Leaders of the Francophonie member countries have voted in favour of promoting “effective institutional arrangements for regulating private stakeholders in education”, in line with the long-standing advocacy work of Education International and affiliates.
The need to regulate private education has been recognised by the member countries of the Francophonie. On 28 November, 57 Heads of State and governments of member countries of the Francophonie adopted the ”Declaration of Antananarivo” at the end of the 16th General Meeting of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF).
Specifically, Paragraph 39 of the Declaration states that: "Recognising the development of for-profit educational and teaching establishments, and being proponents of free, quality public education for all, we ask the IOF and the Conference of Education Ministers of the States and governments of the Francophonie (CONFEMEN), in collaboration with civil society, to continue the reflection discussed at the 2012 Kinshasa Summit and to take measures aimed at promoting effective institutional arrangements for regulating private stakeholders in education, in order to ensure the quality and equity of educational services."
This strong statement explicitly recognises and asks the IOF to work with civil society, which reflects the importance of collective mobilisation.
EI and the CSFEF fighting privatisation
Education International (EI) and its French-speaking members, meeting within the Comité Syndical Francophone pour l’Education et la Formation(Francophone Trade Union Committee for Education and Training - CSFEF), have mobilised around the privatisation of education for over a year.
On 15 March, the CSFEF held a day of exchanges on the commodification of education with several other French and international organisation in the offices of the IOF in Paris, France. Most of the unions expressed their concerns about private education, which is considered an obstacle to universal education. Several unions felt that education should have a sovereign role. State tolerance of private education was also highlighted, even when States do not explicitly and financially support it.
In June, in cooperation with over 200 organisations of the French-speaking network, the CSFEF drew up and signed an Appeal against the commodification of education, which was sent to the IOF.
Earlier, in April, Florian Lacroux, then President of the CSFEF and now with EI, delivered a speech at the 57th interministerial session of the COFEMEN in Libreville, Gabon. He stressed that, “if we consider that education's mission is not only to transfer knowledge and skills, but also to develop critical thinking, civic engagement, collaboration, togetherness, it is legitimate to have some concerns regarding skills and the appetite of certain private bodies for this type of mission”.
The commodification of education was also specifically mentioned in the CSFEF statement to the IOF in May, drawn up in consultation with French-speaking affiliates of EI. It called on “international institutions to cease imposing policies that are contrary to the goal of quality education for all, including by advocating for the privatization and commodification of education”. The aim was to influence the statement of the Summit of the Francophonie, prepared several months in advance.
Finally, a roundtable on the funding of education and public/private schools was held at the 15th Meeting of the CSFEF in Antananarivo in Madagascar, between 14 and 16 November.
An ongoing struggle
In cooperation with the Ivory Coast section of EI, the CSFEF and EI recently launched a study, the first phase of which is scheduled to end in January, to: identify the political decisions that have led to the development of private schools; identify the different types of private schools; and collect the opinions of teachers, parents and students on private schools. A mobilisation campaign will be conducted based on the study's outcomes.
Following a resolution passed at EI’s 7th World Congress in Ottawa, in Canada, in July 2015, deploring the fact that teachers working in the non-public sector in Haiti are “subject to indecent working conditions, outside of all acceptable regulatory standards” and denouncing “the permanent violations of social, economic and moral rights of education workers in the non-public sector in Haiti”, EI is also preparing to launch a study which will partly resemble that initiated in Ivory Coast. This will be conducted with two of EI’s affiliates in Haiti, the Union Nationale des Normaliens/Normaliennes et Educateurs/Educatrices d’Haïti and the Fédération Nationale des Travailleurs en Education et en Culture. However, the study will have a different goal: drawing up a draft act for a status for private sector teachers.