The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations are worrying many civil society organisations, including EAEA. But what is TTIP and how does it concern adult education? EAEA Policy Officer Tania Berman explains.
What is TTIP agreement?
"It is a trade agreement that is being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. The aim is to remove trade barriers to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US."
How does TTIP concern adult education?
"It is currently unclear whether education, and in particular adult education, will be included in TTIP. As there were some rumors on it, EAEA, as well as several other stakeholders in the field of education, as European Students Union (ESU), Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU), EUCIS-LLL, European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), etc. made very clear statements asking for education to be excluded from the TTIP agreement. Indeed, we believe that education has no place in a trade agreement as it is a public good and a human right.
The latest information on the TTIP text tend to say that education will be protected in the agreement, but it is still very much unsure."
If TTIP becomes reality, what would it mean for an individual adult educator?
"It would mean that any private service provider could offer education services. Experience shows that private service providers tend to offer education services of lower quality than public services, often working with volunteers, students, under-qualified teachers, low-paid trainers or teachers, cutting on costs wherever they can, also not offering teacher training, etc. These service providers increase the competition in the sector and often offer cheap courses, making it more difficult for NGOs or public services to continue providing a high-level quality service.
Furthermore, we believe that adult education needs to reach out to marginalised groups, including learners from remote or rural areas; private providers do not reach out to these groups as these populations are not profit-making.
The very concrete threat for adult educators could be to see their professional opportunities decrease in terms of teacher trainings, salaries, recognition of their qualifications, etc.
It is nevertheless very difficult to say whether these things would really happen, as removing barriers do not mean that such a strong competition would actually happen; but opening education to the market means that the door would be open to private education services to start to compete with public education. In some European countries, it is already possible, and it would therefore not bring big changes; but in some of the other countries, education is, for now, protected. EAEA is advocating for education to be, in Europe, a public good."
What are the latest news on TTIP agreement?
"A new round of negotiations took place in Brussels. On 4th of February 2015, a stakeholder’s meeting was organised, during which several organisations addressed questions to the negotiators on the exclusion of education, public services and health.
Civil society is getting organised, with several umbrella organisations as EUCIS-LLL or Social Platform, both platforms that EAEA is a member of, gathering their members to define their position on the topic. EUCIS-LLL has published a position paper.
The European Parliament has also started to work on the TTIP with several Committees preparing an opinion for European Commission's Directorate-General for Trade that currently negotiates the agreement with the representatives of the US.
In the field of education, the Parliament's Committee for Culture and Education (CULT) appointed a rapporteur, MEP Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, picture above) to write an opinion on its behalf. MEP Trüpel organised a small meeting with stakeholders in the field of education with EAEA, EUCIS-LLL, ETUCE and the German Rector's Conference/European University Association (EUA). After discussing with these organisations, she prepared a draft opinion that EAEA supports. The draft opinion was presented recently to the CULT Committee. It will be voted upon on April 16th."
Interview: Aura Vuorenrinne
Picture: European Union 2015 / EP