For many years, the education trade union Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW) has been supporting the "Internationale Wochen gegen Rassismus" (International Weeks against Racism), by calling local members to take action.

This year, the initiative is taking place between 13 and 26 March, with more than 80 supportive organisations and the following slogan: "100 Prozent Menschenwürde - Zusammen gegen Rassismus" (100 percent human dignity - together against racism).

On 21 March, Marlis Tepe, the president of the union, has supported the initiative ‘Prominent gegen Rassismus’, emphasizing in her address the special responsibility of educators and the need to better support them in this struggle. The union also participated in the production of an education pack providing guidance to teachers willing to tackle racism in the classroom.

The union has a long-standing engagement in this domain: in the 1990s, it supported the establishment of the network "Schule ohne Rassismus – Schule mit Courage", which now encompasses more than 2000 schools.

The ongoing campaign "Schule für alle" initiated in collaboration with Youth without borders, the so-called ‘refugee councils’ and the association Gelbe Hand focuses on the right to education for refugees. A prize competition for students enrolled in vocational education that activate against racism is organized every year.

More information concerning GEW's work against racism is available here (in German).

"What should I do if a classmate bullies or harasses me because he or she believes I am undocumented?", " What do I do if I see a student being bullied or harassed because they are Latino or an immigrant?": here are some of the questions that might remain unanswered amongst students and educators facing School Bullying and Harassment Based on Actual or Perceived Race, Ethnicity, National Origin, or Immigration Status.

To respond to the many reported instances of harassment in schools in the weeks following the presidential election, many of which have been based on a student’s actual or perceived immigration status, the National Education Association (NEA) and MALDEF, the Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America, have produced a two-pager providing answers to students, educators and social services providers on the rights of persons who experience bullying or harassment, and what can be done to address the problem.

The guide also invites readers to reach out to MALDEF to report any incident that is not being addressed by the school, by writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The guide also exists in Spanish.

The Commonwealth is an organization of over 50 countries that are expected to observe key common principles and values. Over the years at Commonwealth Education Ministers’ meetings, some EI affiliated teacher organizations have co-operated on a number of activities to promote education and human rights and to take forward some key EI policies. A small group of organizations meeting informally at the EI World Congress in Jomtien 2001 agreed that a paper be drafted which sought to address the issue of establishing a Commonwealth teachers’ grouping for unions affiliated to Education International. These organizations were the Australian Education Union (AEU), the All India Federation of Teachers’ Organizations (AIFTO), the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT), the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU).  In 2005, the EI Executive Board formally agreed the establishment of the Commonwealth Teachers’ Group, which [was] formally launched at The Teachers’ Forum at 16th CCEM, where its constitution was adopted.

The CTG, operating under the auspices of EI, has a number of important functions. Perhaps the most significant achievement to date for the CTG has been the establishment of the Commonwealth Protocol on Teacher Recruitment. 

The protocol is having a real impact in the Commonwealth and beyond. The National Union of Teachers reports fewer migrants experiencing difficulties and it is likely that provisions in the Protocol dealing with the targeting of vulnerable education systems seems to be having an effect. Kenya and Rwanda both used the protocol to manage the recruitment of English teachers by Rwanda. UNESCO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are supportive of the protocol.

References

Sinnott, Steve. “The Commonwealth Teachers’ Group – Vision and Mission.” Commonwealth Education Partnerships (2007): 206-208. 

 

The National Union of Teachers (UK) has produced a brochure compiling different initiatives and websites offering teachers resources to challenge racism with their students in their classroom.

It includes:

  • an education pack challenging contemporary racism and educating against the dangers of far right groups, produced in collaboration with the UK charity "Show Racism the RED card";
  • a SERTUC guide on migration and population called "Truth, lies and migrants";
  • an education pack on Islamophobia, produced by "Show Racism the RED card";
  • a BBC lesson challenging negative attitudes towards immigrants for secondary pupils;
  • a British council lesson on immigration for 12 year olds plus;
  • an educational toolkit about migration and development developed by the British Red Cross;
  • four teaching activities on immigration for primary and secondary pupils, by the Geographical Association;
  • a Unison flyer to counter myths about immigration.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, the Independent Education Union (IEU) of New South Wales, Australia acted as the coordinating body for teacher exchanges with partner organizations in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and with European international schools.  For the duration of one school year, teachers from the two countries directly swap jobs and homes and return to their original classrooms upon completion of the program.  Teachers are required to have a minimum of five years classroom experience and, in order to complete a match, teachers must be fully qualified to instruct their partner’s grade or subject. While abroad, each teacher retains employment status with their home school and continues to earn the same salary and benefits that they would in their home country. 

The union, in partnership with overseas organizations, reviews outgoing and incoming teacher candidates to find matches for similarly qualified teachers. Once a match is identified, the union serves as the visa sponsor of the incoming teacher.  IEU hosts an orientation to acclimate visiting teachers to the Australian educational system and organizes a pre-departure meeting with recently returned alumni for Australian teachers who will be going abroad.  An important benefit of the teacher swap program is that participants retain affiliation with the IEU while overseas and, through agreements with unions in partner countries, teachers have complimentary representation in the host country should a problem arise.  Likewise, the IEU is committed to representing foreign teachers while they are in Australia.    

Though matching teachers’ qualifications, location preference and housing needs can be complicated and time consuming, the union has found that the program is highly beneficial to teachers and to the union.  The union reports that offering teacher swaps as a member benefit has helped to grow and engage the membership.  Participants tell the union that the program helped to refresh their passion for teaching and both teachers and principals find value in the program.  

“My family and I did an exchange to the USA last year (2012). The union was instrumental in supporting the process and providing us advice we could trust. As a long time union member with limited interaction with the union, it has given me an opportunity to see the union in action, supporting its members. Without the guidance and support of the union, I may never have had such an opportunity. Also, providing such an opportunity to members encourages collegial discussion about the value and necessity of union membership, helping to recruit new members and reaffirm existing members.”  

--Ben Arthurs, returning teacher

Teacher swaps offer teachers the opportunity to change their environment for a short period of time, while guaranteeing job security upon their return and this type of professional challenge can go a long way to help retain mid-career teachers in the profession.  By their reciprocal nature, swaps avoid resource depleting effects that may be present in other types of teacher migration.  The balance of human capital and financial resources between sending and receiving countries offers a sustainable model for teacher mobility.