23 January 2024

24 January 2024 - Right to Education Initiative joins more than 100 civil society organisations and global and community leaders from around the world to defend public education, in a statement which provides a resounding defence of the role and strengths of public education systems. 

The statement, jointly developed by members of the Privatisation in Education and Human Rights Consortium (PEHRC), argues that the contexts of social fragmentation, sharp inequities, and environmental deterioration necessitate quality, transformative, inclusive public education. 

Raising major concerns about the rapid expansion of private actors in education systems worldwide, signatories highlight the egregious underfunding of public education denoted by the $100 billion annual financing gap. The statement recalls that free, quality, public education is a human right, and States are responsible for upholding this right. Crucially, signatories note, the public supports public education, and public education works.

The signatories argue that collective action is needed now more than ever to hold states accountable to their obligation to protect education as a human right for all. They are calling for immediate action in five key areas:

  1. Prioritise the public. We call on all education actors to prioritise the provision of quality, public, inclusive, free education for all. As described in the Our Future is Public manifesto, we call on States to prioritise the public sector in general.

  2. Robustly fund public education. Governments should achieve the minimum benchmark recommended during the Transforming Education Summit of allocating 6% of GDP and 20% of public expenditure to education to realise the right to education and teachers’ labour rights and well-being—as well as taking national and global action on tax, debt, and austerity as recommended in the TES Call to Action on Financing

  3. Stop funding education privatisation. States, development finance institutions, investors, funders, and intermediaries should ensure their funding does not support private, particularly, commercial/for-profit education. Such programs often exacerbate segregation and discrimination, erode free education, dilute curricula, fail to meet minimum quality standards, and reduce democratic oversight. Public funds should exclusively fund public education.

  4. Regulate and enforce regulations on private actors. States must regulate private actors, in particular to avoid conflicts of interest by private actors shaping regulatory processes that govern their activities. States must invest in enforcing laws already in existence and develop new, strong regulation to protect the right to education. 

  5. A narrative change. Despite well-funded public relations campaigns claiming that education privatisation solves problems that the State cannot fix, evidence shows otherwise. We call for a change in the narrative that instead highlights the successes of public education. Public education works when it receives suitable support from States. The public supports public education across the world. 

This statement is the product of a decade of work by civil society organisations, activists, and academics monitoring the concerning rise of private actors in education and the negative consequences for the right to free, quality education - particularly for the most marginalised, vulnerable and disadvantaged  groups. Education experts and practitioners have long recognised that privatisation in education exacerbates societal inequalities while also failing to produce the expected benefits to access and quality. In response, PEHRC members are coalescing around the consensus that promoting state-led, public education is essential to achieving equity. 

Read the full statement in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese

Organisations and individuals are invited to join the call to protect public education by signing on here.