This post by the Union Education from Norway describes how the teachers’ strike in Norway has evolved, as well as its causes and the international frame into which it can be put.
The strike has ended. The teachers of Norway managed to keep their autonomy and repeal the demands from the employers.
The newly ended Norwegian teacher strike, was clearly linked to EI’s global fight for the future of the teaching profession, according to the President of Union of Education Norway, Ragnhild Lied.
The strike was a result of the grassroots’ dissatisfaction with the growing gap between the central government’s vision and goals for the schools and the reality that members encounter on a daily basis.
While national politicians have formulated ambitious goals for the school, teachers have found that the possibilities to concentrate on core pedagogical issues have worsened. Therefore the strike was an expression of discontent and of the need to defend the teaching profession’s uniqueness in order to allow teachers to be teachers.
The main purpose of the strike was to ensure that the new working time agreement protects the teachers’ right to define and decide how the professional tasks shall be carried out in the best possible way. In addition it was important to make sure that quality education takes priority over austerity measures.
Part of an international struggle
In the view of Ragnhild Lies, who also is a member EIs Executive Board, it is important to see the link between the Norwegian strike and international conditions.
– Despite the distinctive background of the Norwegian strike, the strike should be seen as part of an international struggle. Teachers in many countries are faced with the same challenges, the President points out. She also underlines that the fight against disempowerment of the teaching profession, and the fight against austerity measures, are some of the reasons why Education International embarked on the campaign Unite for Quality Education.
Through this campaign, teachers from all over the world join together in the fight for quality education for all and for the teachers’ right to promote quality throughout their work.
– The distrust that the teachers have met from the KS (the municipalities’ employer organization) is unfortunately part of an international trend, Lied explains.
Teachers must join together
It is therefore important that teachers all over the world meet these challenges collectively. This in turn requires developing a well articulated vision for a strong and competent teaching profession and a demand for high quality teaching, she continues.
Lied mentions some examples from specific countries, more recently the case of Denmark, where teachers in the end lost a lot of their professional autonomy and were forced to put in more teaching. The situation for Swedish teachers has also been challenging, and the difference in performance between the Swedish students has increased as a result of a decentralized school system. The situation in Estonia might bee less known, but they have gone trough more or less the same process as the teachers in Denmark.
Outside Europe, we hear reports that teachers in the United States are confronted with an education policy that shows a basic mistrust towards the teaching profession through the combination of extensive standardized testing and counterproductive evaluations of teachers. In South Korea, the conditions for the unions are extremely challenging. Other countries, such as Ireland, are struggling with austerity measures, while countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, are incapable of offering all children an education.
Internacional trends in the education sector
– The fight for a strong teaching profession and for education of high quality for all, will require different approaches, but it must be seen as part of the same struggle, Ragnhild Lied explains.
– It is not possible to isolate ourselves from what happens beyond our borders, she continues.
– This is why we need cooperation across borders. KS’ initial demand was to repeal the agreement that regulates the maximum number of teaching hours per year and to give school principals the right to control the working hours of teachers. This demand was clearly inspired by the process in Denmark. At the same time, we benefited from the experiences of the Danish unions in their struggle against de-professionalization.
Large scale testing
– The demand for testing, competition, and greater control is increasing. This international trend, that the Finish expert on education Pasi Sahlberg calls the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement), is spreading rapidly. We can only meet this pressure if we work together.
– The key to our common effort against GERM is to gather knowledge, share experiences and support each other. The strike in Norway is over. EIs international campaign, Unite for Quality Education is also about to end. However, the fight for a strong teaching profession must continue with full force at both national and international level, concludes the President of Union of Education Norway.