Ei-iE

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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 13 January 2017

    Facing up to the WTO summit, the Peoples’ Summit

    The CTERA, the trade union confederation and affiliate of Educational International in Argentina, raised its voice against the commodification and privatisation of education at the ‘Peoples’ Summit’, which took place in Buenos Aires.

    Facing up to the WTO summit, the Peoples’ Summit
  2. Opinion 10 January 2017

    Schooling, privatisation and post-truth politics

    By Bob Lingard, University of Queensland Usually each New Year begins with optimistic hopes for something better than what has gone before. Sadly and worryingly, 2017 seems ominous in negative ways rather than inspiring a sense of hope.

    Schooling, privatisation and post-truth politics
  3. Publications and Research

    Bridge vs. Reality: a study of Bridge International Academies’ for-profit schooling in Kenya

    by Education International and Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT)
    22 December 2016

    Bridge International Academies (BIA) is a large and expanding business that provides for-profit private education in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and India. With support and investment coming from global edubusiness Pearson, the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and high profile actors such as Mark Zuckerberg and the...

    Bridge vs. Reality: a study of Bridge International Academies’ for-profit schooling in Kenya
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  4. Opinion 19 December 2016

    Turkey: standing up for democratic, public education

    By Howard Stevenson, University of Nottingham Long before the recent coup attempt in Turkey democratic secular and public education in the country was under attack, but since the coup the situation has deteriorated rapidly.

    Turkey: standing up for democratic, public education
  5. Opinion 16 December 2016

    Refusing Vouchers to Protect Public Education

    By Frank Adamson, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) The assumed election of Donald Trump and his nomination of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education have placed the American system of public education under threat. Trump and DeVos will likely propose a national voucher scheme that would...

    Refusing Vouchers to Protect Public Education
  6. Opinion 8 December 2016

    Decentralisation and Neoliberal Community Participation in Education

    By Brent Edwards, University of Hawaii Although decentralisation has for decades been a common theme among education reformers, we must be careful with this term. Not only has its meaning changed over time (Edwards & DeMatthews, 2014) but there are various degrees of decentralisation—ranging, for example, from deconcentration of administrative...

    Decentralisation and Neoliberal Community Participation in Education
  7. Opinion 5 December 2016

    Bridge schools long overdue for a reality check

    By Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary, Education International  When the world marks International Human Rights Day on December 10 it will do so in what are trying times around the globe. Amid an ever-increasing conflict between the rights of people and the rights of corporations, we are witnessing a fraying...

    Bridge schools long overdue for a reality check
  8. News 5 December 2016

    New study dismantles mirage of ‘low-fee’ private schools

    A new report looks into the operations of Bridge International Academies in Kenya and uncovers the reality behind the private for-profit provider’s claims to offer ‘affordable’ quality education.

    New study dismantles mirage of ‘low-fee’ private schools
  9. News 1 December 2016

    Francophonie vote to actively monitor private education stakeholders

    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.

    Francophonie vote to actively monitor private education stakeholders
  10. Opinion 25 November 2016

    The privatisation of education can be reversed. Evidence from recent education reforms in Bolivia

    by Clara Fontdevila and Antoni Verger, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Education privatization processes are frequently deemed as irreversible. The transformative power of pro-private and market-oriented reforms is well known. These types of reforms tend to dramatically reconfigure and redefine the governance of education systems, and they usually do so beyond...

    The privatisation of education can be reversed. Evidence from recent education reforms in Bolivia
  11. Opinion 17 November 2016

    Quality Education – a public good at the heart of democracy

    By Susan Hopgood, Education International (EI) President and Fred van Leeuwen, EI's General Secretary When we look back on our education, we remember teachers who changed our lives, who opened new worlds to us, who challenged us to think and to debate and to discover. We recall the excitement of...

    Quality Education – a public good at the heart of democracy
  12. News 9 November 2016

    Philippines: shining a light on a shadowy edu-business

    In a forum held at Manila City Polytechnic University, teacher unionists and students could gain first-hand information about the operations of the so-called Affordable Private Education Centers in their country.

    Philippines: shining a light on a shadowy edu-business
  13. Opinion 7 November 2016

    Acts of Im(p)unity: A Tale About Education, Commercialisation and Current Trade Deals

    By Susan L. Robertson, University of Cambridge Imagine you were located in a community, and used the human and natural resources of that community to run your business. Somehow you had managed to convince the local political elites that you be accorded special status; one which meant you and your...

    Acts of Im(p)unity: A Tale About Education, Commercialisation and Current Trade Deals
  14. News 4 November 2016

    Uganda: for-profit education chain suffers major blow

    Uganda’s High Court has ordered the immediate closure of more than 60 Bridge International Academies found operating in contravention of the law, a decision that backs the Ministry of Education’s clampdown on the global edu-business.

    Uganda: for-profit education chain suffers major blow
  15. Opinion 2 November 2016

    Despite promises, Pearson's prospects for growth remain slim at best

    By Dr Anna Hogan, University of Queensland, Australia A dramatic stock decline and profit far below expected levels are a blow to the education corporate giant's development plan, and a symptom that it has become a toxic brand in the eyes of many.

    Despite promises, Pearson's prospects for growth remain slim at best
  16. News 2 November 2016

    Education unionists deeply concerned about CETA signature

    Education International, together with international institutions, is worried about the effects on public services, including education, and limitations to public policy space after the signature of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

    Education unionists deeply concerned about CETA signature
  17. Opinion 25 October 2016

    We must put an end to schooling students for profit

    By Fred van Leeuwen. General Secretary, Education International For World Teachers’ Day this year the education community is marking the 50th anniversary of the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation on the teaching profession. This landmark document identifies “the essential role of teachers in educational advancement and the importance of their contribution to the...

    We must put an end to schooling students for profit