Member states mustn’t use development aid to support for-profit private schools, EU rules

Janet Downs's picture

EU joins donors uneasy about commercialisation of education

The EU Parliament this week passed a Resolution banning member states from using Overseas Development Aid to support for-profit private schools.

The Resolution, supported by 90% of the votes, addressed growing concerns about the expansion of private, for-profit education provision in developing countries which could undermine progress towards setting up free state education.

The Resolution doesn’t prevent member states from supporting small-scale non-profit private schools but would stop development aid supporting ‘commercial educational establishments.’

Until the UK permanently leaves the EU, it will be bound by the Resolution.  It will prevent the Department for International Development (DFID) from using UK taxpayers’ money to support for-profit, private schools in Africa or elsewhere. 

Last year a cross-party committee of MPs criticised DFID’s involvement with Bridge International Academies (BIA), a controversial off-shoot of global company Pearson, which operates in developing countries.  The MPs  cited evidence which suggested low-fee private schools such as those operated by BIA and Omega Schools, founded by Professor James Tooley who’s behind the low-fee, for-profit private school in Durham,  did not serve the ‘poorest and most marginalised’ children.

It’s not known, of course, whether the UK would stand by the spirit of this Resolution post-Brexit.  But the following finding by the Institute of Government suggests the government (unless ousted) would likely support more private provision not just abroad but within the UK:

Government is quietly shifting costs of public services on to individuals. Where government can get people to pay directly for services – from garden waste to legal aid – it is increasingly doing so.’


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