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Privatizing Teacher Solidarity: Education Freelancing in the Former Socialist Bloc

published 13 November 2012 updated 13 November 2012
written by:

With the advent of the market forces in the post-socialist education space, the logic of service provision has become commonplace in schools. For many teachers, “education entrepreneurship” has become a part of the individual and collective professional identity formation. In Lithuania, for example, the 2003 Law on Education codified the concept of a “freelance teacher,” whereby teachers can become licensed to engage in private educational activities on an individual basis. According to the Law, freelance teachers have the right to work according to their individual programs, choose methods and forms of pedagogical activity, and provide informational, consulting, and in-service assistance. While such “freelance” teaching has not been legalized in most of the post-socialist countries, it has been de facto institutionalized in the shadow education market across the region.

Notwithstanding many criticisms – for example, the emerging educational marketplace where students have become “customers” and education has become a commodity that could be bought and sold – education “freelancing” has brought many benefits to individual educators. For many teachers, “freelancing” (usually in the form of private tutoring) has become an important source of income generation used to supplement their meager salaries. For many others, “freelancing” has becomes a mechanism to reclaim their professional authority, which has been undermined by the aggressive implementation of (neo)liberal reforms, including the increasing centralized control over school curriculum, a growing emphasis on academic testing, or mounting demands for accountability. In a way, education freelancing has created an education space where teachers (usually in cooperation with families and communities) have the authority to determine what is “good” education for their students. To some extent, it has become a space to resist and sometimes avoid altogether the globally “travelling” (neo)liberal reforms.

Despite being a “protected space” from (neo)liberal regulation and control, however, education freelancing has important occupational consequences. In the context of the market-driven reforms, teachers make individual choices to “survive” economically and professionally by engaging in freelancing activities. And while the (neo)liberal logic of individualism offers an opportunity for teachers to redefine their professionalism and resist unwanted reforms, it remains an individual endeavor and therefore seriously affects occupationally anchored collectivity of teachers in the context of (neo)liberal globalization. In a way, we are witnessing an unparalleled privatization of not only public education, but also of teacher solidarity itself.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.