David Edwards, who earned his doctorate in educational policy and leadership from the University of Maryland in 2014, was named to lead Education International in January 2018. Education International, a global teaching union organization, is a federation of 32 million teachers and other educators affiliated with unions and associations in 173 countries globally.
The organization represents the interests of teachers and education employees on the international level and advocates for accessible, high-quality publicly funded education. Dr. Edwards, who previously served as EI’s deputy general secretary for seven years, assumed leadership of the organization as general secretary in March 2018.
“In his seven years as deputy general secretary, Dr. Edwards has been an incredibly strong global voice for teachers and students,” said UMD College of Education Professor Steven J. Klees, who served as Dr. Edwards’ doctoral advisor. “His appointment as general secretary of Education International is a triumph for educators around the world.”
Prior to joining EI, Dr. Edwards served as an associate director and head of the international relations department at the National Education Association (NEA), and as an educational specialist at the Organization of American States.
While working at OAS in Washington D.C., Dr. Edwards began his doctoral program at the UMD College of Education after meeting Dr. Klees, who was starting COE’s international education policy program and urged him to enroll. Dr. Edwards successfully juggled career, academia, and family life to complete his doctorate, following Dr. Klees’ advice to treat the coursework and readings as as an academic sounding board where he could test the assumptions and theories that were being played out as he worked with ministries of education.
“It’s an amazing program that encompasses sector analysis methodology, political economy, alternative approaches, and project evaluation,” Dr. Edwards said of COE’s international education doctoral program, adding that the program’s approach to the discipline is “intensely relevant to the real work of the field.”
Dr. Edwards, who began his career as a public high school teacher, has been working as a teacher and education rights activist for more than 20 years. Stepping into the helm of EI, which represents education workers from 173 nations, he intends for the organization to help serve the diverse and distinct needs of its constituencies, as well as to protect the universal right to education.
“More than a half-century ago, the world agreed through the United Nations that education is both a human right and a public good. And ever since then, that fundamental agreement has been under attack,” Dr. Edwards said.
Dr. Edwards is passionate about the role of a teachers’ union in protecting educators’ rights. For example, EI advocates for addressing gender equality through both pay scale and remedying structural inequalities that lead to gender disparities.
“Our members navigate incredible complexities in their work lives in the context of political and social conditions regionally and nationally that include threats to their own lives,” Dr. Edwards said. “My goal is to continually position the organization as the voice of education workers and the profession in every global arena where decisions are taken that have a bearing on our members’ lives and livelihoods. We need to strengthen alliances with pro-public education organizations and actively arm our members and combined global representation with increasingly more and better research to support our arguments.”
Dr. Edwards, who speaks French and German, now lives in Brussels, Belgium, with his wife and three daughters.