Hopgood declares for education at UN

A historic moment ... AEU Federal Secretary Susan Hopgood addresses the United Nations

Education International was present at the UNESCO headquarters for the World Teachers’ Day celebrations and reiterated the need to see teachers respected and empowered if the global sustainable goal about education is to be achieved by 2030.

Speaking on behalf of world unions at the United Nations, Australian Education Union Federal Secretary and Educational International President Susan Hopgood applauded the inclusion of quality school education as one of the UN’s key goals.

She warned, however, that the 17-point program of Sustainable Development Goals adopted last month by UN member-states could come undone if funding, progressive policies and accountability for the implementation of the goals were not put in place. The goals will cost trillions of dollars over the next 15 years.

“Ambitious. Comprehensive. Unprecedented. Just a few of the words we have heard describing the Sustainable Development Goals,” Ms Hopgood told the General Assembly on September 25.

“For example, for the very first time the world is on record calling for free quality primary and secondary education for all, with qualified teachers in a safe environment.

“But now comes an even more difficult period — reaching these goals.”

Ms Hopgood called for “deeds, not words”.

“It is obvious to us that the current Means of Implementation falls short. Commitments are not real unless they are binding; public interest isn’t protected if the private sector has unconditional access to public resources.”

Trade unions are committed to play their part, the AEU Federal Secretary said, adding, “I am proud to be representing the world’s trade union movement at this defining moment.”

In a paper submitted to the AEU on October 14, Ms Hopgood said the UN’s adoption of the goals was a “victory” for education unions as education is a standalone goal and is also an explicit priority under several other goals. “Not long ago an education goal was far from guaranteed but sustained pressure and hard work paid off,” she stated.

The UN goals agenda aims to “ensure” that in 15 years, globally, all girls and boys have access to quality pre-school, primary and secondary education, equal access for males and females to tertiary education, substantially increase the number of vocationally-trained youth, remove barriers to learning for children with disabilities and ensure that learning includes sustainable development skills.

A target of the Sustainable Development Goal on education is a substantial increase in the supply of qualified teachers. On October 5, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said that 5.2 million new teachers had to be hired worldwide simply to meet a prior UN goals program ending this year.

“Far too often, teachers remain under-qualified and poorly paid, with low status, and excluded from education policy matters and decisions that concern and affect them,” the heads of four major UN agencies and Education International (EI) said in a joint message for World Teachers’ Day.