Education International

Education International

Infobox Union
name= EI
country= International
members= 30 million in 170 countries and territories (2007) [cite web
title=Education International
work=Education International
full_name= Education International

office= Brussels, Belgium
people= Thulas Nxesi, President [Thulas Nxesi is General Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union.]
website= []

Education International (EI-IE) is a global union federation of teachers' trade unions. As of 2007, it has 390 member organizations in 170 countries and territories, representing over 30 million education personnel from pre-school to university. This makes it the world's largest sectorial global union federation.fact|date=October 2007


Prior to the 1950s, teacher and other education unions played little role in international trade union federations. In 1912, the International Committee of National Federations Teachers in Public Secondary Schools was established in Belgium. Internationally, it was known as FIPESO, an acronym derived from its French name: The Federation Internationale des Professeurs de l’Enseignement Secondaire Officiel. In 1923, the National Education Association (NEA) founded the World Federation of Education Associations (WFEA) in San Francisco. Then in 1926, the International Federation of Teachers’ Associations (IFTA) was formed. The same year, the International Trade Secretariat of Teachers (ITST), a grouping of teachers' unions affiliated with the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), was established. But few of these organizations obtained membership of any size, joined the International Labor Organization (ILO), or proved influential. Many were international in name only, with membership usually coming from a few European nations. Except for the WFEA (which was dominated by the NEA), most ceased to function during World War II.Towsley, "The Story of the UNESCO/ILO 1966 Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers," 1991.]

A significant reorganization of the international trade union movement occurred in the wake of the second world war. The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was founded in October 1945 to bring together trade unions across the world in a single international organization. But a number of conservative Western labor federations, notably the American Federation of Labor (AFL), felt that trade unions from Communist countries were government-dominated. Their inclusion, it was feared, would lead to domination of the WFTU by the Soviet Union. In 1949, the AFL and other trade unions formed the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), an international organization which rejected communist or communist-dominated trade unions.

International education trade centers also underwent a reorganization. The WFEA broadened its membership and was renamed the World Organization of the Teaching Profession (WOTP) in 1946. The same year, the ITST affiliated with the WFTU. But the split over communism in the WFTU affected the international education secretariats as well. In 1948, several socialist and communist teachers' unions formed the World Federation of Teachers’ Unions (known as FISE by its French title, Fédération Internationale Syndicale de l’ Enseignement) in Budapest. Most non-communist national teachers' unions refused to join FISE. IFTA, FIPESO and FISE formed a liaison group, the Joint Committee of International Teachers' Federations, the same year. But the American-dominated WOTP refused to join. In 1951, following the split in the WFTU and the creation of the anti-communist ICFTU, two new international education secretariats were created. WOTP, FIPESO and the IFTA formed the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP). The AFL (primary backer of the ICFTU) and its teacher union (the American Federation of Teachers) pushed the ICFTU to form its own international secretariat to compete with the much more liberal WCOTP. The conservative and determinedly anti-communist International Federation of Free Teachers' Unions (IFFTU) was created the same year as the WCOTP. FISE, meanwhile, affiliated with the WFTU.Docherty, "Historical Dictionary of Organized Labor," 2004.] Guthrie, "Encyclopedia of Education," 2002.]

The IFFTU remained the much smaller organization until the mid-1970s. Although both the WCOTP and IFFTU gained members through the next 25 years, by 1976 the IFFTU represented unions with only 2.3 million members while the WCOTP represented unions with more than 20 million members. ["Quadrenniel Reports...: Addendum," Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, United Nations, March 20-31, 1995.] The WCOTP worked closely with the United Nations, UNESCO and the ILO to study the problems of teachers throughout the world, and focused much of its attention on Africa and Asia. For the first 15 years of its existence, the WCOTP worked heavily on a draft UNESCO instrument which would create a consensus on the status, salaries, and protections teachers should have. The final document, "Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers," was adopted by UNESCO on October 5, 1966.

The IFFTU and WCOTP remained strong rivals, each organization's policies and actions often reflecting the rivalry between the NEA and AFT (which were their respective secretariat's largest members). But the surge in growth in AFT membership in the 1960s and 1970s significantly improved the membership figures of the IFFTU. A turn away from radical political views by a number of European, African and Asian education unions led a number of national organizations to disaffiliate from the WCOTP and join the IFFTU. [Rütters, "International Trade Secretariats – Origins, Development, Activities," "International Trade Union Organisations," no date.]

On January 26, 1993, the WCOTP and IFFTU merged at a convention in Stockholm to form Education International. The stronger membership of the IFFTU at WCOTP expense led both organizations to see merger as a resolution to continuing conflict and competition, and merger was strongly advocated by AFT president Albert Shanker. The collapse of Soviet bloc communist also helped to remove lingering political differences between the two groups (as well as the reason for the IFFTU's existence). Merger was first proposed in 1985, talks became serious in 1988, and merger achieved five years later. Shanker was elected EI's founding president. ["Albert Shanker, 1928-1997," "American Teacher," April 1997.] Osava, "Teachers of the World - United and Underpaid," "Inter Press Service," July 26, 2004.]


Education International is a democratic organization which is governed by a World Congress. Any national organization composed predominantly of teachers and/or education employees may belong. [Education International Constitution, Article 4, "Membership." Article 5 stipulates that a "Committee of Experts" appointed by the EI Executive Board may examine prospective members to ensure the applicant meets the conditions of membership established in Article 4.] Each member is entitled to at least one delegate (up to a maximum of 50 delegates) for every 10,000 members or fraction thereof. Voting rights are more expansive than delegates, however. Each member with up to 5,000 members receives one vote, but organizations with more than 5,000 members receive an additional vote for every 5,000 members. There is no cap on the number of votes a member organization may cast. For large organizations (such as those in the United States, Canada and Europe), this means each delegate may cast tens or even hundreds of votes. [Education International Constitution, Article 5, f.] A World Congress composed of delegates meets every three years, [Education International Constitution, Article 5, j.] at a place set by the Executive Board. [Education International Constitution, Article 5, i.] The World Congress elects the President, Vice Presidents, General Secretary and members of the Executive Board; determines the policies and program of the organization; and adopts the budget and sets membership fees. [Education International Constitution, Article 5, b.]

An Executive Board governs the organization between meetings of the World Congress. In addition to the President and five Vice-Presidents, the Executive Board has two additional Board members elected from each region, nine at-large members, and the General Secretary. At least one member from each region must be a woman. [Education International Constitution, Article 10, c.] The term of office for a Board member is three years (the time between World Congresses), and members are limited to two consecutive terms. [Education International Constitution, Article 10, d.] The Board meets at least once a year. [Education International Constitution, Article 10, i.]

There are seven officers of EI. The President is the primary officer and spokesperson for the organization. The General Secretary is the primary executive officer, and has day-to-day oversight of EI. The EI constitution establishes five geographical regions, [Education International Constitution, Article 13, a.] and each region is represented by a Vice-President. At least three of the six non-executive offices (e.g., President and Vice-Presidents) must be women. [Education International Constitution, Article 10, c.] The officers and General Secretary must meet at least once a year, between Executive Board meetings. [Education International Constitution, Article 10, i.]

EI's daily operations are overseen by a Secretariat. The Secretariat is run by a Deputy General Secretary appointed by the Executive Board in consultation with the General Secretary. [Education International Constitution, Article 12.] The EI Secretariat is located in Brussels, Belgium. The regional offices are located in the following:
*Africa: Lomé, Togo
*Asia and the Pacific: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Fiji - The Council of Pacific Education (COPE)
*Europe: Brussels, Belgium
*Latin America: San José, Costa Rica
*North America and the Caribbean: St. Lucia.

The EI constitution also establishes largely autonomous regional structures to carry out work appropriate for each geographic region. Each regional body adopts its own constitution and by-laws (although these must be in accordance with the EI constitution), holds its own congresses and meetings, establishes dues and budgets, and carries out programs. [Education International Constitution, Article 13.]

EI is affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation and enjoys formal associate relations with UNESCO, including the International Bureau of Education (IBE), and has consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Principal Aims

Education International’s principal aims are:

  • to further the cause of organizations of teachers and education employees;
  • to promote peace, democracy, social justice and equality through the development of education and the collective strength of teachers and education employees;
  • to seek and maintain recognition of the trade union rights of workers in general and of teachers and education employees in particular;
  • to enhance the conditions of work and terms of employment of teachers and education employees, and to promote their professional status in general, through support for member organizations;
  • to support and promote the professional freedoms of teachers and education employees and the right of their organizations to participate in the formulation and implementation of educational policies;
  • to promote the right to education for all persons in the world, without discrimination through pursue the establishment and protection of open, publicly funded and controlled educational systems, and academic and cultural institutions, aimed at the democratic, social, cultural and economic development of society and the preparation of every citizen for active and responsible participation in society;
  • to promote the political, social and economic conditions that are required for the realisation of the right to education in all nations;
  • to foster a concept of education directed towards international understanding and good will, the safeguarding of peace and freedom, and respect for human dignity;
  • to combat all forms of racism and of bias or discrimination in education and society due to gender, marital status, sexual orientation, age, religion, political opinion, social or economic status or national or ethnic origin;
  • to give particular attention to developing the leadership role and involvement of women in society;
  • to build solidarity and mutual cooperation among member organizations;
  • to encourage through their organizations closer relationships among teachers and education employees in all countries and at all levels of education;
  • to promote and to assist in the development of independent and democratic organizations of teachers and education employees, particularly in those countries where political, social, economic or other conditions impede the application of their human and trade union rights, the advancement of their terms and working conditions and the improvement of educational services;
  • to promote unity among all independent and democratic trade unions both within the educational sector and with other sectors; and thereby contribute to the further development of the international trade union movement.



*"Albert Shanker, 1928-1997." "American Teacher." April 1997.
*Docherty, James. "Historical Dictionary of Organized Labor." 2d ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2004. ISBN 0810849119
* [ Education International Constitution. No date.] Accessed September 30, 2007.
*Guthrie, James W., ed. "Encyclopedia of Education." 2d ed. New York: MacMillan Reference Books, 2002. ISBN 002865594X
*Osava, Mario. "Teachers of the World - United and Underpaid." "Inter Press Service." July 26, 2004.
*"Quadrenniel Reports on the Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council, Categories I and II. Quadrennial Reports, 1990-1993: Addendum." Report submitted through the Secretary-General pursuant to Economic and Social Council resolution 1296 (XLIV) of 23 May 1968. Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. United Nations. March 20-31, 1995.
* [ Rütters, Peter. "International Trade Secretariats – Origins, Development, Activities." In "International Trade Union Organisations: Inventory of the Archive of Social Democracy and the Library of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung." Peter Rütters, Michael Schneider, Erwin Schweißhelm, and Rüdiger Zimmermann, eds. Bonn, Germany: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, no date.] Accessed September 30, 2007.
*Towsley, Lona. "The Story of the UNESCO/ILO 1966 Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers." Morges, Switzerland: World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession, 1991.

External links

* [ Education International Web site]

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