Closing the global education student representation gap

The current global education governance and policy-making system is a complex and interconnected network of various stakeholders, operating in a decentralized and non-hierarchical manner. It relies on participation, negotiation, and mediation to achieve legitimacy and influence decision-making processes.

Key institutional players in the global education governance and policy-making landscape include international organizations like the United Nations and its subsidiary agency, UNESCO, as well as influential multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank, Global Partnership for Education, and Education Cannot Wait.

The international education sector boasts a dynamic and diverse civil society community, comprising non-governmental organizations and trade unions. These entities have cultivated partnerships and strategies over many years to exert policy influence.

Certain organizations within the civil society community have established significant levels of participation and formalization in their relationships with key institutions.

Lacking representation, secondary and tertiary student unions have been noticeably absent from the global discourse, unlike education workers, educational institutions, and civil society, which are well represented through their respective global umbrella organizations. This absence of a democratic and representative student voice has been evident since the conclusion of the Cold War.

Following the collapse of the pro-communist International Union of Students due to political and financial challenges in the post-1989 world order, a void remained for over three decades until the establishment of the Global Student Forum (GSF).

The 2016 Student Voice Conference held in Bergen, Norway, provided a rare occasion for national student union delegations from various countries to convene after a significant gap. This event was followed by extensive efforts to foster connections, enhance collaboration, and promote political reconciliation between regional and national student organizations.

In 2020, the Global Student Forum (GSF) was established as the formal consolidation of major student federations and their national organizations, including the All-Africa Students Union, the European Students’ Union, the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions, the Commonwealth Students Association, and the Latin American and Caribbean Continental Students Organization (OCLAE).

This milestone marked the coming together of the world’s largest student federations to advocate for student interests on a global scale.

With its 202 member unions spanning 122 countries, the Global Student Forum (GSF) serves as the democratic and autonomous voice of learners worldwide.

It serves as the voice of more than 200 million secondary and tertiary students worldwide, representing their diverse economic, social, cultural, and educational interests.

The GSF actively engages with the international community, its institutions, and the global education sector to advocate for the rights and needs of students on a global scale.

While national and regional levels have witnessed a notable shift towards participatory governance approaches, allowing student unions to enhance their formal influence and recognition in educational leadership, the global landscape of education governance and policy-making lacks a legitimate global student union to occupy this space.



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By Ryan

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