In recent decades, governments have made considerable efforts to provide education for all. However, a large gap remains between international commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goal 4, and the actual achievement of equitable quality education for all. As a result, certain actors often critique public education as ineffective and inefficient, and thus incapable of addressing this issue. They argue for privatisation as a solution, deeming private providers as more innovative and effective than public ones. However, shortcomings in public education often arise not from lack of capacity, but lack of political will.
This review of examples of public education in low- and middle-income countries shows that, in direct contrast to widely disseminated (and empirically unvalidated) ideas, public education can be highly effective, efficient, and transformative and, crucially, it is possible to develop quality public education everywhere.
In the light of human rights standards on the right to education and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, the signatory civil society organisations below raise serious concerns about the potential implications of the recently released working paper “Can Education be Standardized? Evidence from Kenya". We urge governments and other actors to recognise the limitations of this study, which some will seek to use to justify the expansion of for-profit private provision of education and scripted teaching methods. There are well established approaches to address the challenges faced by some education systems and we urge all actors to focus on education strategies and policies that have been proven to deliver inclusive, equitable and good quality education, and that contribute to strengthening public education for all.
The climate emergency, rising inequalities and the COVID-19 pandemic have reaffirmed the failures and limitations of the current neoliberal model to respond to crises and ensure a dignified life for all. Transformation in the organisation of our economy is needed in order to confront the challenges the world is currently facing and to create societies that are fair, inclusive, socially-just, equitable and sustainable.
To this end, actors from a diverse range of movements, sectors and regions have, in recent years, been mobilising to reclaim and rebuild public services as the foundation of a fair and just economy that works for all. Key milestones have included the first global “Future is Public” conference held in Amsterdam 2019, which brought together over 400 participants to discuss strategies for putting the “public” back into public services and to build democratic public ownership of the economy, and the launch of the collective civil society Global Manifesto on Public Services in October 2021, signed by over 200 organisations.
From 29th November to 2nd December over a thousand representatives from over one hundred countries, from grassroots movements, advocacy, human rights, and development organisations, feminist movements, trade unions, and other civil society organisations, met in Santiago, Chile, and virtually, to discuss the critical role of public services for our future.
Following the meeting, the Santiago Declaration on Public Services was adopted by a drafting group representing all sectors, on the basis of the notes and discussions during the four days.
We are at a critical juncture. At a time when the world faces a series of crises, from the environmental emergency to hunger and deepening inequalities, increasing armed conflicts, pandemics, rising extremism, and escalating inflation, a collective response is growing. A large movement is building and concrete solutions are emerging to counter the dominant paradigm of growth, privatisation and commodification.
Hundreds of organisations across socio-economic justice and public services sectors, from education and health services, to care, energy, food, housing, water, transportation and social protection, are coming together to address the harmful effects of commercialising public services, to reclaim democratic public control, and to reimagine a truly equal and human rights oriented economy that works for people and the planet.
We demand universal access to quality, gender-transformative and equitable public services as the foundation of a fair and just society.
Our Future is Public: Join our call for universal access to quality, gender-transformative and equitable public services as the foundation of a fair and just society. Read the Declaration, and endorse it here.
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