Education International
Education International

Teachers take centre stage in New York

published 26 September 2014 updated 1 October 2014

When the United Nations convenes its annual General Assembly, long-winded speeches and policy talk usually own the day, which wasn't the case when global education leaders and students were treated to a programme organised by Education International that combined practice and policy and saw teachers take the same stage as UN top officials.

Marking the culmination of Education International’s (EI) year-long Unite for Quality Education Campaign, the event in New York City, entitled “Delivering on the promise of quality education for all: too important to fail,” merged real stories from the field of real classroom teachers with the ideas and opinions of education’s prominent policy figures.

Heads of the class

Hailing from Belgium, Lebanon, Pakistan, India, Togo, Nigeria, and the U.S., EI’s guest teachers found themselves sharing the spotlight with the likes of Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning, and Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

Acting as education ambassadors, the teachers took questions from Patrick Roach, the Deputy General Secretary of UK’s teachers’ union NASUWT and EI Executive Board member, centred on quality education.

Although the teachers helped put the focus on challenges facing educators today, such as decreased funding, privatisation, and security to name but a few, it was their passion for teaching which struck those in attendance.

Participants were especially moved when Lebanese teacher Riad El Hawly revealed that after 35 years of teaching math, his monthly salary is only $1,000 USD.  His story, and others like it, helped put faces on the very issues EI is working to address as the UN looks to adopt a new round of development goals next year.

Jo Bourne, Chief of Education at UNICEF supported Mr. El Hawly's experience when she presented UNICEF's latest report, "Teachers for the Marginalized."

The diverse programme had a little of everything. In addition to speeches by Mr. Brown and Ms. Mohammed, as well as a special presentation to the UN Special Advisor, EI Deputy General Secretary David Edwards led a discussion of quality education with leaders in town for the UN talks.

Vibeke Jensen, UNESCO Representative to the UN, Camilla Croso, President of the Global Campaign for Education, Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, and Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, President of the National Education Association share views on quality education and took questions from the active audience.

Beyond 2015

In his closing remarks, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen made it clear the momentum of the campaign’s success needs to continue. “It is up to all of us to make sure that the gains we’ve won are retained and further strengthened in the process leading up to September 2015,” he said. “We, the educators of the world, are not yet finished building our alliances and demanding quality education for all.”