In honor of World Teachers’ Day (October 5th), Education International (EI), the global association of national education unions, launched its “Unite for Quality Education” campaign today with simultaneous events at UNICEF in New York and UNESCO in Paris. This new mobilization effort calls upon member unions, governments and civil society to demand a free, high-quality education for every student. GLSEN applauds EI’s new campaign and we are particularly heartened that one of its key pillars is to promote supportive and safe environments for teaching and learning.
At the launch event at UNICEF this morning, speakers from around the world talked about how one supportive educator can make a world of difference in the life of a student. GLSEN’s two decades of experience underscore how true that is for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth here in the United States. And, since 1999, the GLSEN National School Climate Survey has consistently shown that when an LGBT student is able to identify supportive educators in their school, it benefits their individual well-being, their sense of belonging in school and their academic achievement. When educators intervene when hearing anti-LGBT remarks, when they intervene in the face of bullying or harassment, when they include positive representations of LGBT people, history or events in the curriculum and when they support a school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, they help to create an affirming learning environment for LGBT students. These supportive actions by educators can also promote a message of respect to all students, LGBT and non-LGBT alike.
GLSEN’s programmatic priorities reflect the importance of supportive teachers. Our professional development trainings for educators provide educators with the knowledge of LGBT student experiences and the skills to create safer and more affirming classrooms. Our curricular resources on LGBT issues provide materials for teachers to present positive and accurate representations of LGBT people, history and events. Our Safe Space Campaign is designed to make those supportive educators visible to LGBT students everywhere in the United States.
This past June, GLSEN, in partnership with UNESCO, convened an all-day meeting of activists and scholars from across the world to strategize about how to coordinate our collective resources and knowledge to reduce homophobic and transphobic prejudice and violence in schools globally. In honor of World Teachers’ Day, I would like to highlight some of the important work our partner organizations are doing with and for educators:
South Africa: GALA (Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action) and UNESCO will be hosting a colloquium: Transforming Classrooms, Transforming Lives: Combating Homophobia and Transphobia in Education in November in Johannesburg. The event will provide an opportunity for educators, policymakers, researchers and activists from across Southern Africa to discuss the scope and impact of homophobia and transphobia in the education sector.
Poland: Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (Campaign Against Homophobia) recently conducted research on student and school staff on attitudes regarding homophobia in school and found that 8 in 10 teachers in Poland (82.6%) believe that the topic of homosexuality and homophobia should be present in the school curriculum and about 8 in 10 (77.7%) reported that they do discuss LGBT issues in class.
Brazil: Through their Gênero e Diversidade na Escola (Gender and Diversity in School) professional education program, CLAM (Centro Latino-Americano em Sexualidade e Direitos Humano) has trained over 35,000 educators across Brazil.
Australia: Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (SSCV) is a coalition of schools and individuals working toward safer educational environments for the whole school community. SSCV offers a myriad of training opportunities for educators, including their recent workshop: Beyond the Gender Binary: Creating inclusive environments for transgender and gender diverse students, staff and families.
We at GLSEN applaud the work of all our partner organizations across the globe working on LGBT issues in education. And moreover, we honor all educators everywhere who are making schools safer and more affirming for LGBT youth.