Teachers up against education cuts, unemployment and low pay

COMMISSION 11: Rights of Teachers, Researchers & Other Education Personnel

The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) today said that, contrary to misconceptions that only teachers in economically-backward countries have to contend with issues of low salaries, meager benefits and underemployment, educators in more advanced economies also have to deal with the same.

The ILPS is set to tackle the rights of teachers, researchers and other educational personnel in its 4th International Assembly this July. According to U.P. Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, an active ILPS Philippines chapter member, recent international developments involving teachers and their rights are a close concern of the ILPS.

Against budget cuts and unemployment

“For the last few years, teachers in countries such as the United States and members of the European Union (EU) have been experiencing the impact of an ever-worsening economic crisis. Governments continue to slash allocations for social services including education, and with this, the salaries and benefits of teachers are affected,” said Taguiwalo.

“Many teachers are also unable to find employment,” she pointed out.

Taguiwalo said that, for instance, the enrollment numbers for faculties of education in Canadian universities do not reflect the amount of jobs actually available for graduates. Many Canadians with degrees in education are forced to find work abroad. Universities in Canada are training teachers to work in English-as-a-second-language (ESL) schools in Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

All over the world, the need for teachers is increasing, particularly in developing countries. Based on UNESCO projections, 99 countries will need at least 1.9 million more teachers by 2015. More than one-half of them are needed in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this, however, more and more teachers are facing unemployment in their countries.

A union of primary school teachers in Ireland has warned that the country will face a crisis in teacher employment in 2012 if cuts in school staffing are not reversed.

“It’s been reported that hundreds of newly qualified teachers in Ireland are without regular work. School opens in September and there are only 700 job openings in primary schools. The situation is bound to worsen unless there are immediate policy changes,” said Taguiwalo.

“Governments are also guilty of not making education a top priority in annual budgets, prompting teachers to stage protests. Teachers are forced to beg for higher appropriations, and this is shameful,” she said.

Earlier last April, hundreds of teachers in California and New York held protest actions demanding tax hike exemptions to make up for education budget cuts. The teachers said that higher levels of funding for public schools are necessary. In Michigan, teachers are up against budget cuts of $300 less provisions for every student. In Los Angeles, teachers unions are against privatization. In Wisconsin, Indianapolis and Washington State, teachers are defending their collective bargaining rights even as they demand higher state subsidies for public education.

“Teachers are battling budget cuts and privatization. They assert that both are detrimental to public education and to the quality of learning students are receiving. As state workers, teachers are also fighting for their union rights,” Taguiwalo said.

Massive protests

In April, teachers and other state workers held massive protests all over Eastern Germany. Demonstrators called for better working conditions and improved job contracts for new and trainee teachers.

German unions and employers failed to reach an agreement for some 600,000 workers across the nation. Temporary teachers are getting the short end of the stick as they receive less than their regular counterparts. In negotiations, unions call for salary increases of at least five percent and union wage for temporary teachers. Unions are also insisting on equal rights and pay not only between state employees and temporary teachers, but between eastern and western German teachers as well.

“In Europe, the fight for public school education is also a fight for workers rights. As allocations for public schools are slashed, state workers and their counterparts in the private sector are more hard up economically. Teachers demand that governments stop cutting provisions for education and increase allocations for schools including budgets for teacher salaries and benefits,” said Taguiwalo.

In England last March, half a million public sector workers demonstrated against education cuts. Teachers in various school districts held strikes to oppose unjust redundancies and cuts. In poorer England boroughs, many teachers and other public sector workers who serve the most vulnerable people (people with disabilities, asylum seekers and youth with problems) have been laid off. Teachers unions, in the meantime, are gearing for strikes against redundancies, the removal of pension rights and a pay freeze which will slash 12 percent of salaries and 20 percent from pensions of teachers.

Teachers in poorer countries

Taguiwalo said that teachers in less developed countries are also campaigning about the orientation of public education.

In Mexico, teachers unions are opposing the Alliance for Quality in Education (ACE) law, which would consolidate standardized testing and curriculum and make teachers’ jobs temporary. Teachers are focusing on educational and social issues. They are also calling for higher uniform allowances for students and computers in all elementary schools. They are also demanding that the Mexican government shoulder the costs of electricity used in schools as against the current set-up where they pay the utility bills.

“As there are comprehensive attacks against workers and their rights, there also barriers being placed between teachers and their own rights to decent salaries, benefits, tenure and academic freedom to conduct and develop research. The impact of these deprivations suffered by educators is passed on to students, and the access to quality education is being denied millions. In the meantime, because of the twisted fiscal priorities of governments all over the world, students are subjected to excessive tuition increases, inadequate and insufficient services that make education difficult or even impossible to access,” she said.

In the Philippines, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has labeled President Aquino’s core program known as Kto12 a “man-made disaster”. Universal Kindergarten is a national program initiated no less by Aquino as a centerpiece of his education program in “Daang Matuwid (righteous path)”.

ACT considers the program ill-conceived as it repeats the bureaucratic, anti-democratic and populist manner of implementing educational reforms. It has overstretched the already strained capacity and dilapidated Philippine educational system. Accepting pupils will demand more teachers, in turn, more teachers will require more classrooms, benefits, and re-training. The Department of Education (DepEd) admitted that the public school system is still short of 66,800 classrooms, 103, 612 teachers, 146,000 toilets and 2,573,212 school desks. It is the responsibility of the national government and DepEd to provide substantial funds and related resources to ensure its success.

The teachers are demanding to re-channel funds from debt servicing to education, allocate the presidential funds and income from government-owned gaming corporations, counter-insurgency funds among others to build more schools and hire more teachers with adequate pay.

ILPS support

The ILPS, Taguiwalo said, fully supports teachers and educators all over the world in the struggle for education rights and against state abandonment and commercialization of education

“Teachers in all countries are united in campaigning for higher subsidies and an end to the privatization and commercialization of education. The member-peoples’ organizations of the ILPS believe in campaigning and working for a society wherein quality education at all levels is available to everyone. What we want is the kind of education that serves the interests of the people, not those of transnational corporations. What we want is for teachers and educators to freely exercise their passion to educate the greatest number of students without fear or insecurity over their economic well-being,” she said.

In its upcoming assembly, workshops will be held on education and the rights of teachers, researchers and other academic personnel.

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