Standing Committee for Equality members gathered for another productive annual meeting in Brussels on 7-8th February 2019. The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘Education Trade Unions for Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, it is time to take the lead!’ which focused on the inclusion of migrants, refugees, and ethnic minorities into education, and the teaching of citizenship and transmission of democratic values across Europe. In addition to the main points of discussion, the delegates addressed the digital gap, given the increasing digitalisation of our societies and the opportunities and risks new technologies can bring in terms of equality and inclusion.

Examining how education trade unions can take the lead on these issues, the key objective of the meeting was to begin drafting the Action Plan for Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion, based on the recently-adopted Resolution at the ETUCE’s Special Conference in Athens in November 2018. To this end, the members of the Standing Committee discussed in smaller groups strategies and actions to teach democratic citizenship and fundamental values through education, to include migrants and refugees in education and support their transition into the labour market, and to celebrate diversity among education personnel and within the student body. Among other strategies, it was suggested to proactively introduce these topics in education and teacher initial and continuous professional development, to raise awareness on the topics at stake among trade union members and in society, as well as to support education personnel in continuing working on inclusion of all students despite the pressure and current right-wing and nationalist trends.

Experts from various European and international organisations shared their expertise on the topics of equality and inclusion in education. Dr. Thomas Huddleston, Director of the SIRIUS Network presented systemic issues regarding the reception of migrants in European schools, namely, the lack of support for practitioners, limited teacher training, and the excessive amount of work and responsibility falling on head teachers’ shoulders. Furthermore, Montserrat Mir, Confederal Secretary of ETUC, reported on the challenges faced by young women in Europe, as well as recent European developments in addressing these challenges, and Pathma Krishnan, Coordinator from the EI Asia-Pacific Regional Office in Kuala Lumpur, gave Standing Committee for Equality members an overview of the challenges regarding the integration of indigenous people into the education system in Malaysia and the hardship endured by LGBTI teachers in the Asia-Pacific region more generally. Lastly, the need for increased digital skills for teachers, the inconsistency in the provision of digital services between rural and urban areas, and the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers were identified as the main digital gaps of the 21st century in the discussion with Alexander Riedl, Deputy Head of the Digital Economy and Skills Unit, DG Connect, European Commission.

Members were also updated on ETUCE’s three current projects on equality and inclusion, ‘Social dialogue and gender equality: Empowering education trade unions to address gender equality in the teaching profession through social dialogue’, ‘EU CONVINCE (EU Common Values Inclusive Education)’, and European Sectoral Social Partners in Education promoting effective integration of migrants and refugees in education.

Please see the pictures here.