The Malta Union of Teachers is commemorating World Teachers Day 2016, held annually on 5th October, with the theme “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status”. This is the official theme adopted by UNESCO and Education International, and is an opportunity to celebrate the teaching profession and to promote the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) and the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel (1997). These instruments define international standards for the teaching profession. The theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status”, marks the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Teachers.
Today Education International (EI), with its affiliates worldwide including the Malta Union of Teachers, is stressing that the Recommendation’s purpose to improve the professional status and working conditions of teachers is more urgent than ever. Evidence from EI research and other studies shows a decline in global teacher status and conditions over the last few years, mainly due to (1) Sub-standard teacher preparation programmes and the recruitment of unqualified personnel; (2) Infringements on academic freedom and professional autonomy; (3) Serious violations of teachers’ human and trade union rights; and (4) Poor salaries and working conditions, quite often less than those of professionals with comparable qualifications in other sectors.
The MUT agrees with EI that this negative trend must be reversed. Governments and employers have an obligation to ensure that teachers are valued, honoured and respected. Valuing teachers and all education personnel should entail the provision of decent working conditions; well-resourced, safe and healthy working environments; trust; professional autonomy; academic freedom; high quality initial training and continuous professional development, among others.
Meanwhile, locally the MUT is negotiating two agreements that are of direct interest to all educators. The first one is the Sectoral Agreement, which is the agreement regulating the education class in State Schools, and which will directly affect church schools in their respective agreement. The second agreement is the Civil Service Agreement, which is the one regulating the general conditions of all civil servants (including State School educators). The latter, negotiated together with other Trade Unions representing civil service grades in other sectors, also has a direct effect on Church schools and a number of Independent Schools since it includes the salary scale system. Both these exercises at National level are clear efforts to ensure that educators are valued, honoured and respected in a very tangible manner.