Study opens new pathways for the future of education unions

published 19 June 2017 updated 14 June 2021

A new report by Education International looks at the empowerment and development of the teaching profession through best-practice examples of union renewal, organisation and growth.

The challenges faced collectively by the teaching profession and how educators can tackle them most effectively are the issues at the core of a new study by Education International that was presented today at the meeting of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC). “Organising teaching: Developing the power of the profession” by academics Howard Stevenson and Nina Bascia focuses on the experience of several teacher unions as they respond to these challenges in a range of national contexts: Chile, Kenya, New Zealand, Poland, Scotland, Turkey and the United States of America.

The study focuses on the severe effects of the global educational reform movement in education (GERM) on the teaching profession, which can take the form of standardised curricula, high stakes testing, system fragmentation, and the creation of a market in education. According to the authors, these deep changes in the contexts in which teaching occurs put teachers unions in a unique and crucial role to defend the working conditions and the professional status of their members.

In this light, and although the authors acknowledge that there is “no silver bullet because there are no easy answers to challenging questions,” the study shows the importance of union renewal and trade unions’ “growth from within”. Howardson and Bascia underline that relying on the collective strength of grassroots members through an increase in membership and member involvement, and the development of skills and identity have become vital for education unions to face these new challenges while creating sustainable organisations.

The study suggests strategic pathways for teachers’ organisations such as building at the base, connecting the industrial and the professional, organising around ideas, building democratic engagement and connecting the profession both horizontally and vertically, while working in and beyond the union. “It is for the members of each union to assess what will work for them, where and when,” they conclude.

You can access the whole study by clicking here.