Social dialogue in the education sector

From 07 to 09 November 2019 took place in Bytom / Poland a meeting of the working group of the Platform for Education on teachers' professional development systems, with the support of EZA and of the European Union.

The meeting was attended by 15 representatives of workers’ organisations from Bulgaria, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

The aim of the working group meeting was to discuss and exchange experiences on the situation of teachers in different countries, on continuing professional development systems and on the role of trade unions in supporting teachers more effectively in lifelong learning. There was also an in-depth discussion on the role and format of the Educational Platform and how to optimise its ability to influence the situation of teachers in individual countries. The meeting was also intended to gather ideas for improving the work of the Educational Platform - both in terms of content and logistics, as well as in shaping trade union policies and activities.

Then the participants presented the situation and problems of teachers in their countries and the activities of trade union organisations.

Polish participants discussed the events related to the teachers' strike and commented on the problems that led to the strike. During the protests, NSZZ Solidarność presented a package of the greatest needs in education, including those related to professional advancement and lifelong learning.

Colleagues from Lithuania presented last year's events, where after long and unsuccessful negotiations teachers went on occupational strike of the Ministry of Education. Under pressure from public opinion, the government has made a promise of increases, but so far these promises have not been fulfilled.

Participants found that in many countries negotiations are hampered by unclear decision making - employment is at a different level of decision making and education funding is at a different level. Another problem is that in many countries (e.g. Germany) teachers have the status of public officers, which limits the use of all negotiation tools. The direct relationship between trade union power and the effectiveness of negotiations was also discussed.

In the lecture part of the program Anna Dakowicz-Nawrocka, deputy director of the Department of General Education of the Ministry of Education, gave a presentation on the system of teachers' professional development in Poland. The second presentation on this topic was presented by the participants from Bulgaria, Natalia Potapova and Julian Petrov. In the discussion on this topic, participants stressed the importance of lifelong learning, which results, among other things, from the need to keep up with technological changes. It has been noted that, in both countries, in-service training systems need to be adapted to the real needs of teachers and to the use of the solutions offered. The quality of lifelong learning and courses, both in the formal and informal system, has raised many doubts. In Germany, for example, the private sector spends 3 times as much on the training of employees as the state spends on the training of teachers.

The next item on the agenda was a debate on the future activities of the EZA Educational Platform. Elżbieta Wielg presented a report on the activities of the Platform, seen as a forum for the exchange of experiences on social dialogue in education in order to adapt education systems to the needs of the labour market, enabling the analysis of the real needs and problems of the educational environment and the place of searching for possible solutions to implement. She presented current methods of work (seminars and study visits) and new initiatives (limiting meetings to one per year, changing the formula of meetings and cooperation with other groups operating within EZA).

During the discussion, the participants emphasized the high quality of the Platform's meetings and the keen interest of teachers in the topics discussed during the meetings. They stated that the topics of the meetings coincide with the demands of the educational circles in their countries, so the meetings are a good opportunity for comparison and joint search for solutions.