UN: address negative impact of commercialization on the right to education

Janet Downs's picture
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Education is a human right and a public good, a recent UN Resolution confirmed.

The Resolution pressed States ‘to take all measures to implement Human Rights Council resolutions on the right to education with a view to ensuring the full realization of this right for all.

These resolution urged States to take steps including: 

1         Expanding educational opportunities without discrimination.

2         Investing in public education ‘to the maximum of available resource’. 

3         Having a ‘regulatory framework’ for all providers of education including those working independently. 

4         Ensuring the framework is ‘guided by international human rights obligations’ and sets ‘minimum norms and standards’ for educational services.

5         Making sure the framework addresses ‘any negative impact of the commercialization of education’.

6         Regulating and monitoring providers of education.

7         Backing ‘research and awareness-raising’ to improve understanding of how commercialization of education impacts on ‘the right to education’.

8         Boosting ‘technical vocational education and training’ and apprenticeships by putting in place ‘appropriate policies and programmes.’

Commenting on the Resolution, Sylvain Aubrey, from the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said:

In some countries, in particular in the Global South, private schooling has multiplied, sometimes by a factor of ten, in the last decade, with commercial chains of for-profit private schools targeting poor people burgeoning in Kenya, Ghana, The Philippines and other countries. This resolution constitutes a breakthrough because it unambiguously acknowledges that the commercialisation of education raises serious human rights concerns that must be dealt with urgently.’

But it isn’t just the Global South where for-profit schooling causes concerns.  Matthew Bennett, writing on this site, has warned about the side effects of philanthrocapitalism, ‘personalised’ and ‘blended’ learning in England.  The latter two initiatives make it easy for pupils to receive ‘education’ via the internet with ‘teachers’ being degraded to the status of technicians or overseers. 

Former education secretary Michael Gove said he would allow groups like Serco to run English schools.  And Matthew D’Ancona in his book In it Together (p133) said Gove ‘wanted to allow free schools to be run at a profit’ but was prevented from doing so by the Lib Dems who regarded it as ‘commercialization of a core public service’.

Gove has now gone but his influence remains.  Gove speeded up the process of academization started by Labour.   This allows academies to outsource their operation to a for-profit provider in the way the free school IES Breckland has done.  So far, sponsorship by for-profit providers hasn’t been successful in England.  But the foundations for England’s schools to be run for profit are present.

The UN statement was endorsed by 23 organisations including Action Aid, Amnesty International, the National Union of Teachers and Oxfam.

 

 

 

 

 

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