Archives for category: International

Because the government of the Phillipines has not invested in public education, multinational corporations are moving in to supply private education for the poor. Pearson and another corporation called the Ayala Group have moved in to fill the vacuum.


Curtis Riep, a doctoral student at the University of Alberta in Canada writes:


Corporate-led privatisations in Philippine education are taking shape in the form of a for-profit chain of low-cost private schools – known as APEC (Affordable Private Education Centers). APEC is a new corporate entity established through a joint venture between two major multinational corporations: Pearson Plc and the Ayala Group. APEC, and its corporate shareholders, intend to capitalise on an overburdened and under-resourced system by selling for-profit education services at nominally low-fees -more than $500 per year- on a massive scale. The vast number of ‘economically disadvantaged’ Filipino youth underserved by public and other private schools represents the target market for APEC.
Low-cost, low quality
Profits accumulated by APEC are the difference in price paid by consumers in the form of user fees and the cost to produce those services, or the cost to educate each student. In an effort to minimise production costs, while increasing profit margins, APEC has implemented a number of cost-cutting techniques. These include a low-cost rent model that involves short-term leases in unused commercial buildings that lack adequate space for libraries, gymnasiums, science and/or computer laboratories.
Although this low-cost rent scheme is drastically cheaper than purchasing land and constructing proper school facilities, quality learning environments are sacrificed. Teachers hired by APEC are also typically unlicensed and, therefore, paid severely low wages. These cost-cutting techniques are intended to minimise operational costs so the corporation can remain financially sustainable and profitable. Therefore, in the business of low-cost private schooling, as one APEC school manger remarked: “sometimes quality is compromised because of the companies’ concern for making a profit.”
Further problematic is the Department of Education’s complicity in this for-profit arrangement, since it has relaxed a number of regulations that govern the provision of basic education so that APEC can implement its low-cost, for-profit schooling experiment with limited governmental restriction.
Students: cogs in the corporate machine
APEC also represents a corporate strategy designed to manufacture cheap and flexible labour required by Ayala and other multinational companies through its provision of privatised basic education that aligns with the labour needs of industry. By reverse-engineering its curriculum, APEC intends to produce graduates of a particular disposition with specific skills, values, and knowledge that can be employed in the global labour market.


In particular, APEC aims to address the skill shortage in the business process outsourcing and call center industry in the Philippines by focusing on English communication skills. In turn, APEC schools involve two forms of privatisation: de facto privatisation, in the form of user fees paid for by students in exchange for basic education, and privatisation that exists because of the increasing private control and influence in the social relations of production. This is demonstrated by the joint venture between Ayala and Pearson that aims to produce a repository of labour with the skills, knowledge and values in demand by industry.
Education corporations increasingly participate in various aspects of educational governance and provision, including the sale and provision of for-profit education services, which undermines the right to free quality education, (re)produces social inequalities, undercuts the working conditions of teachers, and erodes democratic decision-making and public accountability in education.

I knew Mike Petrilli well, back when I was a trustee of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute in D.C. But after I became disillusioned with testing and school choice, I didn’t see much of him anymore. We occasionally trade emails. I have a certain residual fondness for him. But I nonetheless think he is wrong and hold out hope that he will one day realize it.

But he is not ready.

He sent me this note recently:

Joanne gets it exactly right. Ready to concede a few points?

Mediocre U.S. scores: Don’t blame poverty
// Joanne Jacobs — Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

When U.S. students post mediocre scores on international tests, poverty is “the elephant in the room,” says American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. Others point to a “poverty crisis” rather than an “education crisis.”

The elephant is not in the room, write Michael Petrilli and Brandon Wright in Education Next. U.S. schools do as well — or poorly — educating low-income students as other countries. Furthermore, U.S. children aren’t more likely to be poor: Those sky-high child poverty rates really are measuring inequality rather than absolute poverty.

Overall, the U.S. rates 28th in math proficiency for advantaged students among the 34 countries in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Disadvantaged U.S. students rank 20th compared to similar students in other PISA countries.

Our advantaged students may do better than poor kids here, but they don’t outperform similar students in developed countries.

While income inequality is high in the U.S., absolute poverty is not especially high, Petrilli and Wright argue. Including all forms of income, including welfare benefits, the U.S. poverty rate is lower than Britain’s, the same as Germany’s and “barely higher than Finland’s.”

Poverty drags down performance here — and everywhere, they conclude. The U.S. is not an outlier.

My response:

Except that the international scores predict nothing about the future. We were dead last in 1964. By now, we should be a Third World country. Except we are the biggest economy in the world with the most powerful military. How did all those dumb 15-year-olds manage that?

This is something I find hard to understand about the “reformers.” Why do they want the world to believe that we have the worst education system in the developed world? Why are they always eager to discredit our country? Who do they think created the goods and services, the technology and culture that has changed the world? It wasn’t just graduates of Andover, Exeter, and Deerfield Academy, or Lakeside and Sidwell Friends. It wasn’t graduates of charter schools. I remember the disgusting commercials that StudentsFirst produced and ran during the 2012 Olympics, portraying an American athlete as an overweight man in a tutu falling down; this was supposed to represent our flabby, effete, faltering education system. It struck me as crass anti-Americanism, as well as a few other ugly attributes.

The worst thing about our country is our tolerance for poverty, extreme income inequality, extreme wealth inequality, and segregation. The reformers scoff at such concerns and twist into pretzels trying to deny what is obvious. They are right that our education system must change, but not in the direction they seek. Our education system needs drastic change to get away from the soul-deadening conformity imposed by corporate reform. The status quo is stultifying, boring, and harmful to children and teachers.

How can I say more clearly that I don’t think the international test scores mean anything about the future? If destroying the joy of learning and the passion of discovery is the price of raising test scores, it is too high a price to pay.

Mike, please read Yong Zhao’s “Why China Has the Best and the Worst School System in the World?” Please watch the spectacular speech that he gave to the annual meeting of the Network for Public Education last April in Chicago. Please read Ted Dintersmith and Tony Wagner’s new book, “Most Likely to Succeed.” Open your mind. Create the world you want your children to live in, not a world where parents like you have to find private alternatives to escape what you and your rightwing friends are doing to our public schools.

Mercedes Schneider reviewed Mike Petrilli and Brandon Wright’s article asserting that poverty does not explain the poor performance of American students on international tests. Although she teaches high school English in Louisiana, Schneider has a Ph.D. in research methods and statistics, and she brings her understanding to bear here.

She faults the authors for failing to cite sources for some of their claims. She disputes their findings.

She writes:

In the closing of their article, Petrilli and Wright state that poverty cannot be used as an “excuse” to “explain away America’s lackluster academic performance.” They call it “a crutch unfounded in evidence”– as though their porous offering is solid evidence refuting the role of poverty upon standardized test scores.

Not so.

Too many holes.


Martin Carnoy of Stanford is one of the nation’s leading authorities on international assessments. In this publication, he explains how complicated it is to draw meaningful conclusions from them.

Pasi Sahlberg, who is currently a visiting fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, but has previously been director general of the Finnish Ministry of Education in Helsinki, writes here about the importance of teacher autonomy.

He compares teachers in Finland to teachers in the U.S.

When visitors tour Finnish schools, they are struck by the autonomy of teachers.

After spending a day or sometimes two in Finnish schools, they were puzzled. Among other things they said was the following: the atmosphere in schools is informal and relaxed. Teachers have time in school to do other things than teach. And people trust each other. A common takeaway was that Finnish teachers seem to have much more professional autonomy than teachers in the United States to help students to learn and feel well.

Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours teaching each week than teachers in the U.S.

We do know that teachers’ workplaces provide very different conditions for teaching in different countries.

First, teachers in the US work longer hours (45 hours/week) than their peers in Finland (32 hours/week). They also teach more weekly, 27 hours compared to 21 hours in Finland.

This means that American teachers, on average, have much less time to do anything beyond their teaching duties (whether alone or with colleagues) than teachers in most other OECD countries.

Finnish teachers are more likely to teach jointly with other teachers than their peers in the U.S.

In Finland, teachers often say that they are professionals akin to doctors, architects and lawyers. This means, they explain, that teachers are expected to perform in their workplaces like pros: use professional judgment, creativity and autonomy individually and together with other teachers to find the best ways to help their students to learn.

In the absence of common teaching standards, Finnish teachers design their own school curricula steered by flexible national framework. Most importantly, while visiting schools, I have heard Finnish teachers say that due to absence of high-stakes standardized tests, they can teach and assess their students in schools as they think is most appropriate.

The keyword between teachers and authorities in Finland is trust. Indeed, professional autonomy requires trust, and trust makes teacher autonomy alive.

The “reformers” in the U.S. have acted on the assumption that school autonomy is necessary to improve education. But, says Sahlberg, there is no evidence that school autonomy improves student performance or that it increases teacher autonomy. To the contrary, school autonomy (e.g., charters) are often association with less teacher autonomy.

The OECD has concluded that greater teacher professional autonomy is associated with better outcomes.

Sahlberg concludes:

I don’t think that the primary problem in American education is the lack of teacher quality, or that part of the solution would be to find the best and the brightest to become teachers. The quality of an education system can exceed the quality of its teachers if teaching is seen as a team sport, not as an individual race.

And this is perhaps the most powerful lesson the US can learn from better-performing education systems: teachers need greater collective professional autonomy and more support to work with one another.

When I posted the other day about Malala Yousafzai, I said that she had been shot in the head, survived, became an advocate for the education of girls, and won a Nobel Peace Prize.

But there is so much more to know about this remarkable young woman.

“Her family runs a chain of schools in the region. In early 2009, when she was 11–12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban occupation, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley. The following summer, journalist Adam B. Ellick made a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. Yousafzai rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.

On the afternoon of 9 October 2012, Yousafzai boarded her school bus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. A gunman asked for her by name, then pointed a pistol at her and fired three shots. One bullet hit the left side of Yousafzai’s forehead, travelled under her skin through the length of her face, and then went into her shoulder. In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for intensive rehabilitation. On 12 October, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated their intent to kill Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.

The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. Deutsche Welle wrote in January 2013 that Yousafzai may have become “the most famous teenager in the world.” United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Yousafzai’s name, demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015; it helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill.

A 2013 issue of Time magazine featured Yousafzai as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”. She was the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, and the recipient of the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In July that year, she spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education, and in October the Government of Canada announced its intention that its parliament confer Honorary Canadian citizenship upon Yousafzai. Even though she is fighting for women’s and children’s rights, she did not describe herself as feminist when asked on Forbes Under 30 Summit. In February 2014, she was nominated for the World Children’s Prize in Sweden. In May, Yousafzai was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of King’s College in Halifax. Later in 2014, Yousafzai was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Aged 17 at the time, Yousafzai became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.”

Some readers have insisted that if she doesn’t take the SAT, she should be rejected by Stanford. I think that’s ridiculous. The admissions process for an elite college always involves a mix of priorities. Frankly, she honors Stanford by expressing an interest in becoming a student there.

Our readers have debated whether Stanford should insist that she take the SAT to prove her ability to enroll there. Some say, a rule’s a rule, no exceptions. Personally, I think that Stanford’s pig-headed insistence on subjecting this brilliant young woman to a standardized test aligned to the Common Core is absurd.

Our blog poet wrote a poem about Malala and this situation:

“”One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.” — Malala Yousafzai, at her UN speech

“One student number , one ed-u-bot, one iPad, and one test can change the world. Testing is the only solution.” — Arne Duncan

Last week, Nashville school board member Amy Frogge wrote about her misgivings about Nashville Prep, a charter school with high test scores. She criticized its harsh discipline and its use of a book that contained words and situations that most people would consider inappropriate for children in seventh grade. Her article was called: WARNING! THE CONTENT OF THIS POST IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN!

Many comments responded to her article. This one came from a teacher in England:

“If a teacher did this in the UK, they would be sacked. No Union could support the use of such a book with 12 year-old children. The planning trail for the use of this book should be scrutinised and the person, or persons responsible, must be held to account – it is a form of child abuse and would be totally unacceptable throughout the United Kingdom. As a Foster Carer, I am amazed to read this. As a teacher, I am disgusted that it is a required text in a US Charter School. As an individual, it is a sign of how awful Education is becoming in the USA, the supposed leader of the free world. The Discipline strategies described here would see you charged with assault in the United Kingdom. What I have read beggars belief.

“Something is seriously wrong.”

“Oliver Kingsley,
Vice President,
Liverpool Division of the National Union of Teachers, United Kingdom”

Robin Alexander of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust reports on the results of the British national competition to find and reward the schools that are best at teaching “grit.”

He writes:

The Department for Education–DfE – England’s equivalent to the US Department of Education, but with considerably greater powers – has duly announced the 27 prizewinners in its Character Education competition.

Though the names of the schools are not likely to mean much to US readers, complaints about the award methodology may strike a chord. Schools nominated themselves and then justified their claims to a 23,000 dollar prize for building character, grit and resilience through brief answers to six questions. One of these questions asked for evidence of the impact of their character forming strategies on their students, but critics of the scheme claim that such evidence counted for less than the eloquence of schools’ answers, that these were not independently checked for accuracy, and that the provision of genuinely verifiable evidence was optional.

We have not been told how many of England’s schools entered this bizarre competition (DfE’s remit doesn’t extend to the whole of the UK, to the increasing relief of many in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), but we can safely assume that the overwhelming majority did not. Most, quite simply, will have been too busy to do so. Some will have been unwilling to have their names so publicly linked to what was essentially a pre-election political stunt. Others will have been justly offended by the suggestion that schools didn’t attend to the development of their students’ personal and interpersonal attributes until the UK government told them to, or that without a 23,000 dollar incentive they wouldn’t bother. Others again, as my blog of 30 January suggested, will have objected to being told to replace their carefully conceived and sensitively nurtured efforts in this direction by a recipe from which ethics, communality, plurality, social responsibility and global citizenship are so conspicuously excluded.

Which is not to say that the 27 winners did not deserve to be recognised for the work they do. But no less deserving of recognition are the thousands of schools whose teachers value and nurture ‘character’ but manifest it by not competing with others to advertise the fact.

The DFE announced the winners last February.

Angelo Gavrielatos of Education International insists that we must continue to fight for the right of every child to have access to a free, high-quality public education. EI represents teachers around the world. Please open his article to find the links.

He writes:

As teachers, we know that the realisation of high quality public education for every child remains a work in progress.

Our long-held commitment to achieving it is informed by the fact that a public school, in every community, is a precondition to fulfilling our responsibility as members of an international community to ensure that every child gains access to education.

We also know that if we are serious about achieving excellence and equity for all, public schools must set the standard for high quality education as equity in the provision of education can only be realised if public schools, free and universally accessible, set that standard.

It is not only disappointing, but it is also disturbing that the ideal of quality public education for all is under greater threat today than it has ever been.
This threat has been on public display in recently in the form of articles, or in some cases advertorials by anonymous writers, in publications such as the Economist, which support and promote the emergence and expansion of low fee for-profit private schools in developing countries as the means of providing access to schooling for the children of the poorest of the poor referred to as “clients”. They may as well just refer to children as economic units.

So biased and unsubstantiated was the “journalism” that it provoked an immediate response from highly recognised and respected international agencies like OXFAM and Action Aid to name two, who along with others wrote letters to the editor. Similarly, leading academics also responded condemning the bias.

Dr. Prachi Srivastava, a tenured Associate Professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies specialising in the area of education and international development at the University of Ottawa, who was so “dismayed and surprised” by her name being used to legitimise and endorse low fee for-profit private schools, in addition to a letter to the editor, produced an opinion piece in The Guardian based on her detailed academic research demolishing the claims made in one of the articles.

Whilst not entirely surprised by these advertorials in the Economist – after all , at the time of its publication, the Economist was still 50 percent owned by the world’s largest education corporation, Pearson, which has interests in low fee for-profit private school chains such as Bridge international Academies and Omega in Kenya, Ghana and a number of other countries – as a teacher I was deeply offended by the unwarranted gratuitous attack on teachers and our unions in campaigning for the very best opportunities for every child in every classroom.

As teachers we take our responsibility to our students very seriously. All we ask for, indeed we demand, is that governments fulfil their obligation to their most vulnerable citizens, namely children.

Beyond a legislative guarantee to fulfil their primary obligation to adequately fund and resource public schools, governments must legislate against non-state actors operating schools for profit, particularly when they are in receipt, directly or indirectly, domestically or extraterritorially, of any tax payers dollars intended for the educational well-being of students.(Surely, taxpayers dollars intended for the educational well-being of students shouldn’t be siphoned away to line the pockets of billionaires and global corporations.)

Furthermore, governments must introduce, where non-existent, and enforce legislated regulatory frameworks to ensure high standards in teacher qualifications, curriculum and teaching environments. A social contract, if you like, providing guarantees for students.
In attacking regulation of facilities and teacher qualifications, the Economist makes the outrageous statement, contrary to reams of research and evidence, that: “the quality of facilities, or teachers’ qualifications and pay, have been shown by research in several countries to have no bearing on a school’s effectiveness.”

This astonishing attack on teacher qualifications bells the cat for the prophets of profit. Employing unqualified “teachers” is driven by their business plan to maximise profit. It is no wonder that in a recent article in the Independent that Pearson-supported low fee for-profit chain, Bridge International academies, operating in Kenya and elsewhere, protested a possible government requirement that half, not all, “half of all teachers in any one school should have a recognised teaching qualification and be paid accordingly.”

In all of my professional life, I’ve yet to meet a parent who would prefer their child to be taught by an unqualified teacher. I very much doubt whether the anonymous author of the advertorial or senior figures at Pearson would volunteer their own children to be taught by unqualified ‘teachers’ reading from a script.

If standing up for the right of every child to have access to a rigorous, rich curriculum, taught by well supported qualified teachers in safe environments conducive to good teaching and learning is a crime, we are guilty as charged.

Written by Angelo Gavrielatos
Project Director, The Global Response to
Privatisation and Commercialisation in and of Education

Marc Tucker’s blog reports how top-performing nations select school principals. Most require several years of teaching experience and a long and in-depth course in leadership skills. The report, by Jennifer Craw and Jackie Kraemer, describes the high professionalism required in top-performing nations.

By contrast, some states in the U.S. allow non-educators to become principals.

The U.S. is definitely an outlier.


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