Many countries are facing the same education challenges, says FEDSAS CEO about extending the organisation’s international network

21/09/2023 - Fedsas

It is good and bad news that local challenges in education are not unique to South Africa. “In many European countries there is pressure on schools in terms of admissions policy as well as concerns over an aging educator corps and the loss of skills,” says Dr Jaco Deacon, CEO of FEDSAS (Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools). Deacon was a speaker at a conference of the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) in Ljubljana in Slovenia. Sixteen countries were represented at the conference.

“Of course, it is bad news that education is still facing so many challenges and especially that these challenges are so similar across countries. But the good news is that there are also a lot more plans and opportunities to learn from others.” Deacon says in many European countries, schools are confronted with challenges with admissions due to an influx of immigrants and refugees. “Schools must adapt to accommodate learners from diverse backgrounds, languages and cultures.”

Another problem is pressure on school principals. “Due to the pressure, principals opt for early retirement and there are few candidates interested in applying for vacant positions. As is the case in South Africa, staff wellness is high on the agenda. Plans are necessary to ensure that education becomes an attractive professional career option and especially a sustainable career. Teachers worldwide are leaving the profession due to the pressures of large classes, a shortage of resources and a lack of support.”

Deacon says FEDSAS and the EFEE also had a separate meeting to discuss closer cooperation in future. “I am excited about this prospect. FEDSAS now has friends in many countries. There are several touchpoints between FEDSAS and the EFEE. Over the coming months, we will be attending each other’s webinars and share documentation. I hope that we will eventually be able to establish an exchange agreement to provide staff with exposure to different systems. In the short term we are looking at cooperation in terms of leadership, policy and technology.”

Discussions are also underway about an international network where collectives could be addressed. “The UN’s International Labour Organisation and UNESCO often only engage with international labour federations. As a result, policy and documentation are sometimes forced upon countries without different circumstances being considered. In fact, many countries do not even have a voice on these fora.”

Deacon says for FEDSAS to remain the leader in school governance, continuous renewal is necessary. “That is why we are building out our international network. FEDSAS focuses on the development of competent school governing bodies. International cooperation is proof that we consult, observe and cooperate far and wide to ensure that our members have access to the very best training and support.”

PHOTO (FEDSAS_EFEE_2023 group): Dr Jaco Deacon (front middle) with other participants at a conference of the European Federation of Education Employers in Ljubljana in Slovenia.

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