The success of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) hinges on meaningful social dialogue with all stakeholders including teachers and their organisations, EI told a gathering of the world’s education ministers and officials.

Speaking on 14 May at the 3rd UNESCO International Congress on TVET in Shanghai, China, EI’s special advisor David Robinson told delegates that teachers must be included in decisions about the governance and delivery of TVET.

“Teachers are not necessarily opposed to TVET reforms,” Robinson said. “However, there is a growing concern that reforms are most often something done to teachers and trainers, rather than with them.”

Robinson noted that the ILO and UNESCO have identified social dialogue in the education sector to mean “all forms of information sharing, consultation, and negotiation between educational authorities, public and private, and teachers and their democratically elected representatives in teachers’ organisations.”

Social dialogue helps build successful TVET systems because it promotes consensus through the involvement of all stakeholders.

“TVET systems around the world face a number of challenges,” Robinson stated. “These challenges cannot be effectively met without strong social dialogue mechanisms.”

For example, Robinson noted that one critical challenge is the need to recruit and retain qualified teachers.

“Social dialogue has a key role to play in ensuring that TVET teachers and trainers enjoy appropriate terms and conditions of employment and career prospects,” said Robinson. “In line with international labour standards, collective bargaining is a basic right that is critical in this regard. Collective bargaining between employers and teachers’ unions, while not always easy, shows that negotiated solutions to difficult choices are necessary if we are to be successful.”

However, Robinson cautioned that the recent picture of social dialogue in the sector is at best mixed.

“Particularly in the wake of the financial crisis and the imposition of austerity measures, we have seen a dangerous trend toward governments and employers not negotiating with teachers across the education sector,” Robinson emphasised. “In some extreme cases, we’ve even seen legislative denials of basic negotiating and bargaining rights.”

Robinson urged ministers to more actively support social dialogue in TVET and where necessary to provide capacity building support for social partners.

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