In Whose Interest? The UK’s role in privatising education around the world

By Global Justice Now and National Education Union, based on initial research carried out by Mark Curtis

Today, 262 million children and young people worldwide are being denied a basic human right: the right to education. Despite the commitment made in 2015 by the international community through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to deliver this right for all children and young people, millions remain unable to access the “inclusive and equitable quality education and…lifelong learning opportunities” they were promised.1The gap between ambition and provision is being exploited by private actors in pursuit of profits, who see the estimated $5 trillion global education market as a business opportunity.2 Consequently, the private education sector has grown significantly in recent decades, a development that has perpetuated education inequality and is undermining attempts to “ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education,” as required by SDG 4.1 ……

This trend is being perpetuated by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Over the last decade in particular, DFID has been at the forefront of an international push to use public resources in order to leverage private capital into poorer parts of the world. This is based on the idea that there aren’t sufficient public resources to meet the SDGs, a rationale which has been used to channel huge sums of aid into financial markets and, directly and indirectly, into the private sector, including private education. However, this fixation with leveraging international capital risks embedding highly unequal, volatile and crisis-prone economic models into developing countries and crowding out domestic resources. In turn, the focus on private schools risks permanently undermining the attempts to build universally available public education systems.

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