Monday 17 February 2014

Learning from Each Other

Every day, we face more stories of Michael Gove's plans to 'reform' our education system.  Whether it is testing from age four, 10-hour school days, pay deregulation or the creation of unaccountable new schools with no responsibility to hire qualified teachers, things are certainly not improving.

Gove describes himself as a radical reformer but to those in the classroom, both teachers and students, he is attacking everything that is fundamental to education, and replacing it with a system based on market-style economics and victorian social values.  Unsurprisingly, he has become a hate figure and, for many people, there is an unspoken belief that, once he is gone, all his evil works - from 'free' schools to pay deregulation - will vanish with him.

But the attack on education is not unique to this government, and it is not unique to this country.  The academies programme was created under New Labour, long before Michael Gove raised his much-disliked head.  Further afield, educationalists in the US are fighting Charter School takeovers while Swedish 'free' schools provided the example for Britain's disastrous experiment.  Teachers in Mexico are struggling against 'reforms' including privatisation, standardised testing and reactionary curriculum changes.  Teachers in Canada face battles over class composition and staffing levels, all imposed in the name of flexibility.  The list goes on.

Even the most cursory glance at changes in education policy worldwide show the disturbing pattern of a concerted campaign to 'reform' education along corporate lines - what Education International refers to as the Global Education Reform Movement, or GERM.

A global movement for corporate 'reform' needs a global response - rooted in national struggles and national conditions but sharing an internationalist outlook and able to both learn from experiences worldwide and provide practical solidarity.  This is a major responsibility of us as trade unionists and as educators, if we care about the future of our education system.

As reported previously on this blog, the NUT, in co-operation with the Teacher Solidarity Research Collaborative, is organising a conference under the title Global Education 'Reform': Building Resistance and Solidarity to address these issues.  It will take place on Saturday 24th May from 9.30am to 4.30pm and is open to all NUT members.  To book a place, click here.

The conference will bring together researchers and teacher union activists to discuss neoliberal education reform and the resistance to it mounted by teacher unions, parent and community groups, and others.  In particular, we want to explore strategies and tactics which have been successful in building resistance to privatisation, testing, removal of collective bargaining and other key elements of GERM.

We will look at where successful alliances have been built between educators and students/parents/communities and what role mobilisation of members and industrial action has played in developing resistance.

By learning the lessons from struggles to defend education across the world, we hope to improve our capacity to present and fight for an alternative vision of education.  At the same time, by developing links between activists in different countries, and between researchers and activists, we hope to strengthen the struggle which is needed to resist the global attack on education in the name of 'reform'.

The overall aims of the conference are:
  • To further develop the international work of the NUT to one based on the principle of solidarity and to build the role of the International Solidarity Officers.
  • To bring together critical academics from the global North and South to contribute to the theoretical understanding of global education reform and the possibilities of resistance.
  • To provide an opportunity for NUT activists to learn from experiences of resistance across the world and bring that knowledge to bear in transforming the work of the union.
There will be a number of workshop sessions, led by researchers and/or activists from Chicago, Ecuador, India, Ethiopia, British Colombia, Mexico, Turkey and Venezuela, through which participants will learn about the experience of resisting GERM and draw out lessons for their own experience.  These will be drawn together collectively through a final workshop session and plenary.

This discussion will be framed by contributions from David Edwards (Education International), Susan Robertson (University of Bristol) and Christine Blower (National Union of Teachers) at the beginning and end of the conference.

This is a hugely important development, both in terms of the NUT's international work and more broadly, and we hope that you will be able to participate.

To register for a place (FREE to all NUT members), please click here.

To download a flyer and registration form, please click here.

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