DFID's Education Strategy Consultation
The TUC welcomes the opportunity to comment on the consultation paper. One over-riding concern of the TUC is the lack of emphasis in the paper on the enormous contribution the teaching profession can make to the development of education policy. The international organisation of people working in teaching, Education International www.ei-ie.org represents professionals in all education sectors. Its affiliated unions throughout the world need to be partners in the development of education policies at national level and DFID could promote such partnerships in its in-country programmes. For example, in India, teaching unions have been active campaigners in promoting free and compulsory education for 6 - 14 year olds, with 'The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill' passed in August 2009.
The TUC contribution to the consultation corresponds with the particular headings in the consultation paper on which we have a view.
There needs to be a holistic approach in countries emerging from conflict. Local civil society organisations need to be engaged in order to establish the priorities that will bring immediate benefits to communities. For example, finance for school rebuilding projects can provide valuable employment opportunities and help towards economic prosperity. In Liberia, teachers are partnering on a construction project in consultation and coordination with local communities on the construction of houses to attract teachers to rural areas. Emphasis is placed on local resources and expertise - wood for doors, bricks made from local soil and local labour.
Where there has been conflict between particular social groups, schools can provide safe havens to rebuild community relationships. Teachers can be given training to help them operate in the stressful environment where many children and their families will be traumatised. The provision of food in schools can provide substantial health benefits and boost attendance, as can the provision of immunisation and health services to pupils. Vocational education can be used to skill young people and boost their employment prospects in post-conflict reconstruction.
Teaching unions have done a great deal of work to identify the factors that stop boys and girls performing well - good role models in school, adequate toilet facilities and appropriate teaching materials are some examples. But trade unionists know that many children drop out of school for economic reasons. For this reason, the fight for a living wage is one that should be supported by development agencies such as DFID. The national minimum wages commonly paid to workers do not provide the discretionary income necessary to support school-age children, who may end up as workers themselves. Adequate social protection can help promote school attendance within child-headed households. Again, there are aspects of the 'decent work' agenda that interplay with the education agenda. It would also be important to address any gender pay gap that exists for women teachers.
The TUC has a particular concern about the relationship between the prevention of child labour and the provision of education. In particular, there re is a need to provide quality, universal and free education that is relevant and accessible to children of poor families to which the majority of child labourers belong. Quality education must not stop at primary level if young people are to be adequately prepared for the labour market and for decent work within it, rather than being confined to low-skilled, unprotected jobs in the informal economy.
ILO IPEC experience has shown that providing basic literacy and numeric skills through non-formal education does not guarantee that children will be permanently withdrawn from work, which is why mainstreaming these children into formal education systems is vital. Furthermore, investments in basic education normally only reach the more privileged social groups, whereas efforts should be spread more evenly, focusing more on children at risk. Social exclusion mechanisms are another strong factor that keep children out of school and push them into work.
A substantial increase in the availability of public education in rural areas at the pre-primary, primary and secondary levels will diminish the pressure and existing congestion in schools in the urban centres where poor families migrate in search of both jobs and educational opportunities for their children.
A shortage of qualified teachers in many countries has led to governments attempting to hire 'intern' teachers on temporary contracts or unqualified staff. In Kenya, the National Union of Teachers initiated legal action to block the hire of intern teachers, saying that this would create a sub-class of underpaid teachers and endanger the achievement of quality education. There is an urgent need for greater investment in pre- and in-service teacher training if the quality of education is to be maintained, for pupils to remain motivated to attend school and for parents to be motivated to educate their children.
It is the responsibility of government to provide access to quality public education for all children. Where there are multi-stakeholder partnerships, they should not be driven by commercial interests. Their prime purpose should be to support quality public education. We also believe that there is much more scope for promoting public-public partnerships, both between education systems across national borders, or between public education systems and other parts of the state in the same country (eg water and other utilities, health systems and so on).
For partnerships to work, there must be agreement between all partners on the outcome. Civil society organisations will not work successfully with the private sector if commercial interests are driving programmes. All civil society stakeholders need to be identified in mapping exercises so that they can contribute. In a local area around education, they might include women's groups, teachers, community organisations, parents' groups, local employers, unions, informal economy organisations. Many of these groups are not included in consultations in which they are stakeholders and so have no input or commitment to a successful outcome. It may be necessary to build the skills of civil society actors to that they can engage in the debate about quality education and hold their leaders to account.
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