In recent years the UN has become increasingly vocal and condemnatory about the human rights impact of increasing private actor involvement in education systems around the world.
In October 2015 two UN human rights treaty bodies, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), raised further concerns about the growing involvement of private actors in education, this time in Morocco, Kenya and Brazil.
Brazil: Concerns by the CRC on the High Fees Charged by Private Schools
On 2nd October the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) released its concluding observations on Brazil. The Committee first reminded the State party of its primary responsibility for guaranteeing and regulating education and reiterates the importance of public investment in education (§76).
The Committee then expressed concern about the growth of private actors in education, including the high fees in private schools “which exacerbate existing structural discrimination in access to education and reinforce educational inequalities, the increase of public funding for the private sector, including to profit-oriented education institutions (…) through public-private partnerships” (§75), as well as the increasing purchase of “standardised teaching and school and school management systems from private companies (…) which may not be adequately customised for effective use” (§75).
Subsequently, the Committee recommended that the State “establish a comprehensive framework of regulations for private education providers,” under which all private actors in education are obliged to report regularly to designated public authorities on their financial operation and to declare that “they are not engaged in for-profit education”(§76). The Committee also recommended that Brazil “stop the purchase of standardised teaching and school managements systems by municipalities from private companies” (§76) and “phase-out the transfer of public funds to the private education sector (…) to ensure access to free quality education at all levels (…) for all children by strictly prioritising the public education sector in the distribution of public funds” (§76).
Prior to these concluding observations, the Brazilian Campaign for the Right to Education, Ação Educativa, Anced and Conectas and others submitted a shadow report to the CRC on the ongoing privatisation processes in education in Brazil and its negative impacts on the achievement of the human right to education.
Morocco: The CESCR Warns that Privatisation Can Lead to Segregation
On 9th October the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights released its concluding observations on Morocco, connecting privatisation of education to segregation.
The Committee expressed concern about the scale of privatisation of education in Morocco, which can lead to a form of segregation, with an education of quality reserved only to those who can pay for elite private schools (§47). The Committee added that the gap between the enrolment of girls and boys was also one of its concerns.
On this matter, the Committee urgently asked Morocco to take additional measures to prevent the growing importance of private education will result in growing inequality in access to quality education (§48).
You can access the concluding observations here (in French).
Kenya: CESCR Concerned About the Increase of ‘Low-Fee’ Private Schools, Especially in Informal Settlements
On October 16th the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights released a list of issues in relation to the combined second to fifth periodic reports of Kenya.
Kenya has been asked to provide information “on the measures taken to increase the number of public primary schools and enhance the quality of public schools, particularly in informal settlements and remote rural areas since the introduction of the free primary education policy” (§30). The Committee highlighted their concerns regarding the increase involvement of ‘low-cost’ private schools and has asked Kenya to explain how these schools are regulated and monitored, in particular to ensure quality education (§30).
Furthermore, Kenya is asked to provide information on the effectiveness of the measures adopted to counter the large number of drop-outs, in particular the situation of pregnant girls (§30).
You can access the list of issues, here.
You can access a synthesis report of all UN treaty body concluding observations and recommendations, here.