José Campos Trujillo High-ranking trade unionist and defender of teachers’ rights
José Campos Trujillo leads a busy life as General Secretary of the Education Federation of the chief education union in Spain (CCOO). Apart from his responsibilities at national level on various state, education and training and university boards, this philosophy graduate is also on the Executive Board of Education International (EI), “the voice of the teachers and other education employees across the globe”. A global federation, EI has 30 million members of some 400 unions in over 170 countries and is UNESCO’s partner every World Teachers’ Day, 5 October.
What role can education play in the context of the economic crisis?
To combat the effects of the economic crisis, more must be invested in education and training in order to meet today’s challenges and requirements. Education in itself is a commitment to the future, to making the most of a person’s abilities and to maximizing development and social integration.
We demand that governments commit to finding an alternative to the failed model of financial speculation, one which is based on the defence of public services, to which education is vital.
Education and training are the basic resources needed to strengthen recovery from the crisis. They guarantee a longer term prosperous future and reduce social instability. There is no doubt that teachers and all the staff in the educational sector play a fundamental role in the social, economic and intellectual reconstruction of the countries affected by the crisis.
We must work towards a new model based on the real assets of the economy: infrastructure, health, education, professional training, research and scientific and technological advances, as opposed to failed self-regulation of the market and dead-end development.
What does 5 October 2011, World Teachers’ Day, mean to your union?
The fact is that there is still a long way to go on gender equality, in teaching and in education generally.
An EI study on gender in the profession highlights the fact that, in general and worldwide, there are more women teachers, especially of children in the younger age groups. In Spain as in other countries, the percentage of executive posts held by women is relatively lower.
Of course, World Teachers’ Day is an excellent opportunity for our union, the CCOO, to demand more emphatically than ever a public education service based on quality and equality, and the appropriate working conditions to carry this out. This is threatened by the savage cuts to the budget that are looming and more so by the high proportion of temporary jobs - 25% in the sector - by low salaries of about 1000€ a month, and a teaching force subjected for years to salary moderation.
What should this date represent globally?
We must not forget that in many parts of the world education is not considered a right or an essential value for human development. In many countries teachers do not have adequate working conditions. Without a decent wage or the necessary training, working in overcrowded or unsanitary classrooms, with no books or blackboards or even desks, they must face a job every day on which their pupils’ future depends. Governments are duty-bound to their commitment to teachers, to recognizing the importance and difficulty of their work and providing them with the legal status necessary to ensure their rights.
What is the role of teachers in a multicultural and globalized society?
The work of the teaching profession is one of the basic mainstays of the personal development of students and is the factor that substantially reduces the incidence of school drop-out or failure, that addresses diversity at every stage of education and entails progress and social welfare.
Together with the traditional transmission of knowledge, teachers now have to educate for a more complex life. It is obvious that without the huge dedication of teachers to learning and quality education, society will not have better citizens or more highly skilled workers, a safeguard for defending values, social and economic progress through innovation and sustainability. If only for this reason, it is very clear indeed that economic recovery cannot include budget cuts to education.
Additionally, teachers need to teach students to learn to adapt to a labour market that demands new capabilities and skills as well as to live in a multicultural society and resolve conflicts peacefully. Teachers now cover many topics that were formerly the preserve of family life.
Are these new responsibilities a burden on the teachers’ workload?
They will be if the present paradigm isn’t reviewed and teachers’ professionalism recognized, giving them the tools needed to carry out their daily job and apply measures which will end up improving education. Classes need to be smaller in order to improve individual attention and address diversity; more teams are needed of counsellors and community liaison assistants who aid the social integration of girls and boys at risk of exclusion; adequate teacher training must be ensured, both at university and during the whole of their teaching career, to qualify teachers to respond to changing needs.
Finally, what are the challenges for a universal quality education?
A quality education necessarily involves qualified, competent and motivated teaching staff. However, in some countries over half the teaching force lacks the necessary qualification or has been trained in only weeks. EI has repeatedly warned that such teachers often work in unsustainable conditions, with ratios of 150 pupils per teacher, insufficient teaching resources and precarious wages.
Even though teachers are asked to do more every day, working conditions and resources in schools barely vary. The new conditions in which teachers have to impart knowledge require greater official support, including educational staff to back up their work. Other requirements are smaller classes, a satisfactory professional skills programmes for students who do not wish to continue in secondary education, as well as stronger tutorial action plans and teams of education counsellors. Needless to say, these measures require a corresponding funding commitment by governments.