Teachers in the Pakistani Punjab are engaged in an ongoing fight with the government, in particular over the use of temporary contracts. This is just the latest stage of the protests and will be followed by a mass sit-in in the capital Lahore, starting on June 1st.

This region of Pakistan is a good example of the growing influence of giant education corporation, Pearson, in education systems in the global South. Chief education adviser for the company, Sir Michael Barber has been advising the Punjab government on its education policy since 2010 (reportedly paid $7000 a day for his pains by the UK Department for International Development). Number one on his list of plans was increased data and targets, along with that came performance related pay for teachers, with some teachers reportedly having their pay cut if test performance was below target. In addition he brought in Public Private Partnerships and voucher schemes which could be used in private or public education - an idea first floated by neoliberal guru Milton Friedman in the 1970s and hardly ever implemented in the West.

Co-incident with the involvement of Pearson's Barber, comes the turn to compulsory instruction in English, which according to the Punjab Teachers Union is forcing students  'to flee from schools due to the fear of English medium'. For most of the children in low income areas, English is as much of a foreign language as Urdu would be to, for instance, a European heritage US child, yet they are increasingly being made to do all their learning in that language. And of course the more English becomes the global language of instruction, the easier and quicker it is for Pearson and other education corporations to peddle their wares.

No Punjabi teacher would deny that the public school system in the region needs improving. Teachers need to be paid a decent salary and there need to be many more teachers so that class sizes become reasonable. Teachers need to be treated with dignity and given proper contracts so that they are not paid even lower salaries and kept in a permanent state of insecurity and stress. The state needs to stop requiring teachers to do work other than their professional work of teaching - at present they are forced to do work like census taking and immunisation campaigns, with no substitute teachers to do their work while this is happening. School buildings and facilities need to be improved. There needs to be improved training for teachers and teachers and education academics should be the main movers of all plans to improve education, not unelected advisers like Barber - working for a corporation making billions yearly from education systems. And of course the state needs a government which will change the underlying economic relations in the country, which cause the grinding poverty which keeps so many children out of school.

The Punjabi teachers have framed their campaign as one to 'Save Education'. We can only agree and send our solidarity to them in their struggle.