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Global Groups Collaborate to Introduce Free Market Education Investments in Africa and Middle East

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Education International, which represents teachers unions around the world, sent out notice of a disturbing new development. International groups have determined to introduce Marley forces and payment for test scores as their response to educational needs in Africa and the Middle East. The Business-School graduates discovered a “crisis” that has existed since time began: children in impoverished countries are not getting a decent education—or, in some cases, no education at all. Yes, it is outrageous. Why are these great minds not using their brainpower to promote economic development? Asia is booming. Why not transfer some lessons learned to reduce poverty and create good jobs, rather than bring in the hedge funds and social impact investors to monetize education?

Angelo Gavrielatos of Educational International writes:

A new financing facility, the Education Outcomes Fund (EOF) for Africa and the Middle East is in development – with plans to become operational in the coming year. The fund commercialises and commodifies education, using tax-payer aid budgets to support private actors and investors to profit from education provision. Similar funds are being developed targeting India and Latin America.

EI responds

EI has responded directly to the EOF and publicly.

Mobilisation of Member Organisations

Education International is mobilising our Member Organisations in potentially targeted countries, which include Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, recommending that they take action to pressure their governments not to engage with the EOF.

What is the EOF and how does it work?

EOF is an initiative of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission) and the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG).

As a so-called innovation in education financing, the fund aims to raise $1 billion in development impact bonds (DIBs). DIBs work by employing investment capital to pay services, in this case education provision or education related services, offered by private actors in Africa and the Middle East. If ‘outcomes targets’ are met by the service providers, investors and providers receive a return, financed in part by bilateral donors through national aid budgets.

Putting private actors in the driving seat, disregarding democracy
EOF disregards democratic governance of education by choosing to directly fund private education providers rather than strengthening public systems through the elected national government. Giving investors control and influence over their investments is given precedent over governments’ sovereignty to define their own priorities.

What is more, as reporting systems for outcomes are geared to the needs of private funders, it becomes more difficult for educators, their unions and the broader community to hold their government to account to fulfil their obligation to provide quality education for all.

Funding outcomes narrows education
The EOF argues that its model’s strength lies in the fact that it will only pay for outcomes achieved. However, results-based financing actually negatively distorts quality teaching and learning processes by focusing on narrow outcomes rather than the development of the whole child.

With funding based on students’ test score outcomes, teachers are encouraged to teach to the test. Furthermore, results-based financing creates perverse incentives to invest in short-term gains rather than long term system strengthening. Outcomes in education are not immediate, but take time to manifest, such as its contribution to social, cultural, democratic and economic development.

Apart from the fact that the commodification of education by incentivising private providers and investors by profit-making is highly unethical and in disregard of the right to education, there is no substantial evidence of DIBs in the education sector.

Outcomes bonds leave the vulnerable behind
Importantly, a quest for outcomes and the involvement of profit-making organisations in the education sector leads to the further marginalisation of the most vulnerable groups in society. Evidence shows, when funding depends on test scores, private actors’ student selection processes can discriminate against less able students or alternatively encourage certain students not to participate in tests.

In clear contravention of the global commitment made through SDG4 to leave no-one behind, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, students from minority groups, refugees, students with disabilities or special needs and students living in remote areas lose out.

Proliferation of education privatisation and marketisation

To achieve SDG4, public systems must be strengthened and education must be universally embraced as a human right and a public good, not a market commodity.

Education financing must be sustainable and predictable, there are no shortcuts. It is only through well-funded public education that we will achieve quality education for all, not through attempting to establish new finance mechanisms that undermine the right to education.

Rather than strengthening public systems in regions where increased public financing for education is desperately needed, EOF will finance non-state actors, including for-profit companies and so-called ‘low-fee’ private schools that charge poor families for education of questionable quality.

‘Prime contractors’ will be commissioned by EOF to lead ‘whole-community based interventions’, suggesting that the fund will operate as a massive market creation scheme. Public-private partnerships will also be supported, with Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), Liberia’s disastrous experiment with outsourcing education to private providers, held up as a model.

Education is a public responsibility. The SDGs are about assuming those responsibilities. They are essential to the future and cannot be contracted out or sacrificed to the market. And, yes, they require political will to ensure a sufficient and sustainable source of public funding. We cannot rely on charity or the private sector.

If we believe that all children, regardless of their background or circumstances, regardless of the community, country or continent in which they live have a right to quality education, governments and the international community must invest in the expansion and strengthening of quality, free, universally accessible public education.
More information

Education Outcomes Fund (EOF) for Africa and the Middle East: Is it a Game Changer? by Keith M Lewin, Emeritus Professor of International Development and Education, University of Sussex, provides a detailed critique of the EOF.

Angelo Gavrielatos
Project Director – EI

Angelo Gavrielatos​
Project Director
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +32 2 224 06 11
Fax: +32 2 224 06 06
5 bd du Roi Albert II | 1210 Brussels | BELGIUM

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