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Education unionists in Asia-Pacific put forward recommendations to advance SDG4 and professional teaching standards

At the Asia-Pacific regional consultative meeting of Education International affiliates, education union leaders adopted recommendations to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 and implement professional teaching standards.

Thirty education union leaders from 13 Education International (EI) member organisations participated in the Asia-Pacific regional consultative meeting “Where are we? Progress towards Education 2030 Agenda”, held from 28-29 September in Bangkok, Thailand.

Day 1: Sustainable Development Goal 4

The first day of the meeting was dedicated to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and aimed to produce recommendations to be included in the 5th Asia-Pacific Meeting on Education 2030 outcomes document.

Ms. Maki Hayashikaa, Chief of Section for Inclusive Quality Education at the UNESCO Bangkok Office, updated participants on the status and progress on the SDG4 Education 2030 implementation process. She shared the six policy recommendations submitted to the High-Level Political Forum held in New York, USA, in July 2019, calling on the governments to:

  • accelerate efforts to remove systemic and non-systemic barriers that hindered equity, inclusion and quality at all levels of education through ensuring participation of diverse stakeholders;
  • diversify learning pathways, both in formal and non-formal education, to eradicate illiteracy;
  • increase and ensure the supply of motivated, supported, qualified, adequately resourced and empowered teaching force;
  • increase investment, adhere to the international benchmarks of allocation at least 4-6 % of GDP and/or at least 15-20 % of total public expenditure to education and ensure an efficient and equitable resource allocation and accountability in expenditures;
  • strengthen monitoring of inclusion, equity and quality by ensuring mechanisms are in place and capacity is available;
  • and promote greater engagement of diverse stakeholders, including young people, civil society, academic, media and the private sector, in the achievement of SDG4 and maximising synergies among the SDGs.

She also presented the new campaign of the UNESCO Bangkok Office called #CommitToEducation SDG4. The campaign is based on eight main reasons to advocate for and raise awareness about SDG4 implementation, including the fact that with current trends, over 220 million children, adolescents and youth will still be out of school in 2030; and too many teachers lack the minimum required training.

Day 2: Professional teaching standards

The second day was dedicated to the development of a roadmap of implementation for the EI/UNESCO Global Framework of professional teaching standards adopted at EI’s 8th World Congress in Bangkok in July this year.

EI’s Dennis Sinyolo presented the Framework, which was developed jointly by EI and the UNESCO  International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030. The Framework’s main purpose is to inform and guide the development, review or renewal of national teaching standards. It consists of 12 key principles, such as: quality education is a universal right of all children, young people and adults, in the interests of individuals, communities and societies; all teachers should be trained at university or equivalent institutions and have the requisite knowledge, skills and competences to meet the diverse needs of students; and Governments and education authorities have an obligation to ensure that teachers receive the necessary support, training, professional development, opportunity to engage in and access research, including action research in order to enable all students to develop to their full potential.

Sinyolo also shared with participants possible uses of the professional teaching standards: inform the development/review of national teaching standards; improve teacher quality, teaching and learning; improve initial teacher education; improve continuous professional development for teachers; upgrade the qualifications of underqualified teachers; and promote teacher autonomy and empower teachers.

Recommendations on the implementation and monitoring the progress of SDG4

The two-day consultative meeting resulted in two sets of recommendations. The first set focused on implementing and monitoring the progress towards SDG4, and was sent as input for the Asia-Pacific Meeting on Education 2030 which took place from 1-4 October in Bangkok. Participants called for governments to:

  • Accelerate progress towards the implementation of SDG4 and related SDGs and targets by addressing the major obstacles that impede progress (education financing, teachers, equity and inclusion).
  • Ensure investment in public education by meeting the internationally agreed education financing benchmarks (at least 6 % of GDP and/or at least 20 % of the national budget).
  • Expand and ensure public provision of early childhood education for all.
  • Regulate the activities of private education providers to ensure quality, equity and inclusion, and decent working conditions for teachers.
  • Provide adequate and quality infrastructure, teaching and learning resources, particularly in rural, remote and other marginalised areas.

Recommendations on teachers

In their second set of recommendations on teachers, education union leaders stressed that governments should:

  • Ensure that quality and relevant professional development is provided to all teachers and leaders in early childhood education, primary, secondary and vocational education and training and higher education free of charge.
  • Ensure that professional teaching standards are developed by and with the full involvement of teachers and their unions.
  • Professionalise teaching, including through the upgrading of the qualifications and competences of all unqualified and underqualified teachers.
  • Engage with teacher organisations in genuine dialogue in the conceptualisation, implementation, monitoring and review of education and teacher policies.
  • Address teacher workload and well-being and ensure that teachers have adequate time for lesson preparation and critical reflection.
  • Ensure academic freedom and the professional autonomy of teachers.
  • Ensure teachers have decent salaries and working conditions agreed through genuine social dialogue (including collective bargaining) with education unions.
  • Ensure job security/security of tenure (permanent contracts) for all teachers and education support personnel.