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Fighting the commercialisation of education

Education is a human right and a public good that can be fully realised only through the provision of free, equitable, inclusive, quality public education. The growing commercialisation and privatisation in and of the sector is the greatest threat to the universal right to education.

Across the world, corporate interests are striving to transform all levels of education, from early childhood to higher education, into yet another market with winners and losers. As private-sector management models are applied to education institutions, employment conditions in the sector are being undermined. As low-fee, low-quality private schools expand rapidly, there is a risk that governments abrogate their responsibility to ensure the right to education for all. Unaccountable corporations have undue influence on education policies and institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this trend which risks transforming education into a commodity, favouring profit over quality education.

As educators, we put students before profit. In 2015 we launched our Global Response to the Commercialisation and Privatisation of Education. Through this campaign, we work to expose and challenge the policies and practices of governments, intergovernmental organisations and international financial institutions which undermine public education and the rights and status of teachers and education support personnel. We also resist global corporate actors, especially education technology providers, who push the commercialisation and privatisation in and of education.

Our work in this area

  1. News 11 February 2019

    Africa: teachers call on politicians to reject privatisation

    Education International’s African leaders have released a statement today calling on their Heads of States to reject privatisation and to invest in quality public education for all.

    Africa: teachers call on politicians to reject privatisation
  2. News 7 February 2019

    Research exposes private education provider in Africa

    "What do we really know about Bridge International Academies?" is a ground-breaking study that shines light on the operations and business practices of one of the most active for-profit education providers in Africa.

    Research exposes private education provider in Africa
  3. Opinion 31 January 2019

    Reclaiming democratic community education: the tide is turning

    By Howard Stevenson, University of Nottingham Central to the strategy adopted by those seeking to privatise public education has been the creation of the so-called ‘independent public school’. These are schools that are nominally in the public sector but detached from traditional forms of democratic community control.

    Reclaiming democratic community education: the tide is turning
  4. Opinion 24 January 2019

    The increasing role of non-state actors in education policy-making in Uruguay

    By M. Moschetti, M. Martínez Pons, E. Bordoli & P. Martinis Over the last decades, privatisation policies have taken centre stage in many processes of educational reform globally. In Latin America, these policies have played an important role since the 1990s, leading to an increasing participation of private agents in...

    The increasing role of non-state actors in education policy-making in Uruguay
  5. Opinion 22 December 2018

    Hacked Off: Can US Entrepreneurs Help Fix Education in Africa? Answer?

    By Susan L. Robertson, University of Cambridge ‘World Hack’ – a weekly BBC World Service radio broadcast  by presenter Kat Hawkins and reporter Sam Judah caught my attention  earlier this week for several reasons.

    Hacked Off: Can US Entrepreneurs Help Fix Education in Africa? Answer?
  6. Opinion 17 December 2018

    #EI25: “Trade unionism, the teaching profession, and democracy”, interview of EI General Secretary Emeritus Fred van Leeuwen

    Fred van Leeuwen

    2018 is the 25th anniversary of the creation of Education International. As this anniversary year draws to a close, we are publishing an interview of Fred van Leeuwen who served the organization as General Secretary of EI for its first quarter century. This discussion offers a reflection on the substantial...

    #EI25: “Trade unionism, the teaching profession, and democracy”, interview of EI General Secretary Emeritus Fred van Leeuwen
  7. News 13 December 2018

    Philippines: union leaders united around gender equality and improving campaign capacities

    The annual evaluation and planning meeting of the Philippines’s women’s network bringing together Education International’s affiliates in this country has taken stock of gender and diversity issues and reinforced the education unions’ capacities and advocacy skills.

    Philippines: union leaders united around gender equality and improving campaign capacities
  8. Opinion 12 December 2018

    Marketisation, privatisation & commercialisation in education: defining key terms

    By Anna Hogan, University of Queensland, Australia This contribution clarifies the terminology used to describe the reorganisation of public education. In much critical policy sociology the terms marketisation, privatisation and commercialisation are used interchangeably. Yet, each of these denotes distinct, albeit related characteristics of contemporary schooling and the impact of...

    Marketisation, privatisation & commercialisation in education: defining key terms
  9. Opinion 22 November 2018

    Will the Blue Wave Stop the Privatisation of Education in the US?

    By Carol Anne Spreen, New York University More than 1000 educators were elected as part of the Democratic Blue Wave, but this rising tide of education activists must get over the “red wall” of GOP-backed corporate education reformers to put a stop to the widespread commercialisation of education.

    Will the Blue Wave Stop the Privatisation of Education in the US?
  10. News 16 November 2018

    EU Parliament: aid must not be used to support privatisation

    In a welcomed decision, on 13 November, the European Parliament resolved that “the European Union and the Member States, in accordance with SDG 4.1 and Article 26 of the UDHR, must not use ODA [overseas development assistance] to support private, commercial educational establishments.”

    EU Parliament: aid must not be used to support privatisation
  11. News 13 November 2018

    Elsevier: putting a price on knowledge

    In its most recent publication, Education International examines the publishing giant Elsevier, whose success on the market is based on ethically questionable practices which endanger the transmission of knowledge and its condition as a public good.

    Elsevier: putting a price on knowledge
  12. News 12 November 2018

    EI 11th Further and Higher Education and Research Conference: Advancing conditions for staff to improve quality education

    The first day of the 11th Education International’s Further and Higher Education and Research Conference has provided member organisations with a forum for exchanging information and strategies across regions for the advancement of quality terms and conditions of employment for teachers, academics and researchers, and addressed technical and vocational education...

    EI 11th Further and Higher Education and Research Conference: Advancing conditions for staff to improve quality education
  13. Opinion 12 November 2018

    TVET, capabilities and social justice, by Leesa Wheelahan

    Leesa Wheelahan

    What is technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and what does it do? This can be a hard question to answer because there isn’t a lot of agreement about what it does, what it should do, who should pay for it, how it should be offered, and whether it...

    TVET, capabilities and social justice, by Leesa Wheelahan
  14. Opinion 12 November 2018

    Elsevier are placing the future of scholarly research at risk

    By Jon Tennant, @IGDOREinstitute and @OpenScienceMOOC It is difficult to argue against the positions that research knowledge should be a public good, and can also be of incredible use in fighting against some of the larger problems that face our planet and society, such as energy, food and water security,...

    Elsevier are placing the future of scholarly research at risk
  15. Opinion 9 November 2018

    If you don’t fight, you lose!

    By Angelo Gavrielatos, Education International  Privatisation remains one of the greatest threat to the achievement of quality, free, universally accessible public education for all. And, noting what is at stake, the struggle against privatisation is one of the noblest causes that any teacher unionist can be part of. That struggle...

    If you don’t fight, you lose!
  16. Opinion 17 October 2018

    Research and the economy of knowledge

    By Raewyn Connell The business of modern universities is research as well as teaching. That was not always true. When the university curriculum was based mostly on ancient texts, new knowledge was not necessarily welcome. In fact it might be dangerous!

    Research and the economy of knowledge