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Primary School Teacher Union Participation in Greece  

Nikolaos Alexopoulos

As social organizations, labor unions place special emphasis on the active participation of their members. In this way, labor union leaders expect not only to safeguard their union’s smooth operation but also to increase their negotiating powers, and defend vigorously working employees’ rights as well as put forward demands for new ones. In recent decades, securing rights to permanent employment as well as many other achievements of the union movement have been increasingly challenged. In addition, modern societies like Greece seem apprehensive as regards demands put forward by labor unions. The appeal of economic liberalization and globalization policies could provide an initial explanation for this phenomenon. However, it is not just the global economic situation and policies that have challenged the dynamics of the union movement nowadays. Attention has to be shifted to the internal environment of the labor unions such as Teachers’ Federation of Greece. This might better explain the limited participation of employees like Greek teachers in their union’s actions and proceedings, such as strikes, stoppages, and public demonstrations.


Practice, Policy and Change in the School Education of Roma in Cyprus  

Loizos Symeou

Roma and Travelers are one of the largest ethnic minority groups in the European Union and have been subjected to racism for centuries. In Cyprus, a country with a very small Roma population, Roma issues -due to historical and political reasons- and particularly issues relating to the education of Roma have not been adequately addressed in the policy agenda and have not been researched sufficiently. Lacking knowledge on how to access social services funds, medical treatment provisions, education, and work, Roma are largely ignored, avoided, and kept on the margins of the local society; they are victims of prejudice and suffer from low educational achievement. Although school enrollment, attendance, and completion among Roma in Cyprus have increased at all school levels since 2010, the rate of early school-leaving among Roma in Cyprus remains high and only a few Roma attend secondary education, while even fewer complete compulsory lower secondary education at the age of 15. In addition, attendance and completion of upper secondary education among Roma of Cyprus remains extremely low, whereas university education has not yet been achieved by any Roma in Cyprus. As in other parts of Europe, Roma social and financial conditions appear to be directly linked to Roma children’s school attendance and the discouragement of Roma children viewing school as a priority. Although education in Cyprus is a key policy area with the highest number of interventions and evaluations since 2010, the number of measures does not necessarily reflect the ambition or the effectiveness of efforts. Cyprus, therefore, needs to incorporate Roma inclusion in accountable ways in its mainstream actions and measures in order to compensate for the disadvantages faced by Roma and to promote equality by combining its mainstream measures with specific Roma-targeted measures. Such measures should not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, but should recognize that among the major factors contributing to Roma children’s school disengagement is the distance and inconsistency between the Roma family and the local community environment on the one hand, and the school environment and its workings on the other. The policy of Roma integration thus needs to shift to a policy of inclusion by addressing exclusion and the major issues of antigypsyism, discrimination, and racism. In being accountable, these policies need to set benchmarks to be reached, reported, monitored, and evaluated by a single local agency or institution to be able to coordinate the actions of various ministries. The success of such an agency or institution will largely depend on the establishment of a system of consultation with Roma, who are currently absent from relevant decision-making actions and synergies.


Teachers as Conscientious Objectors  

Doris A. Santoro

Teachers often characterize their interest in and commitment to the profession as moral: a desire to support students, serve their communities, or uphold civic ideals embedded in the promise of public education. These initial and sustaining moral impulses are well documented in research on teaching and teacher education. However, moral commitments can also be a source of teachers’ dissatisfaction and resistance, especially in the age of the market-based Global Education Reform Movement. This article explores the phenomenon of conscientious objection in teaching as an enactment of professional ethics. Conscientious objection describes teachers’ actions when they take a stand against job expectations that contradict or compromise their professional ethics. Teachers who refuse to enact policies and practices may be represented by popular media, school leaders, policymakers, and educational researchers as merely recalcitrant or insubordinate. This perspective misses the moral dimensions of resistance. Teachers may refuse to engage in practices or follow mandates from the standpoint of professional conscience. This article also highlights varieties of conscientious objection that are drawn from global examples of teacher resistance. Finally, the article explores the role of teachers unions as potential catalysts for collective forms of conscientious objection.


Teacher Activism in the United States  

Kurt Stemhagen and Tamara Sober

There are a variety of ways in which teachers engage in activism. Teachers working for social change within their classrooms and teachers who engage in advocacy and organize to influence policy, law, and society are all doing work that falls under the umbrella of teacher activism. While there are numerous catalysts, many teachers become activists when they encounter unjust educational or social structures. There are also considerable obstacles to teachers recognizing their potential power as activists. From the gendered history of teaching to the widespread conception of teaching as a solitary and not a collective enterprise, there is rarely an easy path toward activism. The importance of collective as opposed to individual social action among teachers is increasingly recognized. Many cities now have teacher activist organizations, a group of which have come together and created a national coalition of teacher activist groups. Overall, teacher activism is an underresearched and undertheorized academic area of study. Possibilities for collective action should be fully explored.


Teacher Unions  

John McCollow

Teacher unions (or alternatively “education unions”) are organizations formed to protect and advance the collective interests of teachers and other education workers. What the collective interests of educators entail and how they should be pursued have been and remain active matters for debate within these organizations. Different unions at different times have responded differently to these questions, for example, in relation to the degree to which an industrial versus a professional orientation should be adopted, and the degree to which a wider political and social justice agenda should be embraced. Several ideal-type models of teacher unionism have been identified, as well as various strategic options that these unions might employ. A spirited debate is ongoing about the legitimacy and power of teacher unions. One perspective portrays them as self-interested special interest groups, and another as social movements advocating for public education. The status of teacher unions as stakeholders in educational policymaking is contested, and union–government relations occur across a spectrum of arrangements ranging from those that encourage negotiation to those characterized by confrontation and hostility. Internationally, education unions face significant challenges in the early decades of the 21st century. Neoliberal economic and industrial policies and legislation have eroded the capacity of unions to collectively organize and bargain, and the global education reform movement (GERM) has created a hostile environment for education unions and their members. Despite these challenges, education unions remain among the most important critics of GERM and of global neoliberal social policy generally. The challenges posed and the strategies adopted play out differently across the globe. There is evidence that at least some unions are now prepared to be far more flexible in adopting a “tapestry” of strategies, to examine their internal organization, build alliances, and develop alternative conceptions of the future of education. Researchers, however, have identified certain internal factors in many teacher unions that pose significant obstacles to these tasks. Unions face difficult choices that could lead to marginalization on the one hand or incorporation on the other.


Activism and Social Movement Building in Curriculum  

Julie Gorlewski and Isabel Nuñez

Curriculum, while often conceived as a static entity delivered as a neutral set of facts arranged in disciplinary categories, is, in reality, a pedagogical artifact—a product generated as a result of decisions made by a range of stakeholders who represent different cultural imperatives linked to contested perspectives about the purposes of school. Students’ and teachers’ experiences of school, then, are dialogic performances of a curriculum that promotes various levels of power and privilege, as well as understandings of equity and diversity. Therefore, whether or not it is recognized, the curriculum delivered in schools serves to either maintain or interrupt the status quo. Given the number of students who participate in public education, curriculum contributes a great deal to shaping the national narrative. Curriculum contributes to social movements, and the nature of the curriculum determines the direction of the movement. Since curriculum development and implementation involves myriad decisions, influence is wielded by those with decision-making power. Social status and cultural capital, both of which are historically linked with political power, largely determine who makes curricular decisions, as well as how decisions are made. These conditions pose challenges for those who have been historically marginalized within educational institutions. Despite obstacles related to systemic inequities, different forms of curriculum can and do contribute to the creation and perpetuation of social movements. Moreover, educators who understand how educational institutions function, how curricular changes occur, and how curriculum can be a source of and vehicle for change can create conditions for transformative activist curricular movements.