ETUCE Pre-Conference webinar discusses the challenges of privatisation in and of education


The series of workshops that ETUCE organises in preparation for its quadrennial statutory Conference comes to an end with a final webinar addressing the growing  privatisation in and of education systems. Participants from ETUCE Member Organisations had the opportunity to shed light on the different forms of private sector’s involvement in education provision, and to identify common strategies to address the influence and ever-increasing spread of commercial interests and actors promoting the privatisation agenda in Europe.

Privatisation webinar screenshot

“The increase of profit-making in education in Europe is undermining equal access to quality education for all. Teachers across Europe are deeply concerned about such developments and by the penetration of market-based principles in education. Standardisation, high-stake tests, and performance-based reviews are undermining teachers’ professional autonomy and rights, and jeopardising students’ well-being and educational outcomes.” said Dorte Lange, ETUCE Vice-President, opening the meeting.

To kick-off the discussion, Tore Bernt Sorensen, researcher from UC Louvain (Belgium), presented an overview of the definitions and the role of intergovernmental institutions and financing agencies promoting liberalisation, marketisation and privatisation in and of education systems. On the one hand, due to a decade of austerity in education, governments have increasingly relied on private sources of funding to compensate for reductions in public education investment (OECD Education at a Glance 2019); on the other, the call for efficiency and effectiveness in public spending has opened the way for the incorporation of market mechanisms and business-like practices in the management of education institutions, and even driven education reforms and liberalisations.

Participants to the webinar had the opportunity to share experiences around the multiple ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic accentuated pre-existing trends of over-reliance of governments on private ed-tech companies to contribute to the digitalisation of education, through outsourcing, public-private partnership, or even through the promotion of reforms whereby private ed-tech companies are embedded in public education systems. Ahead of the ETUCE Conference, the participants discussed how to resist the push to privatisation of the education sector. They also explored common strategies to grow the collective power of education trade unions to organise around ideas of quality public education to allow such values and aspirations to emerge as common sense solutions across Europe.

Concluding the meeting, Christine Blower, echoed participants’ calls for action stating that “Regionally, nationally, and locally, we will continue to work in solidarity across the board to defend education as a public good and a public responsibility, and to promote democratic decision-making, transparency and public accountability to ensure free, inclusive and equitable quality education for all”.

Learn more about the ETUCE Conference here.

For more information on the workshop:

Agenda:  ENFRRU

Background document:  EN,  FRRU