The international campaign “against the privatisation and commercialisation of education” has reached Spain with the support of the union CCOO, which hosted a discussion forum to inform teachers about the situation in the EU and the OECD.
The debate focused on the effects of privatisation on access and the right to public, quality education for all, which is under threat throughout the European Union and the countries of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). The participants had the opportunity to debate with international experts, including Angelo Gavrielatos, director of the “Global Response” campaign, and Antoni Verger, a UNESCO advisor and a lecturer and researcher at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
The event was also attended by Francisco García, General Secretary of FECCOO, and Cristina Almeida, lawyer, political analyst and media commentator. The panel was coordinated by Montse Ros, FECOO’s Political Education director.
Before the debate, after words of welcome from the General Secretary of the CCOO Madrid, Jaime Cedrún, the General Secretary of the Federación de Enseñanza , CCOO de Madrid, Isabel Galvín, and the International Policy Director, Cuqui Vera, the singer and social activist Cristina del Valle read out a manifesto in defence of Public Quality Education. Del Valle is well known in Spain for her commitment to and support of public education and for her solidarity and activism as President of the Artists Platform against Gender Violence. She also runs the “A flower for the women of Kabul” campaign in Spain.
The Cristina del Valle manifesto stressed that “we must advocate for equity in education, which can only be achieved through our fight against and our opposition to the permanent privatisation of education, sacrificing it to private interests. We defend public education because that is where the real future for equal opportunities lies. We cannot do anything to change the past, but we must change the present for a better future.”
In her intervention, Cristina Almeida insisted onthe need to demand the recognition and dignity that the teaching profession and public education deserve, because lately they have been dangerously damaged by the (conservative) People’s Party. Almeida, an outspoken defender of education and public services, spoke critically of the Spanish government’s privatisation of sectors such as education and health and called for political change before the General Election on 20 December. She also underlined the importance of education “for girls” which is prevented and under attack in many Arab countries, leading regrettably to incidents such as the “Malala case”. She was also strongly critical of the sexist segregation of “boys and girls” in some schools in the private sector.
Angelo Gavrielatos highlighted as “worrying” the growing influence of private corporations in the design of public policy which affects the funding, governance and fairness of education systems around the world. This is being driven by the desire to access the relatively unexplored education market “valued at between 4.5 and 5 billion dollars a year”.
Francisco García, the FECCOO General Secretary, spoke of how his union had denounced the cuts in education that had been on the increase in recent years, undermining the rights of education professionals and the quality of education: “In FECCOO we are opposed to the logic of neoliberal policies based on deregulation, commercialisation and privatisation, which are bringing segregation and exclusion to our country. The current education act, the LOMCE, is the clearest expression of this type of policy”. “The commercial approach goes hand in hand with the defending the right to choose a school, and the right of schools to choose their own education plans independently”. “We must aim for public education that guarantees the universal right to education and build broad alliances between educators, families, and society in favour of education for all and by all.”
Finally, the researcher Antoni Verger spoke of the policies and current trends at the international level concerning the privatisation of education. Verger explained how the privatisation of education is a growing phenomenon that is becoming increasingly international. Many countries with very different political and economic circumstances have adopted a wide range of policies that foster the participation of the private sector in education in recent years. He emphasised the aim of his research was to explore why and how these policies have progressed to such an extent, and on a global scale. Looking at the economic policies of education reform, Verger also explained the conditions, actors and mechanisms behind the advancing privatisation of education in different contexts.