International Summit on the Teaching Profession 2017

The issue of teacher and school leader wellbeing and workload was promoted by teacher unions across the world at the 7th International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP) held in Edinburgh in late March.

Unions argued that this is a significant dimension in discussions about teacher efficacy and leadership in contributing to student learning outcomes. In other words, teacher stress and excessive workload undermines the quality of education.

The next OECD survey on Teaching and Learning in Schools (TALIS) in 2018 will include a project on teacher stress, wellbeing, efficacy and effectiveness. This project was an initiative of Education International, the world peak union body of the teaching profession. The project “will focus policy on the crucial relationship between teacher self-confidence, efficacy, wellbeing, stress and effectiveness” according to the Education International briefing paper for the ISTP.

The summit

The summit in Edinburgh was the seventh International Summit on the Teaching Profession. Initially an initiative of the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and the American teacher unions, the National Education Union (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the summit is now an annual event organised by OECD, Education International and the host government.

Official delegations were sent by 17 nations to the 2017 summit, each including their Minister for Education, representatives of teacher unions and other education stakeholders.

The theme of the summit was the rather wordy “Empowering and enabling teachers
to deliver greater equity and improved outcomes for all”.

Common themes

A number of common themes recur over the course of the seven summits. Chief among these is the importance of professional autonomy in the education of students, and the conditions necessary for exercising that autonomy, including initial qualifications and continuing professional learning (CPL). At this summit, the importance of teacher-directed and teacher-lead CPL, as opposed to system-imposed and standardised professional development, was emphasised.

Another common theme throughout the summits has been the importance of collaboration between government and the teaching profession, through their unions, in the implementation of education initiatives. The 2017 summit, or at least some participants, went as far as to emphasise the importance of teachers in initiating educational change, not merely implementing it. Unions have a crucial role as the voice of the teaching profession. It’s mildly amusing to see the embarrassment of some nations as they report their failure to collaborate and consult with the profession in reports provided to the summit about the past year.

In his closing remarks, Andreas Schleicher, the Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, went so far as to say that “teachers must be active agents, including in the design of education”.

There was also considerable reflection on short-termism in education policy as a result of political cycles and changes in government. This was acknowledged as a major impediment to progress.

Issues of needs-based funding in education systems and the mechanism to attract and retain teachers in hard-to-staff schools – both issues in previous summits – were recognised as ongoing problems requiring further follow up.

No Australia?

Australia has not been represented at any of the seven summits to date. Official representation is dependent on the participation of the national government at ministerial level. Initially through tight numbers in the Federal Parliament and now an apparent lack of interest, the Australian Government has never sent a delegation.

AEU Federal Secretary Susan Hopgood attends the summit in her role as Education International President, and other Australian union officials have sometimes attended as part of the Education International delegation. The failure of Australia to be officially represented is a continuing disgrace. The AEU will lobby for an official delegation to the next summit in Portugal in 2018, led either by the federal minister or by one of the state and territory ministers for education, as occurs with other federal jurisdictions such as Canada and Germany.

Documents from the summit can be found at

Graham Moloney                                                                                                             General Secretary

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 4, 2 June 2017, p22