Education International
Education International

Trade union and civil society fire back at magazine’s promotion of low fee for-profit schools

published 1 September 2015 updated 25 September 2015

Swift and forceful was the reaction that met The Economist article unabashedly supporting low fee for-profit schools in developing countries as leaders throughout education trade unions and civil society condemned the one-sided piece.

EI member organisations: tell The Economist to correct the record

Reacting to the cover story of the 1st of August edition of The Economist on low fee private schools, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have launched a petition urging the magazine to redact what has been viewed as a one-sided opinion and give its readers a full picture of how low fee for-profit schools negatively affect children and families.The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), along with the UK’s National Union of Teachers (NUT), both affiliates of Education International (EI), have signed on in support.

“What if you had to pay up to half your income to send one child to school?” asked SADTU General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke. Families in the developing world have to pay per day or per week for their children to attend school, and these fees can be half or more of a family’s income, he stressed.

What is even worse, Maluleke said, is that the magazine ran the story without disclosing that Pearson—who invests heavily in these schools—owned 50 percent of The Economist when the issue was published. The Economist should therefore inform its readers of this blatant conflict of interest and allow us to set the record straight about how these schools actually affect communities, he noted. Pearson has since sold its decades-old stake in the publication for more than $500 million USD.

Maluleke went on to explain that, as a union leader in South Africa, “I have seen first-hand that these schools can take advantage of families who just want what is best for their kids”. And they do not just “charge burdensome fees” to local families, they also “undermine the education system as a public good”. Education is a human right, and a high-quality education should be free to every child, he reiterated.

The article also provoked an immediate response from highly recognised and respected international agencies and leading academics who wrote letters to the editor denouncing a biased and unsubstantiated journalism.

To read the answers from Oxfam, ActionAid, Open Society Foundations, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dr. Prachi Srivastava and Professor Steven Klees, please click here.