As teachers, we know that the realisation of high quality public education for every child remains a work in progress.
Our long-held commitment to achieving it is informed by the fact that a public school, in every community, is a precondition to fulfilling our responsibility as members of an international community to ensure that every child gains access to education. We also know that if we are serious about achieving excellence and equity for all, public schools must set the standard for high quality education as equity in the provision of education can only be realised if public schools, free and universally accessible, set that standard.
It is not only disappointing, but it is also disturbing that the ideal of quality public education for all is under greater threat today than it has ever been.
This threat has been on public display just recently in the form of articles, or in some cases advertorials by anonymous writers, in publications such as the Economist, which support and promote the emergence and expansion of low fee for-profit private schools in developing countries as the means of providing access to schooling for the children of the poorest of the poor referred to as “clients”. They may as well just refer to children as economic units.
So biased and unsubstantiated was the “journalism” that it provoked an immediate response from highly recognised and respected international agencies like OXFAM and Action Aid to name two, who along with others wrote letters to the editor. Similarly, leading academics also responded condemning the bias.
Dr. Prachi Srivastava, a tenured Associate Professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies specialising in the area of education and international development at the University of Ottawa, who was so “dismayed and surprised” by her name being used to legitimise and endorse low fee for-profit private schools, in addition to a letter to the editor, produced an opinion piece in The Guardian based on her detailed academic research demolishing the claims made in one of the articles.
Whilst not entirely surprised by these advertorials in the Economist – after all , at the time of its publication, the Economist was still 50 percent owned by the world’s largest education corporation, Pearson, which has interests in low fee for-profit private school chains such as Bridge international Academies and Omega in Kenya, Ghana and a number of other countries – as a teacher I was deeply offended by the unwarranted gratuitous attack on teachers and our unions in campaigning for the very best opportunities for every child in every classroom.
As teachers we take our responsibility to our students very seriously. All we ask for, indeed we demand, is that governments fulfil their obligation to their most vulnerable citizens, namely children.
Beyond a legislative guarantee to fulfil their primary obligation to adequately fund and resource public schools, governments must legislate against non-state actors operating schools for profit, particularly when they are in receipt, directly or indirectly, domestically or extraterritorially, of any tax payers dollars intended for the educational well-being of students.(Surely, taxpayers dollars intended for the educational well-being of students shouldn’t be siphoned away to line the pockets of billionaires and global corporations.)
Furthermore, governments must introduce, where non-existent, and enforce legislated regulatory frameworks to ensure high standards in teacher qualifications, curriculum and teaching environments. A social contract, if you like, providing guarantees for students.
In attacking regulation of facilities and teacher qualifications, the Economist makes the outrageous statement, contrary to reams of research and evidence, that: “the quality of facilities, or teachers’ qualifications and pay, have been shown by research in several countries to have no bearing on a school’s effectiveness.”
This astonishing attack on teacher qualifications bells the cat for the prophets of profit. Employing unqualified “teachers” is driven by their business plan to maximise profit. It is no wonder that in a recent article in the Independent that Pearson-supported low fee for-profit chain, Bridge International academies, operating in Kenya and elsewhere, protested a possible government requirement that half, not all, “half of all teachers in any one school should have a recognised teaching qualification and be paid accordingly.”
In all of my professional life, I’ve yet to meet a parent who would prefer their child to be taught by an unqualified teacher. I very much doubt whether the anonymous author of the advertorial or senior figures at Pearson would volunteer their own children to be taught by unqualified ‘teachers’ reading from a script.
If standing up for the right of every child to have access to a rigorous, rich curriculum, taught by well supported qualified teachers in safe environments conducive to good teaching and learning is a crime, we are guilty as charged.
Written by Angelo Gavrielatos
Project Director, The Global Response to