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"Take education out of GATS", teachers urge

The following media release is forwarded by the Association of University Staff, an affiliate union of Education International. This release raises, on the international stage, includes concerns about the New Zealand Government’s support for a “Friends of Private Education Exports” lobby set up to protect and advance the interests of New Zealand’s private-education exporters in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (or GATS) negotiations.


6th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference

“Take education out of GATS”, teachers urge

In a statement released today to delegations to the 6th WTO Ministerial Conference, Educational International (EI), the global union representing more than 29 million teachers and education workers is calling on member countries to remove education services from the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

“Because there are so many unanswered questions about the impact of GATS on education, and because there is so much at stake, we believe all members must adopt a precautionary approach. They must neither make nor seek any commitments that constrain the rights of government to regulate education as they see fit, including research, audio-visual services, and libraries," stated Thulas Nxesi, EI President.

The statement, adopted by participants to EI's higher-education and research meeting, held last week in Melbourne, Australia, also recommends that countries make no commitments on private education services.

“As the boundary between public and private education becomes increasingly blurred in many countries, the danger is that commitments taken in private education could easily expose the public system,” explained Nxesi.

EI is also concerned about proposals for compulsory benchmarking and plurilateral approaches to the services negotiations. According to Nxesi, such changes would put undue pressure on developing countries and coerce them into making more extensive commitments in sensitive areas like education and other public services.

In addition, Thulas Nxesi says teachers are deeply disturbed by the recent New Zealand-led establishment of a “friends of education exports” group that is specifically targeting education services.

“We believe strongly that, at its root, GATS is in conflict with educational values. The GATS is a commercial agreement designed to expand business opportunities for investors. Education, by contrast, is a human right that serves the public interest and must not be treated as a commodity subject to commercial trade rules,” said Nxesi.


ENDS


A copy of the Education International statement can be located at:
(http://data.ei-ie.org/Common/GetFile.asp?ID=3193&mfd=off&LogonName=guest).

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