On 27-28 November 2018, ETUCE, the European Trade Union Committee for Education, is going to open the doors of its Special Conference, kicking off important discussions among 300 representatives from 132 education trade unions across 51 European countries to discuss the role of education trade unions in shaping the future of Europe.

The future of Education and the future of Europe are strictly inter-connected” said Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director, announcing the forthcoming Special Conference. “Education trade unions are amplifying their call to ensure that European policy initiatives targeting education, fair and sustainable employment and social policies are in line with and respect the view of teachers and other education personnel at all levels of education.”

When proclaiming the European Pillar of Social Rights, in November 2017, the EU leaders discussed for the first time the future of education in the context of the future of Europe, underlying that education has a key role in “ensuring resilient economy, social cohesion, active citizenship and identity”. Reflecting the leaders’ commitment, the first principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights says “Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market”. The question of the future will be shaped around how the first principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights can be implement in every country in Europe.

Empowering education trade unions to shape the future of Europe”, Ms Flocken continued, “the Special Conference sets forth actions and strategies for trade union renewal in light of a raising number of societal and professional challenges.”

Qualified and rewarded teachers are at the hearth of quality education. However, European countries are confronting numerous challenges, with for example an ageing teaching population, recruitment and retention, professional training and remuneration. Additionally, during the last decade, the dominance of economic concerns has sometimes overshadowed broad education policy objectives when applied to educational reforms, and relegated education policy to be only a tool of a supply-side economic policy, altering teachers’ professional identity within the context of the school and educational community.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all adopted in September 2015 set the frame of this discussion. Goal 4 on education commits all UN countries to reach the targets of high quality education, ensuring access, inclusiveness and gender equality in education.