Education International
Education International

Public education at risk of privatisation by stealth

published 17 June 2008 updated 17 June 2008

A new study commissioned by Education International reveals that a growing trend towards privatization of public education is often camouflaged by the language of “educational reform,” or introduced stealthily as “modernization.” Hence the title of the study: Hidden Privatisation In Public Education.

The research was undertaken by Prof. Stephen Ball and Dr. Deborah Youdell, both of the Institute of Education, University of London. The authors explore two key types of privatisation: one in which ideas, techniques and practices from the private sector are imported to make schools more business-like; and another in which public education is opened up to private sector participation on a for-profit basis. The former type often paves the way for the latter.

Both types of privatisation have profound impacts upon the way education is delivered, how curriculum is decided, how teachers are trained, how students are assessed, and indeed on the fundamental values underpinning public education in both industrialised and developing countries.

“A central issue, as this report so clearly shows, concerns the very ethos of education,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “To put it in the starkest possible way: is education about giving each child, each young man or woman, the opportunity to develop his or her full potential as a person and as a member of society? Or is education to be a service sold to clients, who are considered from a young age to be consumers and targets for marketing?”

Teachers and their unions around the world actively defend the concept of quality public education as a fundamental right of child. Therefore, this stealthy transformation of education from a public good into a commodity to be used for private profit is of deep concern.

“Education International commissioned this study shine a spotlight on the trend towards privatization. We need greater transparency and we need to get a better understanding of what is happening, so that we can engage in an open public debate about the future of education in our societies,” van Leeuwen said.

For further information, please contact Guntars Catlaks, EI Research Coordinator, at: guntars.catlaks@ei-ie.org

For media queries, please contact Nancy Knickerbocker, EI Communications Coordinator, on +32 476 850 701 or at: editor@ei-ie.org

To read the study, please click on this link.