READ THE CALL

14th Trinational Conference — Virtual —Call for the Meeting

May 21 & 22, 2021

Transformation of Education & Educating for Transformation 

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended life across our countries for students, teachers, and everyone connected to our public schools. The crisis has also exposed the fragilities of our economy in meeting the basic needs of all and highlighted the importance of the public sector, of community, and of care work. However, the pandemic has also created conditions in which the privatization and commercialization of public education is set to flourish. We must intensify the fight back now. 

When NAFTA became law 27 years ago in Canada, Mexico, and the United States in 1994, it began to focus social, economic, and public policy toward public education as a part of the international trading community.  It opened the door for corporate enterprises to gain access to the public funds for education, thereby using its economic and political influence to direct education reform, particularly by privatizing many aspects of public education.

As schools around the world closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic, and as our education systems have worked to meet the needs of all students over the past year, educational inequities have emerged as never before: 

  • Many jurisdictions moved to online education, only to be faced with the urgent reality that many students and families do not have access to the technological devices or infrastructures needed.
  • The disruption to in-person learning in public schools has amplified multiple market-like mechanisms in the name of “choice:” school vouchers, charters schools, and private online learning courses.
  • For many teachers and students who have returned to in-person learning, overcrowded classrooms and schools in need of major repairs have meant working and learning at the risk of their own health and safety, as well as that of their families and loved ones.
  • Hindered by limited public funding and inadequate infrastructure, governments are increasingly turning to EdTech industries (such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook), rapidly extending private interests into public education.
  • Even as public appreciation for the work of teachers has increased, teacher autonomy and professionalism are under attack as national and international education reforms aim to shift not only “what” is taught, but “how” teaching happens in the name of standardization and efficiency.

 

At the same time, teachers across the three countries are standing up in resistance and solidarity. Teachers in Los Angeles and Chicago have mobilized teachers to demand the necessary health and safety conditions for a safe return to in-person teaching and learning. This has built on momentum from the 2019–20 Red for Ed movement in the United States and Canada that mobilized teachers to fight for better working and learning conditions and resulted in remarkable wins. In Ontario, Canada, teachers and education workers engaged in successful strike action to stop a provincial government that sought to remove 25% of high school teachers, and significantly cut funding for students with special needs.  In Mexico, the fight continues against reforms that privatize education and for democracy and freedom of association in both basic and higher education. In addition, following the most recent round of PISA tests, teachers in Mexico called on the Mexican government to suspend the test and terminate the contract with the OECD. In all these contexts, teachers have acted boldly and for the long-term, driven by our fundamental right to a resilient and equitable public education system. 

It is in this context that we call on trade unionists, teachers, education workers, researchers, students, and education activists from Mexico, the United States and Canada to participate in the 14th Trinational Conference to be held virtually May 21–22, 2021. The Trinational Coalition, initiated in 1993, brings together activists from education unions in Canada, Mexico and the United States to work on issues related to the impact of neo-liberal policies on public education.  Gathering virtually for the first time, participants will engage key themes through plenaries and interactive discussion spaces and make proposals for international action. These proposals will be incorporated in the Trinational Coalition’s plan of action for the next two years.

 More information for perspective delegates can be found here.

Organizing Committee,  14th Conference of the Trinational Coalition in Defense of Public Education

Organizing Committee Members