In 1994 UNESCO created World Teachers’ Day, scheduled annually for every 5th of October, to commemorate the “vital contribution that teachers and teachers’ organisations make to education and development”. This year’s theme is “take a stand for teachers”. Opposition to independent education organisations and to workers’ rights for teachers and educational staff has always existed; and in some established democracies, teachers are still being denied their rights to organise and bargain collectively.
In times of financial duress, education funding has to compete with other budgetary allocations, such as defence spending. Cuts in educational funding lead to issues such as: increased class sizes, increased tuition or school fees for parents and students, teacher and educational staff dismissals, a lack of proper educational supplies, services and infrastructures, curtailments of curricula, etc. Education unions often come under pressure for their efforts in trying to defend their students’ and members’ interests. This World Teachers Day aims to remind all observers that educational unions are absolutely essential to a quality education system; they promote strength through solidarity.
“On this World Teachers’ Day, we must take a stand for teachers”, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen underlined. “Now more than ever we need the communities we serve to be with us – the future of our profession, our schools and our students depend on it”.
Van Leeuwen regrets the fact that “the current debate surrounding the teaching profession has been narrowed down to ‘neat’ measurable outcomes that are limited to what is testable via a series of multiple choice items; and furthermore that teachers are then being held accountable for those results”. He stated that, “Teachers join the profession to make a difference in students’ lives and to build better learning communities; it is unfortunate that many are now leaving the profession due to de-professionalization, unfair evaluations and merit pay”.
He went on to say that, “The 2015 deadline for reaching the Education For All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is fast approaching and we still have 60 million children who are being deprived of a quality primary education; and there are at least three times that number who are being denied further access to a quality secondary education. Also, an additional 2 million new teachers are still needed to meet the EFA goals and the MDGs by 2015”.
ILO Director-General, Guy Rider, has tirelessly promoted decent working conditions and better core labour standards for teachers throughout his career.
On the eve of this World Teachers Day, Ryder stated that, “The teaching profession is under siege…Urgent action is needed to improve the status of teachers and to come up with policies that motivate people to become teachers”. He also went on to denounce the recruitment of “un-certified or poorly-qualified teachers to fill the gap”. Ryder called for “high initial and on-going training standards, to ensure that teachers were adequately prepared for their demanding profession…People don’t see teaching as an attractive profession, and some teachers actually leave the profession”.
Guy Ryder defines the importance of education as, “one of the most important gifts that we can bestow on the next generation. Education is one of the main pillars of sustainable economic growth and social development…Today on World Teachers Day we honour the women and men who deliver education to learners around the world, whether it’s for toddlers in preschool or for adults in vocational training, teachers and trainers are responsible for providing the knowledge, skills and values that build strong, stable communities.”
Guy Ryder’s full video statement about the upcoming World Teachers Day can be found here.
Fred van Leeuwen’s full video interview conducted by RadioLabour pertaining to this year's World Teachers Day can be found here.
For the occasion of World Teachers’ Day on 5 October, EI, the world’s largest global union federation, will continue to stress the importance of quality teachers and educational staff. EI will also highlight the fact that more attention needs to be paid to teachers’ organisations, as they are an essential part of any effective education system. Education trade unions are not only essential for shaping the teaching profession by attracting and retaining the most committed individuals to be teachers, but they are also a fundamental means of teacher advocacy.
Further information can be found in the joint report between EI and the Global Campaign for Education (GCE).
For the commemoration of this year's World Teachers Day, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics has created an eAtlas of Teachers that, "lets you visualize the gaps in the supply and demand for teachers at national and global levels. Through maps, charts and ranking tables, you can explore the data to answer key questions such as: precisely how many new teachers are needed to respond to the rising demand for primary education? How do working conditions for teachers compare across countries and regions? And to what extent are women represented in the teaching workforce? The eAtlas will be updated on an annual basis to celebrate World Teachers' Day on 5 October".
Videos, posters and e-cards can be found on the World Teachers Day website: send a message to your teacher and take a stand for World Teachers Day.