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World

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Que l’école devienne une marchandise est inadmissible »

by Sylvie Ducatteau

"That education should become a commodity is intolerable"

Translated Sunday 19 April 2015, by Mariette Purcell

Kishore Singh, UN Special Rapporteur on the right for education, denounces the boom in the privatisation of education in developing countries – a phenomenon which exacerbates inequality and fosters a utilitarian style of teaching.

So how can this boom in the privatisation of education in developing countries be explained ?

During a world forum on education, which took place in Dakar in 2000, the States and the International Civil Society made a commitment to make primary schooling accessible to all children by 2015, an aim which rests on a fundamental human right : education. So what developments have taken place in those fifteen years ? Increasing disparities and decreasing public expenditure in a number of the countries involved. In a rapidly changing world, state schooling is not always standardised, the teachers are barely trained, if at all, there is a shortage of materials and the level of student achievement is often low. In a situation such as this, and one which seems to be getting worse, privatisation flourishes. The state generally does very little to prevent this steady movement towards privatisation and some have even been complicit: subsidising the private system to the detriment of public education. The reconfiguration of public services at the heart of neoliberal globalisation has placed education in the hands of the private sector and in particular in those of profit-making companies.

In the report which you gave to the UN in October, you warned against the breaches, produced by privatisation, in the right to education.

Kishore Singh: Privatisation affects every level of education from nursery to university. The creation of ’low-cost’ schools for underprivileged children is just one example of this boom. Flourishing alongside the expensive schools, which only the most wealthy can afford , are these ’low-cost’ private schools, the fees of which are still too high for the poorest families to pay. Money therefore determines access to education and this is just the first level of discrimination. The second concerns the exclusion of girls. Parents faced with choosing between their children will most often favour the education of their sons. Many families are taken in by these schools’ aggressive communication campaigns in which their children are promised a glorious future in a globalised world. The style of teaching on offer is often extremely utilitarian and consequently the human qualities associated with education: mutual respect, tolerance, non-violence, democracy and peace are forced to take a back seat. It seems that money is the only thing of value. That education should be reduced to a commodity is intolerable.

What recommendations do you have for the future, bearing in mind that the right to education for all still seems a long way off ?

Kishore Singh: Education is common property. It benefits the individual and society in general. It has to be reaffirmed. This is why I recommend an increased national investment in education because it is the very core of human development. The governments of developing countries should also take responsibility to ensure that all children receive a quality education. It is also essential to establish a framework of international cooperation, based on the principle of international solidarity.


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