In the context of the numerous challenges facing public education systems worldwide, increasing privatisation and commodification represent one of the greatest challenges for equality in access to quality education. In a study recently conducted with the support of Education International, we explored the recent evolution of educational reform in Honduras and analysed the different manifestations and trends of educational privatisation in the country.
As detailed in the study, and apart from the PROHECO program (Honduran Community Education Project), an analysis of which we have not included because it has been the subject of numerous previous research pieces, the forms of educational privatisation identified include:
(1) the provision of pre-basic education by private foundations,
(2) the emergence of low-cost private schools,
(3) the collection of fees for families with children in public schools,
(4) private provision resulting from the inadequate number of public schools at the secondary level,
(5) the incursion of companies in education through corporate social responsibility,
(6) the growing participation of NGOs and for-profit organizations subcontracted by cooperation agencies, and
(7) the implementation of ongoing accountability policies.
As noted in the study, there are no simple explanations for the process of educational privatisation in Honduras. This is because the problem is not simply privatisation but also the system that produces it and in which the process is registered and fed back. On the one hand, with a State that does not guarantee provision, with little technical capacity to produce educational policy and few resources to implement it, the system is, strictly speaking, caught between globalisation and privatisation.
Thus, the definition of the educational policy priorities agenda is, to a large extent, at the mercy of cooperation agencies, international organisations, and internal and external non-state agents. In parallel, the very nature of state inaction promotes different dynamics of privatisation by default within the system, as described in our study.
On the other hand, the system is hostage to its own practices and tendencies. This is clearly seen when analysing the functioning and the real effects of the measures and policies that should lead to the decentralisation of the education system. In this sense, it is worth highlighting the paradoxical effect of a process of ‘de-funded decentralisation’ that has left the departmental, municipal and district government levels without the resources and technical capacities necessary to face the local needs of the system, including the needs of schools, the last link in the chain, with the implication being that schools need to compensate for the lack of essential operating expenses by demanding that families pay fees.
Decentralisation thus becomes a process that is far from achieving the intended empowerment of sub-national levels and turns it, rather, into a process that not only maintains power and resources at the central level, but also results in further (endogenous) privatization by leading to the payment of fees and the implementation of policies where families are supposed to hold teachers accountable (with the teachers somehow being expected to overcome the structural shortcomings of the system, e.g., the lack of resources).
It is our desire that the results of the research presented contribute to a critical debate on the links between the right of students to a quality education, the right of teachers to work conditions of quality, and the growing role and impact of private actors by the State. It is also hoped that this research can contribute to debate on the development and implementation of legislative frameworks in order to protect the right to education and achieve a quality public education that is equitable for all.
To access the full report (in Spanish): La educación en Honduras:entre la privatización y la globalización de D. Brent Edwards Jr, Mauro C. Moschetti & Alejandro Caravaca click here
An executive summary, also in Spanish, can be found here