years, the 39th General Conference of UNESCO will also elect a new Director General, to replace Irina Bokova, who has completed her term of office.

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