A global response to the commercialisation and marketisation of education
In the context of the many challenges that confront public education systems globally, the increasing privatisation and marketisation in and of education represent the greatest threat to education as a public good and to equality in education access and outcomes. This issue dominated the proceedings of the 7th World Congress of Education International (EI), which took place between 22-26 July in Ottawa, Canada.
Noting the dimension and the threat to students, teachers, education support personnel and quality public education for all posed by the ongoing commercialisation of education, the World Congress, consisting nearly 2,000 delegates, resolved that we need a global response to the rapidly expanding for-profit corporate sector involvement in education. Whilst this carries on from EI’s existing work on privatisation and Member Organisation national campaigns focused on privatisation, the Global Response to the Commercialisation and Privatisation in and of Education aims to draw these efforts together with a view to delivering a stronger, more focused response by harnessing collective energy and influence.
The primary goals of the campaign against the marketisation of education
The Global Response represents a continuation of the UNITE for quality education campaign. Launched in October 2013, the UNITE campaign has three overarching principles:
- Create awareness among governments, inter-governmental agencies and society generally that quality public education provision for all is one of the fundamental pillars of a just and equitable society.
- Demonstrate that privatisation undermines public education and is detrimental to the interests of society.
- Ensure that a goal on free universal quality education for all is a central part of any global post-2015 development agenda.
Focusing on the second principle, the Global Response aims to put the spotlight on the engagement of education corporations in various aspects of education governance, as well as the sale and provision of for-profit education and education services, such as standardised testing, curricula and teacher evaluation tools and support for the introduction and expansion of Low Fee For-Profit Schools. It seeks specifically to advocate against the expansion of profit-making in education where it undermines the right of all students to free quality education, creates and entrenches inequalities in education, undermines the working conditions and rights of teachers and other education workers, and erodes democratic decision-making and public accountability in relation to education governance.
This campaign against the marketisation of education is informed by an analysis highlighting the rapid growth of education corporations/edu-businesses, the size, reach and influence of which had not been foreseen. With little, if any regard for national borders, the nation state or national sovereignty, the rapid growth of education corporations/edu-businesses is driven by the desire on the part of global capital to access the relatively untapped education market valued at approximately $4.5 to $5 trillion USD per annum. A figure predicted to grow to $6 to S7 trillion USD per annum in a couple of years.
Having identified the lucrative nature of the education market, and in particular how much the limitless, sustainable resource of children, our students, and their education represents, global education corporations/edu-businesses have set about trying to influence and control education in order to satisfy their profit motives.
A campaign against the looming private education takeover
This Global Response will also focus on governments which in too many cases are abrogating their obligations to ensuring that every child, every student has access to a high quality free public education by either allowing or indeed facilitating and encouraging the growth in the privatisation and marketisation of education.
The danger of governments outsourcing education activities to profit-making corporations is that it makes it possible for these actors to not only ‘reap uncontrolled profit’, but also to assert their influence in policy processes and to steer education agendas in ways that may not align with international agreements and national priorities. This poses a risk not only for public education systems themselves, but also their ability to promote democracy, social cohesion and equity. Moreover, it raises fundamental questions about whose interests are being served by these developments in education, and with what outcomes.
Now more than ever, the global political landscape and the growing influence and dominance of global corporate actors require us all to reach out and build community alliances in a way we have never done so before if we are to resist and, more importantly, halt and reverse current trends. Failure to do so will put at risk that great social enterprise of public education.