Edtech Pandemic Shock: New EI research launched on COVID-19 education commercialisation

published 10 July 2020 updated 14 July 2020

Education International has launched groundbreaking new research which maps the extent of private actors’ influence in education since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research has been commissioned as part of Education International's Global Response to the Commercialisation and Privatisation of Education.

The authors of the research, Ben Williamson (Edinburgh University) and Anna Hogan (Queensland University), today presented their research findings in a virtual webinar for education unions globally.

The global education industry is capitalising on the education crisis

The report, Commercialisation and privatisation in/of education in the context of COVID-19, shows that the Global Education Industry is capitalising on the education crisis. Since school closures, there has been a huge upsurge in profitmaking for education technology (edtech) companies. Commercial companies have increased their involvement in public education through entering into new pandemic networks – multi-stakeholder coalitions including edtech companies, major transnational corporations, international organisations such as UNESCO, the OECD and the World Bank, national governments and other actors.

The pivot to distance learning has allowed private actors to position themselves at the centre of essential education services – not just as a response to the crisis and the need for emergency remote teaching - but for the long term.

Governments have the responsibility to provide quality education for all

Opening the webinar, Education International’s President, Susan Hopgood, noted: “As every education system around the world, attempts to navigate the multiple crises (health, economic, social), the challenge of providing quality teaching and learning in this context is tough, and the lure of handing over responsibility to the private sector is strong.“ However, she went on to stress that no matter the crisis, “governments cannot shirk their responsibility to provide quality education for all, as enshrined in international law and necessitated by international commitments” and underlined that as unions, “it is our role and responsibility to ensure that governments fulfil their obligation in the provision of quality public education, so that the right to education is fulfilled for every child.”

During the webinar, union leaders were given the opportunity to pose questions to the researchers, enhance their understanding of the global commercialisation and privatisation trends witnessed, and discuss possible strategies to reverse these trends.

Unions involved highlighted the need to work together to defend public education from being ‘reimagined’ by corporate edtech. According to Education International’s General Secretary, David Edwards: “This webinar is just the beginning of the discussion. As education unions, we need to continue to analyse, strategise, plan, organise collectively, and use our strength as a global movement to confront the radical shift in the global education landscape that is occurring as we speak.”

A summary of key findings can be found here.

Check out a blog from the study’s authors here.

Want to join the conversation on twitter? Use #studentsbeforeprofit and #edtechshock