The Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU) has launched a National Campaign on Education Reform (NCER), linking it to EI’s Unite for Quality Education (Unite) initiative.
“As an EI affiliate, JTU has been strongly committed to the achievement of the Education for All (EFA) goal set in 1995 by 164 governments signing up for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” said Yasunaga Okamoto, JTU General Secretary and Chairperson of EI’s Asia Pacific Regional Committee. “JTU has reinforced the campaign not only by joining in with the international trade union movement, but also through domestic social dialogue. In particular, JTU carries out the NCER as its own EFA activities every year.”
Here are some examples of NCER:
- Niigata Prefecture Teachers’ Union and Niigata High School Teachers’ Union
These two unions engaged in social dialogue with citizens throughout Niigata Prefecture and listened to their views on education. Some citizens, Okamoto said, indicated that a class size of 35 pupils is too much, making the teacher’s job more difficult. The unions will appeal to the Prefectural Assembly to reduce class sizes.
- Akita Prefecture Teachers’ Union
The union held a Children’s Conference where elementary school and junior high school students openly spoke about their school life. Their learning environment was a concern with comments such as: ‘It is unfair that teachers decide who uses which school facilities’ or ‘My class doesn’t have a good environment compared with others’. The children concluded that ‘It was good for me to say what I’m thinking’ or ‘I really enjoyed this conference because I was happy to hear the others’ views’. For teachers and parents, it was also a great opportunity to listen to the voice of children who have the right to education.
Free education limited
JTU Headquarters have also been involved in raising people’s awareness about the importance of a tuition-free high school system. Children have the right to access free higher education according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The previous Japanese administration introduced the tuition-free high school system, and thanks to this system, fewer students left schools due to economic reasons.
“We took to the streets and gathered signatures expressing the people’s agreement for the system,” said Okamoto. “Unfortunately, the current administration changed the policy. Now, children whose parents have an annual income of more than ¥9.1 million (approx. €64,000) cannot receive the benefits of the free system. JTU strongly opposes this policy change.”
“Our mission in the 21st century is to create a society where peace, human rights, environment, coexistence and democracy are respected,” said Okamoto at the World Teachers’ Forum when he attended the Unite launch in New York, USA. “Education, above all else, is necessary in achieving this, and schools are the symbol of education. Direct advocacy to governments and politicians are of course important and we will persevere in this. However, that alone is not sufficient.”
Video of the Unite launch in New York:
JTU considers social dialogue with students, guardians and citizens to be the core of its work and the union is holding gatherings and symposiums together with teachers and staff organisations in each prefecture. JTU will also conduct a national education campaign using mass media in November.
JTU’s slogan, ‘Never send our children to battlefields’, should be used not only for its domestic activities, but also in the international solidarity, Okamoto stressed.
“Even children who are in danger by surrounding armed conflicts have rights to education,” Okamoto highlighted. “Let us unite with our EI colleagues and jointly spread Unite throughout the world!”
EI: Quality education a priority post-2015
“EI has outlined a new dimension of EFA beyond 2015 and has launched its Unite campaign,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “We are extremely satisfied to see that so many of our affiliates have joined in, showing the strong commitment of educators worldwide to provide quality education to their students. Together, we can ensure that quality education remains at the top of the post-2015 development global agenda.”
He added that EI believes it is not enough to ensure education, but also ‘quality education’, with its three pillars: quality teachers, quality tools, and quality environment.
Unite for Quality Education is a campaign of Education International (EI), the voice of teachers and other education employees across the globe. Join the 30 million members EI represents (through its 400 affiliated organisations in more than 170 countries and territories) to demand that quality education for all remains at the top of the agenda for a sustainable, peaceful and prosperous future.