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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 7 November 2019

    Liberia: Renewed fight against increasing privatisation

    In Liberia, educators and their unions are determined to fight back against the privatisation and commercialisation of education in the face of strengthened links between the government and edu-business.

    Liberia: Renewed fight against increasing privatisation
  2. News 5 November 2019

    New report sheds light on the threat privatisation poses for higher education in Latin America

    A new study coordinated by CONADU (the National Federation of University Teachers) for Education International examines how privatisation is infringing upon higher education, the threat it poses for education systems, and the options available to unions to resist this process.

    New report sheds light on the threat privatisation poses for higher education in Latin America
  3. Opinion 5 November 2019

    Privatisation and commercialisation of universities in Latin America

    By Fernanda Saforcada and Yamile Socolovsky Today we are releasing the results of the first stage of an ongoing research project, which aims to explain clearly the main characteristics and patterns of the phenomenon of university privatisation and commercialisation in Latin America. This study is not intended to be neutral;...

    Privatisation and commercialisation of universities in Latin America
  4. Opinion 30 October 2019

    “Teachers – Being in Control or Being Controlled?”, by Jim Baker.

    Jim Baker

    The status and role of professional teachers are affected by global efforts to make schools reason and operate like private companies even in some schools systems that may appear untouched by market reform fervour. A publication released last month on the profession addresses, in different contexts, the impact of that...

    “Teachers – Being in Control or Being Controlled?”, by Jim Baker.
  5. News 29 October 2019

    World Bank ombudsman to launch investigation into IFC funding of Bridge International Academies

    The World Bank’s accountability mechanism, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), has published a report that finds “substantial concerns” regarding the International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s investment in for-profit education provider Bridge International Academies and has announced that they will launch an investigation into the matter.

    World Bank ombudsman to launch investigation into IFC funding of Bridge International Academies
  6. Opinion 22 October 2019

    “Education International. Eighth World Congress”, by John Bangs.

    John Bangs

    The online magazine ‘Education Journal’ recently published in its edition 385 a report of Education International’s eighth World Congress in Bangkok by EI Senior Consultant, John Bangs. Education Journal has agreed to its publication for Worlds of Education. It has been slightly edited for EI’s global audience.

    “Education International. Eighth World Congress”, by John Bangs.
  7. News 18 October 2019

    Public education systems in Pacific plagued by commercial activity, new EI report finds

    “Commercial Activity in Pacific Education”, an Education International report examining the extent of privatisation and commercialisation in education in the region, was launched today at the conference of the Council of Pacific Education.

    Public education systems in Pacific plagued by commercial activity, new EI report finds
  8. Research

    Privatisation and commodification of university in Latin America: The cases of Argentina, Peru, Chile and the Dominican Republic

    Fernanda Saforcada, Daniela Atairo, Lucía Trotta, Aldana Rodríguez Golisano
    17 October 2019

    Since the late 20th century, Latin American higher education has witnessed two major processes: firstly, considerable expansion – a sustained increase in enrolment, a growing number of institutions, and growth and diversification of study programmes, levels and qualifications; secondly, a decline in public funding.

    Privatisation and commodification of university in Latin America: The cases of Argentina, Peru, Chile and the Dominican Republic
    1. Report (in Spanish)
    2. Summary (in English)
  9. Statements 17 October 2019

    Statement | EI calls on World Bank to change tack in education

    As the board of governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund come together for the 2019 Annual Meetings in Washington this week, Education International sends two clear messages to the World Bank:

    Statement | EI calls on World Bank to change tack in education
  10. Research

    Commercial Activity in Pacific Education

    Anna Hogan, Greg Thompson, Bob Lingard, Dr Mesake Dakuidreketi
    10 October 2019

    This study collected scoping data to document and understand the extent of privatisation and commercialisation of education in eight Council of Pacific Education (COPE) nations - the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

    Commercial Activity in Pacific Education
    1. Report
    2. Summary
  11. Opinion 30 September 2019

    Investing in public education – Europe can take a lead

    By Howard Stevenson, the University of Nottingham In many parts of the world the new academic year is just beginning. In the European Union this is also the time of year when the EU’s annual cycle of economic monitoring and social policy coordination commences. Through a sometimes obscure process called...

    Investing in public education – Europe can take a lead
  12. Opinion 26 September 2019

    Right to authorship, by Yamile Socolovsky

    Yamile Socolovsky

    Education International's decision to encourage discussion of an International Treaty concerning the exceptions and limitations to copyright for educational and research activities is both timely and necessary. The obstacles imposed on these activities by the excessively restrictive regulations in this area become remarkably difficult to overcome in the current context,...

    Right to authorship, by Yamile Socolovsky
  13. Opinion 18 September 2019

    Cruella DeVos’ Privatization Plan: Proposed Budget Cuts for Public Schools and More Money for Failing Charters

    By Carol Anne Spreen, New York University Last week, the US Department of Education attempted to suspend an employee for releasing Secretary of Education DeVos’ education budget to the Washington Post and to the Office of Special Counsel due to what the whistleblower deemed “inaccurate, misleading and dishonest” information. According...

    Cruella DeVos’ Privatization Plan: Proposed Budget Cuts for Public Schools and More Money for Failing Charters