Prominent scholars, analysts and trade union leaders are convening in Brussels to lay out the mechanisms, strategies and trends in the privatisation of education – with the aim of turning research into successful action.
The Global Response Network meeting, hosted by Education International (EI), is unfolding in the International Trade Union House in Brussels from January 19-20. More than 50 participants from all over the world are analysing the current trends in the privatisation of education, a global phenomenon that pervades and hollows out education systems, posing the “biggest threat to the right to education”, according to project director Angelo Gavrielatos, who chaired the sessions.
A successful campaign
The decision to launch a Global Response to the privatisation of education was adopted by EI’s seventh World Congress as its top priority. One-and-a-half years into the campaign, the joint effort by EI’s affiliates and partners has had some success, Gavrielatos said. The Ugandan government’s decision to close the schools belonging to the private for-profit chain Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Uganda after the publication of an EI-commissioned research paper that highlighted the disastrous conditions of tuition at BIA is the best example of this success.
From research to action
At the meeting, three keynote speakers - prominent scholars and researchers – outlined the current state of the privatisation of education. Respectively, they explored the cases of Uganda and the Philippines, the regional dynamics in Latin America, and the effects of trade deals on education.
Curtis Riep, a Canadian researcher, who was commissioned by EI to carry out two studies, in Uganda(which led to the closure of BIA schools), and the Philippines(analysing the case of APEC schools), presented the operations of two major chains of for-profit private schools and their impact on the communities in which they are based.
Susan Robertson, a lecturer at the University of Cambridge, UK, talked about trade deals and their effects on the provision of and access to quality public education. Trade deals reflect the commitment of many governments to neoliberal values, said Robertson, and are part of a paradigm that is neglecting social cohesion, increasing inequality, and reducing productivity in the economies where it is applied.
The research carried out by Toni Verger and his colleagues from the University of Barcelona, Spain, explores the dynamics of privatisation in the Latin American region. Verger named different types of privatisation that are unfolding in a region which has witnessed the “strongest push towards the privatisation of education, for the longest time”, he stressed.