Australia: teachers are wary of increasing commercialisation in public schools

published 6 July 2017 updated 19 July 2017

A new report reflects teachers’ concern about the influence of commercialisation in schools, on everything from the provision of tests through professional development courses for educators.

Education technology companies are reaping growing financial benefits from developing standards and data infrastructure in schools, according to the study Commercialisation in Public Schooling, launched today by the Australian Education Union - New South Wales Branch.

“Significant amounts of commercial activity are taking place in public schools in Australia,” said Greg Thompson during the presentation of the study today in the region of New South Wales. Thompson, an Associate Professor of Education Research at the Queensland University of Technology, is one of the co-authors of the report, alongside Bob Lingard and Anna Hogan (University of Queensland) and Sam Sellar (Manchester Metropolitan University). The survey involved 2,193 teachers and school leaders across the country, who showed a growing concern about this increasing ‘creep’ of commercialism into public schooling.

The report reveals schools are now forced to buy-in a substantial volume of educational products and services that were once provided by education departments. These include:

  • Lesson plans
  • Reading programs
  • Curriculum content
  • Assessment services
  • Online learning programs
  • Student data packages
  • Exam preparation materials
  • Professional development for staff
  • School administration support

Education as a business

The survey revealed private providers use sophisticated marketing campaigns and lobbying strategies to ensure their products and services were taken up by schools and governments. New South Wales (NSW) Teachers Federation President Maurie Mulheron said the report sounded a warning for parents, teachers, governments and education administrators.

“Parents and teachers should be concerned at the shadowy practices of [the] powerful [education business] corporations. They see schooling purely in terms of a potential market, so they work to influence government education policies in order to create and then control that market,” said Mulheron.

“It is time that all commercial contracts that are signed between governments and these corporations are released for public scrutiny. Parents, teachers and the community have a right to know who is influencing education policy, what impact this is having on how students are taught and how much public money these companies are receiving,” he said.