European and Dutch social partners on the front line for educational equity 


On 11 October 2017, ETUCE and EFEE met with the education social partners in Utrecht, the Netherlands, at the occasion of the third round table of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education (ESSDE) Capacity building Project III. The meeting gathered the leaders of education trade unions (AOb, host and partner to the project, FNV O&O, CNV Onderwijs), employers’ organisations (PO-raad, MBO-raad, VO-raad, VSNU Universities) and school leaders (AVS) in the Netherlands.

The delegations were accompanied by representatives from the Stichting van het Onderwijs, the Foundation for Education, that works as a forum and platform for the education social partners in the Netherlands. Participants exchanged and reflected on how social partners could contribute to enhancing equity, equality and social justice in education, as well as on how to contribute to the development of high quality skills and competences. Both themes are part of the ESSDE work programme 2016-2017. Discussions conducted during the round table are to feed in the general discussion of the ESSDE partners.

Opening the meeting, PO-raad President Paul Rosenmöller and AOb President Liesbeth Verheggen, respectively President and Vice-President of the Foundation for Education, reflected on the work achieved through the Foundation in finding common ground and advancing discussion between education social partners in the broader economic and social context. In a country with a strong social dialogue tradition, and in a context of arising challenges that concern the whole education sector, they emphasized the importance of continuing cooperation between social partners at all levels of education, and welcomed the opportunity to exchange and propose joint solutions during this round table.

Social partners in education in the Netherlands were joined by experts on each session of the day-long event. In the morning, KU Leuven University Professor Ides Nicaise provided an overview on challenges and possible strategies to achieve effective equity in education against a number of new and old challenges arising such as economic background, emancipation of people with special needs, language, cultural and religion diversity, migration status, diversity in sexual orientation and family fragmentation. In the afternoon, a representative from the European Commission presented the objectives and achievements of the ET2020 working group on Adult Learning. During the discussions, proposals were put forward on how to overcome existing barriers to enable students and citizens with all needs and from all backgrounds to reach their fullest potential. Alexandra Cornea, representing one of ETUCE member organisations in Romania, FLSI, provided some insight into the social dialogue situation in her country, highlighting current challenges for the education sector and generating discussions on the need for capacity building activities allowing for upward social convergence in EU countries with different traditions.

Commenting on the day of discussions, co-chairs to the meeting, ETUCE European Director Susan Flocken and EFEE General Secretary Daniel Wisniewski praised the highly productive cooperation between social partners and the quality of interventions from participants. Susan Flocken declared: “The commitment that was displayed today in promoting equity and social inclusion in education and throughout the life is daily advocated by ETUCE. These objectives”, she continued, “can only be achieved through constructive dialogue between social partners at all levels, European, national, regional and local”. The ESSDE Capacity building project will carry on in the upcoming months with the objectives of sparking off debates on issues relevant to national contexts and education systems, and strengthening the links between European and national levels.

To know more about the ESSDE Capacity Building Project III and previous events, please click here.