From research to global action for quality public education

published 4 November 2022 updated 15 November 2022

Education International brought together over 100 leading researchers from education unions across the globe to explore how research can underpin union action for quality education.

The 17th meeting of the Education International Research Network took place on 26-27 October in Brussels, Belgium, for the first time in a hybrid format. Over two days of presentations, debates, and interactive breakout sessions, the status of teachers as well as education privatisation and education funding were at the core of the discussions this year.

Updates on past, new, and upcoming research commissioned by Education International, both at the global and the regional level, were shared with participants. These included research on teacher leadership and formative assessment and the impact of digital assessment on the teaching profession, climate change education, the privatisation and commercialisation of education, as well as education financing with a focus on teachers’ wage bill constraints.

Participants from Education International member organisations across the world also had the opportunity to share relevant research done at the national level and the strategies used to influence education policy, using research for advocacy and promoting union activism.

Interactive breakout sessions were organised on key issues including artificial intelligence, education technology, equity and privatisation, the status of teachers and a sectoral approach to research for education support personnel, amongst others.

Raising the status of the teaching profession

On the first day of the Research Network meeting, a presentation about the upcoming 2024 edition of the Global Report on the Status of Teachers delivered by John Bangs, special consultant to Education International, opened the discussion on how collective research can serve as a reference for education unions’ advocacy work to effect change. This triennial global report presents the voice of teachers and education workers across all levels of education, gathering data on multiple aspects impacting the profession, including working conditions, rights and standards, as well as teacher autonomy and leadership.

This was followed by an in-depth discussion on the status of teachers and the teaching profession. Sam Sellar from the University of Manchester (UK) presented the preliminary findings of a pilot study on teacher professional autonomy and digital assessment, done in partnership with teacher organisations in South Africa, Iceland, and British Columbia (Canada). Against the backdrop of changes introduced by the digitalisation of assessment, the research investigates teachers’ perspectives on the future of professional practices related to assessment.

An international research team from the University of Toronto in Canada launched the Teacher-led Learning Circles Project, developed by Education International and funded by the Jacobs Foundation. The project aims to develop teacher leadership and practice on the use of formative assessment to improve students’ learning. It looks into 7 target countries: Brazil, Columbia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malaysia, South Korea, and Switzerland. Carol Campbell and Danielle LaPointe-McEwan presented the findings of the first report of the project, which provides a review of relevant research, as well as teacher approaches to their leadership and practice of formative assessment.

Digitalisation and the future of work: an online course

Education International’s online capacity building platform, the Academy for Labour Movement Activists (ALMA) launched its first course on the digitalisation of education for members of the Research Network. Based on Education International’s research Teaching with Tech, by Christina Colclough, the course provides union activists with crucial skills to be able to protect and develop their own rights, autonomy, and freedoms as education becomes increasingly digitalised. The ALMA platform will soon be accessible to all Education International member organisations.

Advocating for public education financing to confront privatisation

On the second day, the spotlight was placed on education financing and the growing privatisation and commercialisation of education and how research has become an essential tool allowing education unions to build evidence-based messages against the pro-privatisation global hegemonic narrative.

Prachi Srivastava, from Western University in Canada, gave a presentation on the different levels of private sector engagement during the pandemic and the threat it poses to rebuilding education, showing how education disruptions exposed not only individual, but also institutional inequities. Srivastava emphasised the need to protect financial resources for education, a key pillar for resilience, and target them to the students that need them most.

Mauro Moschetti, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain, offered an overview of crosscutting privatisation trends through the case studies of Colombia and Paraguay. These include the naturalisation of public-private partnerships within the education sector, an expanding market of low-fee for profit schools, and the decisive role of multisector coalitions and networks in the promotion of privatisation in and of education in the Latin American region.

The perspective of teacher unions was given by Eric Angel Carbonu, president of Education International’s affiliate in Ghana, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT). Ghana is one of the target countries of Education International’s Global Response project and education unions have mobilised through the Campaign Against the Privatisation and Commercialisation of Education ( CAPCOE), a national coalition to confront, halt, and reverse privatisation trends in the country.

Carbonu shared his analysis about the growing privatisation in the country, particularly at the primary level. “Privatisation is not an event. It is a process. It comes in a very subtle flow”, he stated. Carbonu went on to explain that public funding for education was not going to the core areas, such as teacher salaries or infrastructure, identifying an investigation into where the money has been spent as a potential area of research moving forward .

Education International’s General Secretary, David Edwards closed the Research Network meeting emphasising the importance of forging international solidarity to confront the many challenges of these post-pandemic times:

“Education International’s Research Network continues to play a crucial role in sharing the experiences of teachers, education support personnel and their unions worldwide as we defend the right to education, quality terms of employment and trade union rights.”

The photo album of Education International's 17th Research Network meeting can be accessed here