Education International
Education International

Access to higher education is essential for democracy as well as prosperity, says Education International

published 19 September 2007 updated 19 September 2007

Education International is concerned that the OECD’s policies are paving the way for increased privatisation of education, especially at the tertiary level, instead of promoting greater access to quality public education.

"Financing higher education through general taxation is the most equitable way of ensuring education as a social good in democratic societies," said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, speaking in reaction to Education at a Glance 2007, which examines internationally-comparable indicators of education. "The OECD consistently fails to call for greater public investment in education, but this year’s report clearly calls for increasing privatisation of funding for tertiary education," van Leeuwen said. He criticized income-contingent student loans brought in by the Australian government, which the OECD presents as a successful example of private financing. "These income-contingent loans entrench regressive tuition fees and place a disproportionate burden on students from lower-income households," he said.

Once again the OECD indicators show both economic and social benefits for individuals and countries that invest in education. Countries with well-funded education systems tend to have the most successful economies and the highest levels of student performance.

According to UNESCO, 18 million more teachers are needed worldwide to achieve Education for All by 2015. Facing this dramatic shortage, EI is concerned the OECD doesn’t address the improvements needed to recruit and retain millions more teachers.

“The teaching profession is becoming less competitive worldwide,” said van Leeuwen. "Salaries are often inadequate, and with teachers expected to address huge social problems as well as classroom duties, working conditions have become extremely demanding."

The OECD says although countries are spending more than ever on education, "the results from that investment are far from maximized." It suggests governments should introduce "innovative" reforms, such as performance-related pay and less secure forms of employment for teachers. However these measures are more likely to discourage young people from becoming teachers.

"Teachers will be forced to compete in ever-more stressful working conditions. There is no evidence that such policies improve education quality or produce better student outcomes," said van Leeuwen. "Countries that have introduced such reforms (such as Mexico and Turkey) are among the lowest performers on the OECD’s own academic quality measurements."

For more information, contact the EI communications coordinator, Nancy.Knickerbocker@ei-ie.org or on +32 2 224 0681.