Piece by piece, the World Bank’s strategy for private investment in education was dismantled by Education International last week in Washington, where meetings with trade unions addressed austerity measures and proposed labour market reforms.
The regularly-scheduled meeting with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) on 10-12 February in Washington, brought together the general secretaries of Education International (EI), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), IndustriAll, Public Services International (PSI) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee(TUAC), which is linked to the OECD.
Among the topics tackled during the meetings, austerity policies, international financial institutions (IFI) involvement in labour market and other structural reforms, IFI actions in response to income and wealth inequality and the impacts of climate change, and IFI policies concerning job creation and respect of international labour standards were the chief subjects of debate.
The meetings also gave the WB and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a WB subsidiary, the opportunity to showcase plans for private investment in education and health. Instead, Education International’s (EI) General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen revealed a long list of issues that exist when private hands get a hold of education.
Van Leeuwen was joined in a panel discussion by the WB’s Claudia Costin, Senior Director of Education, along with Nicole Klingen and Elena Sterling of the IFC, Kwaku Asante-Krobea of PSI and Amarsanna Ennebish of the Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions (CMTU-Mongolia).
The EI General Secretary exposed the harsh realities facing poor students and parents unable to afford school fees by highlighting country-level issues. He noted how the average Ugandan teacher earns $100 USD per month and can’t afford to send their children to the very schools they work at.
Van Leeuwen made an example of how the WB is recommending to expand the creation of low-fee for-profit private schools, what current research suggests is actually “low quality, high cost schools.” This direction comes after a time when the school fee abolition movement, which the WB participated in, led to the greatest expansion of education opportunities for poor families in history. Now there is evidence that the daily school fees constitute more than half the income of a family living below the poverty line.
Meetings took place with WB president Jim Yong Kim, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard, filling in for Christine Lagarde, and several other Bank and Fund officials and 27 executive directors, who represent member governments at the executive boards of the IMF and WB.