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8th Education International World Congress

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UEA President Heidi Matthews and Utah NEA Directors Mike Harman and Mindy Layton were selected to represent the NEA at the 8th Education International (EI) World Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, July 19-26, 2019. Here they share their experiences...

Solidarity is Our Strength

Post by Mindy Layton – July 29, 2019

As our Education International (EI) experiences come to a close, I am most impressed with thoughts about how education unites the globe. Solidarity in education is our strength – solidarity in Utah, nationally and globally. For many of the 283 national affiliates represented at EI 151 nations and territories, the global congress is the only opportunity to leverage the resolutions politically with national and local associations. 

We cannot be silent about the socially constructed media manipulations in the US and Philippines that impacts our education system. We cannot be silent about the global crisis of school-aged students currently denied education due to child labor, poverty and infrastructure of schools. We cannot be silent to the education of political refugees seeking a quality education around the globe.

I teared up hearing first-hand accounts from Norway and Sweden about the education of political refugee children seeking a better life, which in many ways mirrors that in the US. It was powerful to stand with the National Education Association (3 million members) and the American Federation of Teachers (1.4 million members) and speak to the global atrocities school-aged children are experiencing on our southern boarders. This echoed global accounts of students in Norway who are being deported from school and how the Swedish systems are not prepared to handle the influx of refugees since 2015.

The current realities of school-aged children around the globe was solidifying on our global importance. We unanimously passed an urgent resolution. The entire process reminded me of the privileges we hold in solidarity in Utah to participate in our statewide UEA House of Delegates and our NEA Representative Assembly to conduct official business. Our global support can provide credibility in order to continue to improve the strategic development goal and prospect that EVERY child has access to a quality education.

What I take out of this experience is that we need more opportunities locally, nationally and globally to share the everyday realities with each other. In four years (2023) this World Congress will convene again in the South American region. I would love to see more Utah teacher, aspiring educators and retirees participate as delegates, observers or guests in the NEA Delegation to this eye-opening opportunity. I would love to see Utah bring more attendees to Education International as members, leaders and future leaders. Together we can witness, develop relationships and raise our voices on a global stage.

Worldwide Fight to Provide ‘Education for All’

Post by Heidi Matthews – July 28, 2019

The speakers who have visited us at each day at the World Congress range from a Nobel Prize winner, to UNESCO, United Nations and Global Labor leaders. It is humbling and inspiring to be in the space with these courageous men and women. This morning we heard from France Castro, a Swensson (Labor Rights) winner from the Philippines who was required to post bail in order to join us in Bangkok.

Castro shared with us the plight of indigenous people in her country, swindled by the government to sell hectares of land for the price equivalent to a can of sardines. Despite the oppression, more than 100 schools were established. She shared a beautiful video capturing the impact of the schools on the communities, the joy of learning and the preservation of culture. Images of laughing children dancing in graduation caps proudly holding certificates of their achievements filled the screen and our hearts.

Castro then explained the circumstances of her arrest. Along with eight other teachers and four pastors, she sought to free approximately 20 children from forced child labor, practical slavery. As she shared the experience, she transported us to moments of horror for these children and absolute relief with their release. Then came the arrest for kidnapping, child trafficking and endangerment, which resulting in these heroes being imprisoned for three days – a punishment reserved only for the teachers and pastors. With much legal help, Castro and others were released, but still face the incredible charge of child abuse. It is incredible and frightening.

Her parting remarks referred back to the beautiful video showing the schools in the indigenous villages in Southern Philippines – schools that have been shut down by the military. Education is indeed power and I am learning from Education International that this governmental oppression is far more common than I had known. I have no words to describe the impact of hearing the actual voice of Franz Castro detail the actual experience of what she risked to free children.

The organization of Education International is so revered for its collective influence that Franz Castro posted bail to address us. I am very proud that our NEA is a such a driver for the causes of Education International – and our role in protecting children and fighting for education for all.

Thoughts on Professional Autonomy

Post by Mindy Layton  July 25, 2019

Through discussions, I am reminded of the privileges we experience living, working and educating students in the US and in Utah. Our UEA affiliate membership within the NEA-USA is respected around the globe. Our professional organization has educators at the table in decisions about our profession. However this is not the case globally. As I sat through a round table about educators professional autonomy, we discussed ways to protect our profession. I was struck by the commonalities ALL educators share from around the globe. Educators from Sweden and The Netherlands spoke about the teacher shortage and de-professionalization, which highlighted that educators are leaving the profession due to high work demands and little support. An educator from Guiana explained that amid high rates of illiteracy, educators pedagogy is being attacked.

All educators have opportunities to raise our voices in our area of influence. Global educators reminded me to “think global and act local.” We exchanged ideas and ways to engage within our association. Almost every idea we talked about is being done with NEA and UEA to engage and share our educational stories with policymakers. Some of these include: 1) write and meet representatives and legislators, board members; 2) build trust in order to raise issues with the policymakers, 3) join forces with parents to include students and families in decisions, 4) agitate and act in every corner of our professional contexts to ensure access for every child’s quality education.

Our educational system CAN never exceed the quality of it’s educators. A Ugandan educator spoke out about how “all professions borrow a leaf from the educational profession.” Our international solidarity is our greatest strength for the advancement of our profession and for a quality education for ALL students.

All Educators Want to Provide the Best for Their Students

Post by Mike Harman – July 24, 2019

Happy Pioneer Day! Today is the day that we, as Utah residents, commemorate and celebrate the arrival of the pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. As I participate in the World Congress of Educational International while family and friends celebrate back in Utah, I cannot help but think about the increasing diversity of our state and our schools. These modern-day pioneers are contributing to enhanced learning opportunities for all students, which is a common goal among educators for all school age students around the world.

Although circumstances are certainly different from school to school, community to community, all educators want to provide the best possible educational opportunities for their students. Through conversations with educators from around the globe, I am struck by the commonality of our struggles and the similarities of our goals. Education can be the defining factor for a student’s future, let’s work to ensure it is a bright future!

Courageous People Inspire Me

Post by Heidi Matthews – July 22, 2019

An inspired Opening Ceremony for the 8th World Congress of Education International featured remarks by President Susan Hopgood. If you have attended the NEA Representative Assembly, you will remember our Utah delegation hosted Susan and General Secretary David Edwards as our International guests. Thai student dancers in beautiful traditional garb beckoned us to join them in celebration on the most international dance floor I have ever seen. Traditional Thai specialties and oh my goodness, the fruit (!) made for a magical kickoff to the World Congress. 

The crack of 7 a.m. came early as our delegation chair Lily Eskelsen Garcia briefed us on the unique standing rules of the World Congress. As an affiliate delegation, we vote as a block and not as individuals, which is quite different than being on the floor of the NEA RA or our UEA House of Delegates. Lily joked that her appointment as the chair of Resolutions was payback for some misdeed in her life, but it really helped to have her and the NEA EI Resolutions Committee’s insights.

I sit now in a room with over 1000 people, with Walkman type headphones set to English channel 1 as the amendments to the Resolutions are discussed. There is no direct debate, with makers determining if something is “friendly enough” to be included or not. Passionate speakers share stories of jailed union leaders, devastating impacts of privatization of public schools, and gender parity – so far in at least a dozen languages. It is an odd experience to see and hear the speaker in French, Arabic, Spanish, Swahili, etc., especially when the translator coming through the headphones is of a different gender and has a British accent. 

EI General Secretary David Edwards spoke of the power of ‘we’ and shared examples of courageous educators and union leaders acting across the globe for students and our profession and the incredible attacks we face. Our issues throughout the globe are so similar. Themes of demoralization of educators, de-professionalism and privatization, excess testing and lack of equity and opportunity for our students and educators abound from all parts of the world. The significant difference is that as educators in the USA, we can wear red T-shirts, carry signs and speak passionately – and not risk missing a paycheck, being imprisoned or living in fear. Courageous people in this room inspire me and demand perspective that I have not experienced.

On another note, Thai foot massage is very inexpensive ($250 Thai Baht per hour, approximately $8 US Dollars) and is over-the-top heaven. Eating has been a culinary adventure with coconut ice cream, thick rice noodles and alien type fuzzy fruit. The adventure continues!

Humbled to Represent the NEA and USA in Global Education and Labor Activism

Post by Mindy Layton – July 18, 2019

Being selected as one of the 50 voting delegates to Education International (EI) has had me thinking about the great responsibility this opportunity is to advancing our profession and ensuring free, quality education for all. In preparation for flying to Bangkok, I reflected on how I first got excited for the World Congress. Last summer, I agreed at the 2018 NEA Representative Assembly to host the NEA international guests from EI.

Prior to hosting EI guests I was unaware of the footprint the NEA-USA has in the global education of 30 million educators worldwide. I have since learned of the enormity and impact NEA-USA has is in promoting democracy and human and trade union rights.

As your NEA State Director and an educator, I am humbled that I can represent the NEA-USA in global education and labor activism. I am filled with anticipation to meet global union leaders and I am full of excitement and anticipation for the journey to our World Congress. I was told that EI was "just something I have to experience."

Attending the World Congress is an experience of a lifetime to share insights from Utah educators and listen to rich experiences from global leaders and educators from around the globe. Now I am here and am excited to share my impressions, reflections and global stories that unite educators from around the globe. As an association leader and mother of a small child, I have been anticipating this journey for the past year and I am incredibly grateful to my husband, brother and community who are supporting me with my young daughter in order to serve in this capacity.

Understanding Worldwide Education Needs

Post by Mike Harman - July 17, 2019

I am honored and humbled to be a delegate to the 8th Education International World Congress, representing NEA members from across the country. As I review the agenda and materials, I am continually struck with a sense of urgency and obligation to provide the best learning experience for students as possible, and to help them realize their potential and embrace their opportunities. Although there are certainly issues that need to be addressed locally, at the state level and nationally, there are an estimated 57 million primary-age children that are not attending school throughout the world. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that.

I look forward to conversations with my international colleagues about educational challenges faced by students and faculty members around the world and offering ideas and learning new perspectives to overcome those obstacles. I appreciate this opportunity and look forward to sharing my experience.

Representing You at Education International in Bangkok, Thailand

Post by Heidi Matthews - July 17, 2019

When the email came last January informing me that I had been selected to represent NEA members as a delegate to the 8th Education International (EI) World Congress, I could hardly breathe with excitement. Now that it is actually here – and I am on route to Bangkok, I feel an even deeper sense of the enormity of this opportunity. It’s pretty humbling. And, I have to say my emotions are right on the surface – even more than normal! Representing educators at EI’s highest governing body (think UEA House of Delegates on steroids) is an incredible honor and responsibility. Educators from more than 150 countries convene their global influence to take the lead in advancing our profession, promoting democracy, human and trade union rights and ensuring free quality education for all.

In preparation for this experience, we have been introduced to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 4: Quality Education. I’ve learned that 750 million adults in our world are not literate (two-thirds women) and that the privatization/for-profit siphoning of public school dollars is not just an issue in the United States or Utah. I look forward to connecting with people from all over the world who do what we do for our students and our profession. It’s going to be awesome in the purest sense of the word.

Mike, Mindy and I decided that we just couldn’t wait to bring this experience home to our UEA, so we will be sharing frequent updates, reflections and pictures. Join us!

About the 8th Education International World Congress

UEA President Heidi Matthews and Utah NEA Directors Mike Harman and Mindy Layton were selected to represent the NEA at the 8th Education International (EI) World Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, July 19-26, 2019.

Education International is a Global Union Federation that represents organizations of teachers and other education employees. It is the world’s largest, most representative global, sectoral organization of unions with more than 32 million trade union members in about 400 organizations in 170 countries and territories.

Education International is governed by the World Congress. Every four years, it brings together delegates from all EI member organizations to determine the policies, principles of action, program and budget and to elect officers. The World Congress is composed of delegates nominated by and representing its member organizations. More about Education International.