Professional Ethics

Professional Ethics


The debate about the ethics of education that took place in the United States in the early 20th century has gained renewed interest worldwide in the past two decades. The current debate targets the two roles that morality plays in education: the moral behavior of teachers and the morality children learn in school.

In 2001, Education International officially entered this debate when the Declaration on Professional Ethics (DPE) was adopted by EI’s 3rd World Congress. The document was further updated at the 4th World Congress in 2004.

The DPE is mainly intended as a blueprint of EI affiliates’ own guidelines. It is complementary to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) and draws on the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948).

Its objectives are:

  • To raise awareness about the norms and ethics of the teaching profession.

  • To help increase job satisfaction in education, to enhance status and self-esteem, and

  • To increase respect for the profession in communities.


The EI Declaration on Professional Ethics represents the core values of the teaching profession itself. As a document drafted by the teaching profession worldwide, the Declaration recognizes the great diversity of the profession among all nations and cultures. Its aim is not to impose a set of fundamental rules but rather provide a basis for EI affiliates to develop their own guidelines or professional codes of ethics. At the same time, the Declaration also puts forward fundamental values that the worldwide teaching community recognizes as core components of its professional ethics.

Adopting and maintaining codes of ethics by teacher unions plays a similar role as codes in other professions. It is an aspect of maintaining professional status. As stated in the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers (1966),

Codes of ethics or of conduct should be established by the teachers’ organizations, since such codes greatly contribute to ensuring the prestige of the profession and the exercise of professional duties in accordance with agreed principles.”

The 4th World Congress also passed a resolution to have the Declaration translated to as many languages as possible. Currently it is available in the 4 official languages of EI as well as Arabic, Russian, Chinese and Portuguese.

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