During next week, the 6th Education International World Congress will be hosted in Cape Town. More information on this congress can be found on the website of the congress at http://www.ei-ie.org

The congress guide states clearly that the purpose of the congress is : “...renew our commitment to the achievement of social justice and quality education for all through international union solidarity.” Everybody will appreciate that the attendees of the congress want to renew their commitment to quality education, but there are few reasons to believe that this congress will make any contribution towards improving the quality of education.

It is difficult to believe that quality education will be achieved through union solidarity. The Sowetan recently reported that a leader of the South African Democratic Teachers Union made the statement “You cannot be friends with white people, they will Satanise you.” How can the quality of education be improved through solidarity between organisations of which some promote racism?

The attendees of the congress are mainly members and leaders of teachers unions of public schools. It is however generally acknowledged that public education over the world is a failure. Read the article titled “Public schools : Should parents patiently wait for the minister?” for an article on this subject. The attendees of this congress are therefore the people that are responsible for this failed education system. Is there any reason to believe that the commitment to quality education by the people responsible for a failed education system is of any value?

The attendees that are notably absent at this congress are members and leaders of organisations that represent parents. The parents are the people that pay for education through their taxes and schools fees, and it is their children who receive the education. Why should anybody believe that discussions on how to improve the quality of education in the absence of the people that pay for the education and who’s children receive the education to provide any meaningful contribution towards the improvement of education?

The name of the congress seems to indicate that this congress is about education in general. If this was the case, one would expect the agenda to be packed with discussions on how to improve education so that the education system produces young people equipped will skills that are valued by industry. However, a cursory glance at the agenda indicates that the knowledge and skills required by industry is not a high priority at this congress. Subjects such as “Transforming gender stereotypes through education” and “Building Better Unions” seem to indicate that the transformation of society and the strengthening of unions is of much higher value to this congress.

It is an international trend that parents that care for their children and would like to ensure that their children receive a quality education send their children to private schools or choose for home education. If this congress really cares about the quality of education, one would expect this congress to embrace private education and home education. However, one of the discussion points of the congress is the following : “It will focus on the growing phenomenon of privatising public education systems and the need to develop strategic plans to confront these insidious developments.” This congress has therefore a confrontational attitude towards education systems with a proven track record of success.

If all aspects of the congress are taken into account, is seems that this is not a congress on education, but rather a congress against education.