Teachers’ voice is heard at Global Education Industry Summit

Supported by a strong delegation, Education International joined more than a hundred representatives from government, industry and the OECD for the third Global Education Industry Summit in Luxembourg.

Representing unions, Education international and its affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Danish teacher unions, Germany’s GEW, and the OECD's Trade Union Advisory Committee were in Luxembourg for the Summit, which took place from 25-26 September. The companies represented were mostly start-ups and small to medium scale firms, such as LearnCapital. Big corporate players like Apple, Microsoft and Pearsons and ETS were notable by their absence during the two-day event.

Although there was much discussion about not being able to predict the technological future and criticisms that schools and educators had to be much more flexible, a number of encouraging features emerged.

The first was that the OECD's Andreas Schleicher, in placing great emphasis on innovation, argued that highly skilled qualified teachers had to be at the centre of innovation. He stated that teachers in control of innovation was a much greater incentive for improvement than performance related pay.

Rather than falling in with the discredited tech argument that schools were now out of date, institutions which could be supplanted by MOOCs, most Summit attendees agreed that the future of schools lay in them being essential components of their local communities.

The firms represented mostly argued that they needed dialogue on pedagogy and what teachers needed in terms of IT support. The Trade Union delegation made a number of interventions. Special Consultant John Bangs from EI reminded the Summit that it was only teachers that could determine what kind of IT support they needed and what they also needed was time and space to collaborate on sharing knowledge and expertise.

To highlight the necessity of teachers beyond the classroom, Rob Weil, EI's AFT representative, made a powerful speech highlighting the effects of the hurricanes on towns in the US  and how schools and teachers were at the centre of the reconstruction of their communities.

Despite some minority hostility to teacher unions the majority of the Summit was receptive to EI's arguments. However, the major absence of the big education industry and global tech companies places a question mark over the future of the GEIS. After all it is those companies that seek to dominate the public sector and seek to profit from public funding. The 2018 Summit will be hosted by Estonia with some suggesting that it may be the last.

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