A global response to commercialisation of education
Education is a human right and a public good. The growing commercialisation of education represents the greatest threat to the achievement of quality public education for all. Education International (EI) challenges the emerging assumption that the global corporate sector should have a role to play in school provision, financing and management
This issue dominated the proceedings of EI’s 7th World Congress, which took place in July 2015 in Canada. Noting the dimension and the threat to students and educators posed by the ongoing commercialisation of education, the World Congress, consisting nearly 2,000 delegates, resolved to implement a global response to the rapidly expanding for-profit corporate sector involvement in education.
The primary goals of the Global Response project
The Global Response seeks to ensure that governments do not abrogate their primary obligation to ensure that every student has access to free, quality public education by facilitating the growth in the privatisation of education. Instead, governments must increase domestic resource mobilisation for education to at least 6% GDP. Resources should be targeted to tackle disadvantage and provide the opportunity for all students to reach their full potential. They should be allocated to pre-service and in-service teacher training and development, as well as school infrastructure.
- We challenge profit-making in education where it undermines the right of all students to free, quality education and creates and entrenches inequalities. Research on ‘affordability’ of the education sector is conclusive. Any fee, any economic barrier, is an obstacle to access, particularly for girls and the socially disadvantaged. To date, global progress in education access has only been possible thanks to the State sector expansion and the abolition of fees. The majority of children in the majority of countries cannot access the private sector.
- We challenge the profit-making in education where it undermines the working conditions and rights of teachers, contributes to their de-professionalisation, and erodes democratic decision-making and public accountability in relation to education governance.
- We challenge the use of market-based principles in education (ie. test-based and teacher accountability policies, standardised reduced curriculum, choice and competition). The marketisation of education and the introduction of managerial reforms undermine the right to quality education, promote segregation and contribute to the deskilling and de-professionalisation of the teaching profession.
- We call on governments to establish nationally agreed minimum standards for the teaching profession in line with the ILO/UNESCO recommendations on the status of teachers 1966. We urge them to employ sufficient numbers of trained teachers who receive good quality pre-service and in-service training and are paid domestically competitive salaries.
- We challenge the growing privatisation and commercialisation of education as it constitutes one of the greatest threats to education as a human right and a public good and the achievement of SDG4: inclusive and equitable, free quality education for all. As pointed out by Kishore Singh, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, the rapid rise of private providers, often unregulated and privileging the wealthy, must be replaced by efforts which reduce inequality and expand opportunities of good quality public education without exclusion.
An example of recent targeted campaigns
The Global Response campaigns in target countries where education unions have identified a particular threat to public education.
Particularly, EI challenges the promotion of for-profit schooling targeting poor communities in developing countries where quality public education systems have not yet established universal basic education through publicly funded free, quality education systems. Profit-making schools in environments with weak state governance, as is the case in a number of African countries, tend to abuse the lack of regulations to maximise their profit. This is both morally questionable and financially unsustainable for communities that already live below the poverty line and are further impoverished by having to pay fees.
Recent campaigns have included a focus on combatting the expansion of these private school corporations and have sought to halt the operations of Bridge International Academies (Bridge) in Uganda and Kenya. Bridge is one of the largest actors in the global education market and remains defiant in the face of the ordered closures. It continues to expand very rapidly and plans to sell basic education services directly to 10 million fee-paying students in Africa and Asia by 2025.
Research showed that the company offered low quality education with unqualified teachers teaching from scripts and that their education provision excluded the poorest and most marginalised, and increased educational segregation.
In collaboration with teacher unions in Uganda and Kenya, the Global Response project raised awareness of Bridge’s illegal operations and the negative impact of their educational provision both nationally and internationally. After sustained efforts and the uniting of various stakeholders including unions, politicians, researchers, community leaders, teachers, parents, students and members of the general public, numerous unlicensed Bridge schools were ordered to be closed down in both Uganda and Kenya.
Thus, the Global Response campaign continues to speak out against the profit-making company, revealing its conflicts of interest and the fact that its business model focuses on cutting costs and tapping into lucrative, exploitative market opportunities to profit from the poor.
Uniting against the privatisation and commercialisation of education
Privatisation both in and of education is an ever increasing danger to public education. In order to combat this threat, we must unite.
EI will continue to work with the broader union movement and a range of like-minded stakeholders to monitor, analyse, raise awareness of and fight against the commercialisation and privatisation of education in all its forms in order to protect public education.
All children have the right to and deserve free, quality public education. Profit-making in and of education should play no role.