EI research reinforces advocacy against growing privatisation of public education

published 22 May 2017 updated 4 January 2022

In the framework of its Global Response to the privatisation of education, Education International has published documents exploring privatisation and its impact on access to education, quality education, and teachers’ conditions of employment.

Each topic is considered through the prism of four case studies based on research undertaken on behalf of Education International (EI) in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and the Philippines. For EI, the privatisation and commercialisation of education remains the greatest threat to the achievement of quality, inclusive and equitable education for all, such as the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). In a world where the profit motive prevails, students, teachers, the quality of education, and the communities served by educators are the first to be affected.

Access to education

Following SDG4, Target 4.1, governments have committed to ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. The EI’s research underlines that the growing presence of corporate actors in many countries and across sectors poses serious human rights challenges to achieving free quality public education for all. Whilst claiming to offer “affordable” education, the fees charged are certainly not affordable for the populations they purport to serve. The evidence shows that any price put on accessing education serves as a barrier for the poorest and most disadvantaged and therefore deepens inequality and segregation.

Education International reaffirms that anything other than free quality education for all undermines inclusive and equitable education.

Quality education

In addition, the business model implemented by for-profit corporate-backed school chains involves measures designed to increase profitability and which compromise quality teaching and learning. EI insists that that this business model is predicated on the employment of unqualified staff and delivers a standardised scripted curriculum showing little, if any, respect for inclusive education and cultural and linguistic diversity. It is a curriculum which invariably does not satisfy national standards.

This does not constitute quality education, EI stresses.

Teachers’ conditions of employment

Noting that teachers’ salaries account for approximately 70 percent of a school budget, EI strongly deplores the practice of employing fewer teachers, underqualified teachers, or unqualified staff in order to boost profit margins.

Privatisation, and the associated deregulation of working conditions that accompanies it, results in downward pressure being put on professional standards, salaries and working conditions for all teachers, and ultimately the quality of education.