Resolution on: Education for Democracy

published 18 September 2019 updated 19 September 2019

The Education International 8th World Congress, meeting in Bangkok from 21 to 26 July, 2019:

1) Noting that:

(i) Democracy consists of four key elements: a system for choosing and replacing leadership through free and fair elections; the active participation of constituents; protection of the rights of all; and rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally;

(ii) The struggle for democracy and free public education today often imposes a heavy burden on democratic education trade unions and their members and requires significant commitment and sacrifice; authoritarian forces are gaining ground and eroding the very foundations of free societies, even in ones in which there are deeply rooted democratic traditions;

(iii) Democracy is essential for working people and unions to secure their economic livelihoods and a decent standard of living, to have a voice and rights in the workplace, to elect government representatives who are committed to a fair economy and the interests of working people, and to freely advocate a progressive agenda on behalf of the many, and not just the wealthy few;

(iv) A vibrant and robust system of free, public education is an essential component of democracy and is crucial for its survival;

(v) The domination of market dogma, the influence of Global Capital, and the privileging of dominant classes, combined with government irresponsibility, have atomised society, placed the economic interests of multinational companies above fundamental human rights, strained communities, and exacerbated inequality;

(vi) Educators remain in the forefront of the fight for liberty, decency, equal rights, and progress; democratic values and institutions are threatened by strategies that generate fear, cynicism, and despair through lies and disinformation;

(vii) The values of democracy have inspired people across the globe for hundreds of years. Those values, and the principles enshrined in the international Bill of Human Rights, are sustained by those who join together in their defence;

(viii) Failure to live up to those universal principles and to respect those values by elected officials have, however, contributed to public apathy, cynicism, suspicion, and hostility;

(ix) Supporting democracy means insisting that elected officials respect human rights and democratic principles over the protection of the vested interests of the rich and powerful, and that they understand, value and respect, in practice, the social, political and economic foundations on which democracy rests;

(x) Democratic public policies, globally, regionally, and nationally, should seek to eliminate all forms of inequality and injustice, rather than exacerbate them, and should be inclusive;

(xi) Human rights are universal and the exercise of enabling rights that make it possible to achieve additional rights, defend individual or collective interests, and effect change are of critical importance to democracy, including freedom of association, freedom of expression, protection from discrimination, and the right to education.

2) Asserting that trade unions:

(i) are amongst the largest and most powerful democratic organisations globally, and are a vibrant force for social justice, the fair resolution of conflict, and for social cohesion and stability;

(ii) are ‘schools for democracy’ where members learn and practice democratic governance, which enables them to be major actors in the emergence and construction of democratic societies;

(iii) are under threat in many places, through limits being imposed on the rights of workers to associate, bargain and strike, which are signs that democracy itself is under threat;

(iv) are institutions of democracy and, together with the courts and the media, their independence must be protected by statute; if side-tracked from their trade union mission and mandated or controlled by outsiders, their democratic legitimacy is compromised;

3) Insisting that

(i) Free and universal public education makes a major contribution to equality in society and to garnering support for democratic values;

(ii) Inclusive education builds mutual understanding and tolerance, based on shared experiences of students regardless of country of origin, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics:

(iii) Education builds understanding of democratic values and develops the capacity for critical thinking to enable people to distinguish truth from opinion and truth from fiction in the avalanche of information available, particularly on the internet;

(iv) Education develops the knowledge, competencies and appetite necessary for active citizenship, so that people can influence their destinies and their societies;

(v) However, the vital democratic mission of education can only be accomplished if schools and early education facilities offer a well-rounded education with a broad curriculum focussing on knowledge, skills and personal development;

(vi) Strengthening democracy through education will not occur if students and teachers are treated as commodities to create profit for private companies;

(vii) Implementing a broad education requires the defence of the status of teachers, including through quality teacher training, professional and personal support, and professional autonomy.

4) Declares that EI’s ten guiding principles for action for democracy are:

(i) to defend fundamental human and trade union rights and resist oppression and dictatorship, and all kinds of discrimination everywhere. EI will continue to advocate for peace, human rights, fundamental freedoms, quality education, respect and inclusion[Human rights and peace];

(ii) to stand up for free quality public education for all, which contributes to individual and collective development and empowerment, social justice, inclusion and cohesion and promotes the aspirations of human rights[Quality education];

(iii) to insist that education plays a central role in enabling youth to understand, embrace and exercise human rights, and become active participants in their communities, and that human rights education can be a defense against the rise of violence, xenophobia, racism and all forms of discrimination, exclusion and intolerance[Empowering young people];

(iv) to fight against a utilitarian vision of education, setting the educational content based only on the needs of the job market, to advocate for reforms and support policies that ensure that curriculum and pedagogy enable everyone to acquire knowledge, skills, values, including democratic values, and life competencies such as the ability to decide and act responsibly, resolve conflicts in a nonviolent manner, develop harmonious relationships, think critically and defend others[Curriculum and pedagogy];

(v) to demand that teachers will be recognised as skilled professionals who have a responsibility to defend and uphold high standards of the profession, that education institutions are safe, respectful, inclusive and equitable and that teachers have professional autonomy and academic freedom, and the right to choose appropriate methods and materials for teaching and learning, thereby defining, by means of a democratic process, the quality criteria for their work[Work and Teaching profession];

(vi) to provide professional learning and development for union members, based on and promoting democratic and human rights principles in and through education, and raising awareness in the public about the values defended by trade unions[Professional development and training];

(vii) to hold Governments and education authorities accountable for their obligations under international, regional and national norms and agreements such as the Universal Human Rights Declaration, the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 and ILO conventions which guarantee human and trade union rights and the provision of quality free public education for all,[Government accountability];

(viii) to refuse to accept that public authorities can shield themselves from the responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to education, by contracting or privatising operations in order to avoid their democratic mandates and responsibilities especially for the provision of quality education;[Public good];

(ix) to stand in solidarity with all member organisations in their struggles, as democratic, ethical and independent institutions committed to upholding human rights and democratic values, through their constitutions, governance structures, policies, programmes and practices, including social dialogue and collective bargaining[Institutional structures and operations];

(x) to mobilise and co-operate at national and international levels to secure the right of all children and youth to quality, inclusive and equitable education, particularly children who are marginalised or vulnerable, including girls, refugees, migrants, children with disabilities, child labourers, indigenous groups, ethnic minorities or those with learning difficulties[Mobilisation and solidarity];

5) Mandates the EI Executive Board

(i) To prepare a report on the state of democracy in the world today, identifying the threats to democratic values and outlining the contribution which quality education for all can make to reinforcing democratic values in society, making use of international research that has already been done about democracy in the world;

(ii) To develop a consistent and coherent action plan to promote democratic values in member organisations, in education systems generally, and in society;

(iii) To support organisations and individuals that defend democratic values and principles.