This article explores the increasing privatisation of education. It examines various criticisms of the private provision of education and claims that privatisation is driven by an ideological agenda which is generally uncaring about any notion of the “public good” purposes of education — that is, of its role in producing social cohesion through the provision of education that is of high quality for all members of society.
According to international law, States have the principal responsibility ‘to ensure the direct provision of the right to education in most circumstances. Although private education is allowed under international law, there are specific conditions and limitations under which private education must operate. While empirical data about the effectiveness of public and private schools is needed to inform the debate on how to achieve quality education, there also needs to be criteria to assess the measures for determining ‘effectiveness’ and to define what models of private education are acceptable.
This paper identifies a set of criteria for assessing the conditions and limitations of private education drawing from human rights standards applicable to African States. It explore criteria that examine the central role of the State, universal free primary education, progressively available secondary and higher education, the aims of education, non-discrimination, and regulation of private education providers. An examination of these standards will provide an initial set of criteria for assessing the role of private education in Africa and a basis for further research.
It has recently been suggested that the age of human rights is over. The West, itself often not respecting human rights, is said to have abused the concept as a tool to retain control over the developing world. Human rights have remained a foreign construct in Africa, the Near East, and Asia. They have "underperformed," and the level of privation in many parts of the world is more intense than ever. This Article acknowledges elements of truth in these observations, but argues that the battle for human rights is not lost. Using the right to education in Africa as an example, three arguments will be presented to explain how human rights can regain their moral cogency and actually help change a world of misery for the better. First, human rights need to be "domesticized," made "home-grown" achievements with which local populations can identify. Regional human rights institutions need to give specificity to universal norms. These "locally-owned" norms must then be effectively enforced. Second, pure "development goal" approaches to reducing global poverty need to be debunked. Instead, a human rights approach needs to identify clear duty-bearers, including notably the World Bank, who, when they have failed to comply with specified duties, should be considered "human rights violators" and held accountable accordingly. Third, and perhaps most importantly, human rights must be recognized to give rise to extraterritorial state obligations. These are obligations of states, in appropriate circumstances, to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of those beyond their own territory. The extraterritorial human rights obligations of states must structure bilateral development assistance and cooperation, the lending operations of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and free trade within and beyond the World Trade Organization (here, meaning the General Agreement on Trade in Services and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).