In Australia, we have the opportunity to push back against commercialisation in education and demand a policy environment that separates acceptable corporate activities in education from the unacceptable ones, University of Queensland lecturer Dr Anna Hogan told Federation’s Annual Conference.
“We also have an obligation to help emerging countries invest in a public education system that recognises their own rich cultures, needs and aspirations,” she said.
“If corporate actors want to be socially responsible, they should put the needs of teachers and students first, not their shareholders,” she added.
Dr Hogan has been researching the role of global edubusiness on education policy and practice.
“The reality is, we now live in a world of increasing privatisation and commercialisation where businesses play an influential role in public service delivery. Yet, research tells us that the broad application of market principles to the provision of education has a negative impact on teaching and learning, whether it is in the countries of the global north, with high-stakes testing and accountability infrastructures, or in the countries of the global south, where low-fee private schools are working to erode democracy and basic human rights,” Dr Hogan said.
“At both the local and the global level we see that the public governance of education is being compromised and prominence is being given to education as a commodity that can be bought and sold as a private, positional good. Moreover, the work of corporate actors like Pearson, operating in these spaces has, in many instances, replaced the traditional role of government in the provision of schooling and related education services,” Dr Hogan also said.
“The concern here is that corporate actors like Pearson are unelected and unaccountable to a constituency and thus do not necessarily work to protect students, teachers and quality education for all. Instead, they tend to focus on profit margins and potential returns for shareholders, regardless of the consequences.
“We need to call on governments to better regulate the activities of edubusinesses like Pearson, and equally the public themselves have to hold edubusinesses like Pearson more accountable.”