02 August 2019 – To mark the very first International Education Day (in 2019) where UNESCO called on governments and all partners to make universal quality education a leading priority, UNESCO Director General , Audrey Azoulay aptly remarked that “This day is the occasion to reaffirm fundamental principles. Firstly, education is a human right, a public good, and a public responsibility. Secondly, education is the most powerful force in our hands to ensure significant improvements in health, to stimulate economic growth, to unlock the potential and innovation we need to build more resilient and sustainable societies. Lastly, we urgently need to call for collective action for education at the global level”
Yet, an overwhelming majority of national governments, intergovernmental organisations, and leading international development non-governmental organisations among other key stakeholders appear yet to reflect the excellent adoption of policies and practices that approximate heeding the clarion call on their education governance landscape.
To this end, at the recently concluded conference of the largest global union federation of education workers’ labour unions, Education international, “affiliate educators’ unions in Australia and the European Union issued a statement calling for the Australian government and the European Commission to be more transparent in ongoing negotiations on the potential free trade agreement and to explicitly carve out education from the negotiations” Education International and its member organisations in Australia and Europe have indicated that they have not – as stakeholders – been actively involved or consulted in the rounds of international trade negotiations between Australia and the European Union (EU). This has also been the experience of Asia-Pacific and Africa labour unions as captured in their recent press releases on international free trade agreement entered into by governments in their regions.
It is difficult to think of how quality education can be accessed by all – the Susutainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education by 2030, especially by the far larger fraction of the educationally unserved population in the socioeconomic rank and file of the poor in society globally if trade and economic policies adopted by governments and intergovernmental organisations at the national and international levels do not reflect a fair trade social policy component that makes this goal achievable. At present, for the most part, such trade and economic policies largely appear to treat education as a commercial objective and not a primarily social objective.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of the apex and/or leading global economic and social development oriented governmental and non-governmental organisations as development partners appear to belong to this category of key stakeholders that need to have a fitting policy change. In this direction, Education International – in solidarity with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on its position on the report – issued a press statement on the World Bank Development Report 2019 stating that once again, the recommended “cure” is worse than the disease. It unequivocally re-inforced the correctness of the ITUC’s response to the report that the report highlights major areas where it fails to address the real problems and, instead, repeats discredited guidance for deregulation and destructive social policies (to be adopted by national governments).
Like UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay succinctly remarked, and EI and ITUC supports, without an adherence to the fundamental principles of treating education as a public good and a fundamental human right by the key stakeholders at the global level – governments, relevant apex intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations/partners, existing evidence shows that access to quality education for all will remain a mirage.
Today, the 262 million children and youth who still do not attend school; the 617 million children and adolescents who cannot read and do basic math; the less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa who complete secondary school and some four million and children and youth refugees out of school, all having their right to education violated will make the cycle of poverty and all the social maladies it causes continue to remain a societal burden if the needful is not done to shape the education governance landscape appropriately by especially the key stakeholders in the direction of true inclusive and sustainable development for all humanity.
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