Statement | EI calls on World Bank to change tack in education

published 17 October 2019 updated 18 November 2019

As the board of governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund come together for the 2019 Annual Meetings in Washington this week, Education International sends two clear messages to the World Bank:

Stop funding and promoting privatisation and education profiteering

Despite the evidence that only free quality public education is sustainable and reaches the most vulnerable,the World Bank continues to directly fund commercial private education providers, including so-called low-fee private school chains through the International Finance Corporation (IFC).The Bank therefore unethically channels public tax-payers’ money to for-profit corporations for education provision which, ample research shows, excludes the poorest and most marginalised and is often of poor quality, with unqualified teachers hired at low cost and government standards dodged. This must stop now. If the Bank is serious about supporting Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education it must stop funding private education providers immediately and instead work towards achieving free primary and secondary education for all (SDG target 4.1), universal early childhood education and tertiary education to all who need it by strengtheningpublic education systems.

In addition to financing private education, the World Bank fundsmarket-oriented public private partnerships (PPPs) through its International Development Association (IDA) and actively promotes privatisation of education by advising countries to adopt reforms that reduce regulations and encourage private ‘education markets’. The Bank’s international policy advice tool, Systems Approach for Better Educational Results (SABER), encourages education ministries in low- and middle-income countries to increase their engagement with the private sector, introduce greater school choice and incentivise market entry of private education providers. The advice ignores evidence of the negative impact of public-private partnerships on equity and quality in education.

EI denounces theprivatisation and commercialisation of educationas it undermines education as a human right and a public good. In an open letter to the World Bank and its donors, EIand over 170 civil society organisations from across the world call on the Bank totake a clear and principled position in support of free, publicly funded and provided education and against the use of development aid to fund for-profit or commercial education.

Stop undermining teachers and their unions

The Bank has long been known to undermine teacher professionalism.For many years it has promoted policies that control and devalue the teaching profession, such as high-stakes test-based accountability, reduced teacher salaries and the use of contract teachers.The World Bank recently developed a new teacher observation tool(‘Teach’)– a one-size-fits-all instrumentremoved from the local context. The tool was developed without involving or consulting the teaching profession. By doing this, the Banksuggeststhat itcontinues to perceive teachers as unskilled workers who are the principal source of the ‘learning crisis’ and must be held accountable, rather than as a professional body who should be trusted, given autonomy, supported and listened to.

The Bank rightfullyrecognises that quality teachers arecentral to achieving quality education for all.However,it still does not recognise and bolster teacher professionalism. We therefore call on the Bank toact now to fundamentally change its approach to teachers. The Bankshould practise and promote enhanced policy dialogue and ensure that teachers and their unions are key partners when designing, developing, implementing and evaluating any education reforms. It should advocate for teachers to be professionally trained and highly qualified, actively supported and well-resourced. And it should prioritise decent work over cost-cutting measuresand go further to promote high quality working conditions for all teachers, seeking to persuade and support governments to raise the status of the profession.

In summary, as the decision-makers of the International Finance Institutions come together this week, Education International has two simple, clear messages – stop promoting education privatisation and stop undermining teacher professionalism, teachers and their unions. Unions and civil society have been callingfor reform at the World Bank for years. Now is the time for change.