Key resource

The Right to Education Initiative, with the support of international and British organisations as well as teachers' unions have submitted a report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child about the UK's support of the growth of private actors in education through its development aid: questioning its responsibilities as regards its human rights extra-territorial obligations.

The report raises concern about the increased use of British aid money to support for-profit schools, in particular so-called ‘low-fee’ private schools, which are fuelling inequality, creating segregation and undermining the right to education.

The report finds that the UK’s policies in support of private education through its development aid are problematic and that the country could be violating its extra-territorial obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in two regards:

  • Firstly, the UK’s support for for-profit, fee-charging private schools that do not reach the poorest is questioned in light of the UK’s obligations to fulfil the right to education, including the right to free quality education without discrimination;   
  • Secondly, the UK’s responsibility is questioned in particular in relation to its own impact assessments that have been conducted on its policies of providing support to private schools and which have concluded that projects supporting private education providers are less likely to target the most marginalised, and that more research needs to be carried out on the impact of private schools in developing countries on, among other elements, the efficiency of “low-fee” private schools.

See also the summary and update of the report

This report provides an analysis of support to private sector engagement in Global Partnership for Education (GPE) recipient countries, building off a prior study focusing on GPE decision-making on private schooling. This review includes an analysis of 101 documents relating to the 40 GPE recipient partner countries with active Education Sector Program Implementation Grants (ESPIGs). Country profiles of Haiti, Pakistan, and Uganda are provided in an Appendix, each of which highlights important trends with implications for GPE support to private participation in education.

The report contextualizes private engagement in education from a human rights perspective. Based on a descriptive analysis of Education Sector Plans (ESPs) and ESPIG project documents, it finds that GPE projects include far less private sector engagement in education than do country-designed ESPs. The report also gives a brief account of GRA grants and the single GRA project that engages the private sector.

Summary reflections on private sector engagement in GPE recipient countries note trends and areas for further investigation including issues concerning the ambiguous descriptions of private schools within the documents; the range of rationales provided for support to private schools; tax/fiscal incentives for private engagement; PPPs in early childhood education; private participation in policy-making; the role of the private sector as an education funder; and the widely agreed-upon need for regulation of private schools.

The analysis concludes that while a notable presence and expansion of private participation in GPE recipient countries is clear, this engagement cannot be attributed directly to GPE. In fact, the discrepancy between private school support in ESPs and ESPIGs reflects a GPE prioritization of public education. Yet some significant tensions emerge between GPE’s commitment to the right to education and particular forms of private participation as identified in the project documents and ESPs.

The Global Partnership for Education treads a fine line relating to private engagement in education, navigating its dual mandate to both support education as a human right and a public good, while simultaneously promoting country ownership and nationally identified priorities. And so while GPE is in a position to maintain its course in predominantly supporting public education, this current stance may come in tension with the goals of recipient governments and other stakeholders within countries.

During the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, OIDEL and the Permanent Mission of Portugal, cohosted a side event on the privatization of education, with the participation of four experts: Delphine Dorsi (Executive Coordinator of Right to Education Initiative); Ignasi Grau (representative of OIDEL); Louis-Marie Piron (delegate in charge of international relations of the Secretary General of Catholic Education in France); and Dr. Maria Smirnova (University of Manchester and expert on education and private actors). The event was moderated by Nuno Cabral, the Permanent Representative of Portugal.

The purpose of the event was to discuss and address the challenges of the privatization of education, to distinguish the different actors involved, and to propose solutions from a human rights perspective.

 

The publication highlights the low funding of public education which is leading to its decline and consequent growth in privatisation of education. The study also focuses on the private schools’ failure to follow the norms and regulations set out by the Nepali Constitution, as well as the government’s failure to ensure the implementation of these requirements. It also warns that private schools are leading to greater segregation and gaps within the society, between rich and poor, and boys and girls.

This paper highlights key concluding observations adopted between September 2014 and November 2017 by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) regarding the role of private actors in education in Ghana, Chile, Morocco, Uganda, Kenya, Philippines and Brazil. These add to more than 50 other concluding observations previously issued by these committees on the topic.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are increasingly being promoted as the solution to the shortfall in financing needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Economic infrastructure, such as railways, roads, airports and ports, but also key services such as health, education, water and electricity are being delivered through PPPs in both the global north and south.

Although the involvement of the private sector in public service provision is not new, there is currently keen political interest in PPPs as an important way to leverage private finance. Donor governments and financial institutions, such as the World Bank Group (WBG) and other multilateral development banks (MDBs), have set up multiple initiatives to promote changes in national regulatory frameworks to allow for PPPs, as well as to provide advice and finance for PPP projects.

This report gives an in-depth, evidence-based analysis of the impact of 10 PPP projects that have taken place across four continents, in both developed and developing countries. These case studies build on research conducted by civil society experts in recent years and have been written by the people who often work with and around the communities affected by these projects.

Chapter 1, written by Ashina Mtsumi of Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, refers to Liberia Education Advancement Programme (LEAP). In January 2016 the Liberian Ministry of Education announced its intention to outsource its public pre-primary and primary schools to Bridge International Academies (BIA) for a one-year pilot programme. This plan provoked significant public outcry and criticisms from different stakeholders. As a result, the Government of Liberia reviewed the plan, introducing an additional seven private providers selected through a competitive selection process. However, despite these changes, external assessments of its impact have not been good.

 

 

The Human rights guiding principles on state obligations regarding private schools ('Guiding Principles') intend to provide a universally accepted and legally binding normative framework that will help reflect on the role and limitations of private schools with a view to guaranteeing human dignity. 

This guide explains why the Guiding Principles are needed, who they are being developed by and the consultation process.

This report, conducted in the context of Mauritania's review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, seeks to advance the discussion and analysis of the privatisation of education in Mauritania. It examines the inroads made by private stakeholders in this region, and their impact. The report analyses existing available data and field data collected in a small-scale study against the five accepted human rights standards for measuring the impact of private stakeholders in education: non-discrimination, the right to free education, the protection of education against its commercialisation, regulation, and participation.

In this report, the Special Rapporteur examines the implementation of the right to education and Sustainable Development Goal 4 in the context of the growth of private actors in education.

She presents to the Human Rights Council and States Members of the United Nations the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education, and recommends their full implementation.

She recalls that international human rights law requires States to provide free, quality, public education. Depending on their nature and aims, private actors may contribute to the realization of the right to education and offer educational alternatives, thus enhancing, for example, respect for cultural diversity. However, the persistent underfunding of public education and the rapid and unregulated growth in the involvement of private, in particular commercial, actors in education, threaten the implementation of the right to education for all and Sustainable Development Goal 4.

The report contains observations and recommendations on the obligation of States to fund and provide public education and provides some concrete suggestions and solutions. It draws on the Abidjan Principles, in particular with regard to the obligation to regulate private actors involved in education, public-private partnerships and the role of donors and civil society.

 

 

Joint Oral Statement: New report takes firm approach to the implementation of the right to education and Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), delivered at the 41st session of the Human Rights Council during the presentation of the UN Special Rapporteur on right to education's report about the implementation of the right to education and Sustainable Development Goal 4 in the context of the growth of private actors in education. 

 

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