Angelo Gavrielatos is the executive director of Education International, an association of teachers’ unions from around the world. Previously he led the Australian Teachers Federation.
Gavrielatos writes: The case for a Global Response to the Commercialisation and Privatisation of Education is not only clear, it is urgent. In the context of the many challenges that confront public education systems globally, the increasing commercialisation and privatisation in and of education represent the greatest threat to education as a public good and to equality in education access and outcomes.
It should therefore not be of any surprise to anyone that this issue dominated the proceedings of the 7th World Congress of Education International (EI)[i], which took place between 22-26 July in Ottawa, Canada, Noting the dimension and the threat to students, teachers, education support personnel and quality public education for all posed by the ongoing commercialisation and privatisation of education, the World Congress , consisting of nearly 2,000 delegates, resolved that we need a global response to the rapidly expanding for-profit corporate sector involvement in education. Whilst this carries on from EI’s existing work on privatisation and member organisation national campaigns focused on privatisation, the Global Response to the Commercialisation and Privatisation in and of Education aims to draw these efforts together with a view to delivering a stronger more focused response by harnessing collective energy and influence.
This Global Response aims to focus on the engagement of education corporations[ii] in various aspects of education governance, in particular the sale and provision of for-profit education and education services, such as standardised testing and evaluation tools, and policy formation and implementation. It seeks specifically to advocate against the expansion of profit-making in public education where it undermines the right of all students to free quality education, creates and entrenches inequalities in education, undermines the working conditions and rights of teachers and other education workers, and erodes democratic decision-making and public accountability in relation to education governance. This is informed by an analysis highlighting the rapid growth of education corporations/edu-businesses, the size, reach and influence of which had not been foreseen.
With little, if any regard for national borders, the nation state of national sovereignty, the rapid growth of education corporations/edu-businesses is driven by the desire on the part of global capital to access the relatively untapped education market valued at approximately $4.5 to $5 trillion USD per annum. A figure predicted to grow to $6 to S7 trillion USD per annum in a couple of years. Having identified the lucrative nature of the education market, and in particular how much the limitless, sustainable resource of children, our students, and their education represents, global education corporations/edu-businesses have set about trying to influence and control education in order to satisfy their profit motives. This Global Response will also focus on governments which in too many cases are abrogating their obligations to ensuring that every child, every student has access to a high quality free public education by either allowing or indeed facilitating and encouraging the growth in the commercialisation and privatisation of education.
The danger of governments outsourcing education activities to profit-making corporations is that it makes it possible for these actors to not only ‘reap uncontrolled profit’, but also to assert their influence in policy processes and to steer education agendas in ways that may not align with international agreements and national priorities. This poses a risk not only for public education systems themselves, but also their ability to promote democracy, social cohesion and equity.
Moreover, it raises fundamental questions about whose interests are being served by these developments in education, and with what outcomes. Now more than ever, the global political landscape and the growing influence and dominance of global corporate actors require us all to reach out and build community alliances in a way we have never done so before if we are to resist and, more importantly, reverse current trends. Failure to do so will put at risk that great social enterprise of public education. [i] Education International (EI) is the Global Union Federation which represents more than 32 million teachers and other education workers form more than 170 countries. [ii]
Among the most influential corporations operating in the global education market is the education conglomerate Pearson. Through aggressive lobbying, campaign contributions and PR efforts, Pearson exerts great influence over policymaking and policymakers in many countries. Describing what could be interpreted as giving rise to a potential conflict of interest, new research by Jünemann and Ball, Pearson and PALF: The Mutating Giant http://www.educationincrisis.net/resources/ei-publications highlights why the profit motive has no place in dictating what is taught, how it is taught, how it is assessed nor how schools, colleges and universities are organised. Of Pearson’s modus operandi, Jünemann and Ball note: “as Pearson is contributing to the global education policy debate, it is constructing the education policy problems that will then generate a market for its products and services in the form of the solutions. In effect, part of the more general aim of activities like the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF)…is the creation of more market opportunities for Pearson’s products. More generally, global education reform packages which include the use of information technology and shifts from input-based to output-led policy-making, offer a whole new set of market opportunities to Pearson.
Pearson is involved both in seeking to influence the education policy environment, the way that policy ‘solutions’ are conceived, and, at the same time, creating new market niches that its constantly adapting and transforming business can then address and respond to with new ‘products’. In this sense, the fulfilment of social purpose is directly and indirectly related to the search for and creation of new opportunities for profit…”(p3) Education International Internationale de l’Éducation Internacional de la Educación Angelo Gavrielatos, Project Director | Brussels |Belgium Tel.:+32 2 224 06 11 | Fax: +32 2 224 06 06| http://www.ei-ie.org