Education civil society and human rights activists convened in Abidjan last month for the annual global meeting of the Privatization in Education and Human Rights Consortium (PEHRC).
Delegates from all around the world met to discuss the adoption of the Abidjan Principles, a human rights-based document to describe State’s obligations to provide free, public and inclusive education, as well as to regulate private involvement in education.
The Abidjan Principles were developed using international human rights legal standards and jurisprudence through an open, transparent, and broadly consultative process with inputs from stakeholders from various backgrounds: human rights lawyers, education specialists and practitioners, affected communities and civil society organizations worldwide.
From 2016 to 2018, a series of regional, national, and thematic consultations were convened around the world, leading to the final adoption conference in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. A secretariat made up of Amnesty International, the Equal Education Law Centre, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, and the Right to Education Initiative facilitated the consultative process.
The meeting also looked at the priority for PEHRC members for the next two years and what strategies and tactics were needed to slow down and better regulate the involvement of private actors in the education sector.
Using the Abidjan Principles for advocacy in the Philippines
Philippines and the Asia Pacific region witness increased privatization in education through various modalities such as public-private partnership in the form of education contracting scheme and voucher program, or private chain of schools and low-fee private schools.
The Abidjan Principles is a landmark document that would advance E-NET Philippines advocacy work around regulating private involvement in education and demanding that the government prioritize funding for strengthening the public education system.
In particular, the document will be useful in consolidating research on the private school regulatory framework. The output will then serve as strong evidence to push for stronger regulations concerning private involvement in education in the Philippines.
Another concrete action for the implementation of the Abidjan Principles would be for local policy development such as the Education Code of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao is a newly established political region for the Muslim minority in the southern part of the country, which is in the process of defining their local policies.
The "Education Code" is part of the priority area and will define the local education system and laws. E-NET Philippines' members in this region have an opportunity to engage the process using the Abidjan Principles to ensure stronger public education and regulate privatization. This work is critical in as private actors tend to proliferate in a decentralized education system.
A good meeting to enhance our collective work
In the last decades, CLADE has witnessed in Latin America a more pronounced growth in the privatization of education. This phenomenon is complex and presents different facets in the different countries of the region, with private actors intervening not only in the direct and indirect provision of education, but also intensifying their influence in education policy decision making and influencing public opinion.
The meeting in Abidjan was important to learn from other regions and to collectively analyze the phenomenon, envisioning ways to move forward together.
Among many aspects, the participants agreed that, since privatization impacts different sectors, it is important to work closely with the health and other public services movements and to strengthen the linkages between the education movement and the tax justice one, to ensure an adequate funding for free, public and inclusive education.
Also, we will need to study mechanisms of social impact bond funds and funding for non-state actor education providers, which are weakening public education systems, as well as to quickly strengthen an alternative narrative to rebuild trust in public education.
Working on changing the narrative at the global level
From a global perspective, the meeting brought voices from around the world, sharing the same concerns around States' propensity to turn to the private sector for short-term fixes, despite the abundant literature warning against the perverse effects of public-private partnerships in realizing the right to education for all.
The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) has been involved in privatization work since the inception of the Consortium, and supported civil society actors with the production and dissemination of reports and toolkits for advocacy.
Many national coalitions supported by the Civil Society Education Fund, a program of the GCE mainly funded by the Global Partnership for Education, have been able to put strategies in place to reinforce States' capacities and limit the encroachment of the private sector in the education public space.
GCE renewed its support to the PEHRC common work on debunking negative myths and reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen civil society capacity to advocate for stronger public sector financing.
About the Privatization in Education and Human Rights Consortium
The PEHRC is an alliance of civil society organizations and individuals around the world, which intent to regulate and limit the role of the private sector in the provision of education, based on the human right principle of education for all, and looking particularly at the negative effects of privatization on the most marginalized and vulnerable groups.
Note: The GPE Board will review the private sector strategy at its next meeting. The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors.