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  • Series: NORRAG Series on International Education and Development x
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Edited by Gita Steiner-Khamsi and Alexandra Draxler

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Gita Steiner-Khamsi and Alexandra Draxler

Public–private partnerships in education, a relatively new phenomenon, has acquired increasing momentum in recent years. A shift from government to governance allows increased influence and profit for business; standardization of education allows economies of scale and increased profits for the private sector; governments have participated in the notion that PPPs are a global solution to local problems. Under the influence of managerial reforms conceived and promoted by a handful of influential development institutions, the notion of an optimum practice that can be standardized and replicated all over the world has gained traction both as a policy tool and as a model for profit. The result is a blurring of the boundaries between the aims, duties and actions of the public and private sectors. The research and actions presented by the chapters in this book illustrate a wide range of examples of how this is happening and lays out some of the consequences.

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Antoni Verger, Adrián Zancajo and Clara Fontdevila

International actors are increasingly active in promoting education reforms worldwide, but especially in contexts of vulnerability. As in a zero-sum game, the presence of international actors is expected to compensate for the budgetary and administrative restrictions that governments face in vulnerable countries. Nonetheless, international actors do not only operate in contexts of fragility for humanitarian reasons, or to cover governmental needs. For many international actors, contexts of vulnerability are privileged spaces to promote their preferred policy reform approaches, and to experiment with “innovative” solutions that would be difficult to implement in more stable political contexts. This chapter focuses on the way international actors promote different pro-private education solutions in vulnerable contexts. Specifically, we analyze two cases in which international actors have been especially prominent in advancing an education privatization agenda: the expansion of low-fee private schools in low-income countries and the promotion of pro-private sector solutions in contexts of emergency.

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Marina Avelar

Large foundations in Brazil increasingly claim their main purpose is to influence education policy. To understand how this “advocacy" endeavour is being done, this chapter analyses the work of five new philanthropy organisations identified as central (highly connected and influential) in the country, using the method “network ethnography”. Four main strategies have been identified: producing research, working with the press, promoting events and operating in networks. These strategies are not necessarily new in policy-making, but are a novelty in how private organisations are intensely working to participate in the field of education. These practices together position new philanthropy as a “policy entrepreneur”, with the status of “specialists” and enable the creation and maintenance of invaluable relationships. Within the context of neoliberal shifts towards network governance, these practices allow new philanthropy to operate not as an “outsider" policy influencer, but indeed, as part of the policy-making process itself.

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Zeena Zakharia and Francine Menashy

This research explores the complex interrelationship between conflict and private sector participation through a case study of the education of Syrian refugees. Conducted in mid-2016 to early-2017, our study sought to better understand: (a) which private entities are engaging in Syrian refugee education in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; (b) the activities through which private companies and foundations support education; and (c) the rationales and motivations that drive their involvement. Our study sheds light on areas for concern and limitations to the assumed capacity of the private sector to understand and work within rapidly evolving humanitarian contexts.

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Barbara Schulte

The term ‘private school’ as used in the Chinese context denotes a wide variety of schools, reaching from schools for poor rural children, to those for migrant children with external residency, to schools for children from the middle and upper classes seeking an education beyond the ordinary. Even though Chinese education has not undergone any large-scale privatization, an increasing number of families opt for private educational alternatives. This chapter provides an overview of Chinese private schools: their development and current situation; their different types (low-, medium-, and high-fee); the motivations of entrepreneurs to establish private schools; and the rationales of families who opt for private schools in a system dominated by state-provided education. The conclusion discusses the implications of changing state-society-business interaction in education. The chapter is based on fieldwork conducted at private schools in the cities of Beijing and Kunming, and in Zhejiang province between 2010 and 2015.

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Mauro C. Moschetti

Few studies have explored how schools respond to competition in socially embedded education quasi-markets. This study focuses on how state-subsidized privately-run low-fee schools (S-LFPS) compete with free state schools in some of the poorest neighbourhoods of the City of Buenos Aires. In particular, we explore how S-LFPSs follow different logics of action to attract (and shape) enrollment profiting from their extended autonomy and some regulatory gaps. We applied discourse analysis on data from eight months of ethnographic case study research in nine S-LFPSs. Student selection and operational changes (e.g., increasing the student/teacher ratio) prevail over academic and curricular changes. Selection is operated by means of aptitude tests and screening interviews, and more subtle symbolic artifacts aimed at signaling differences with state-run schools and the potential ‘fit’ between schools and families. We suggest that normative inconsistencies tilt the field against state-run schools and create divergent networks of meaning regarding equity.

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Carol Anne Spreen and Sangeeta Kamat

“Profiting from the poor” lays out the broad underpinnings of the corporate interests in for-profit education in India and how these efforts undermine public education as a fundamental human right in flagrant violation of India’s Right to Education Act. The chapter provides a detailed understanding of how the commercialization of education through scalable chains of schools and selling educational products and services unfolds on the ground in Hyderabad. The location of a very strong information technology (IT) industry in Hyderabad offered the ideal conditions for the development of a vast edu-solutions laboratory that could provide products and services to both the private and public school sectors. The study documents the expansive and growing private education sector in India revealing a complex well-networked assemblage of global actors that are invested in the business of education privatization and who stand to make a considerable profit from it. With 68.7 per cent of the Indian population earning below US$2 a day and 41.6 per cent of population earning below US$1.25 a day, the push toward private schools for the poor is a matter of serious concern.

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Emily Richardson

Bangladesh has witnessed unprecedented growth in its low-fee private school (LFPS) sector in recent decades. The number of private schools has multiplied almost threefold in the last 15 years, and in certain districts, more than 60 percent of children are enrolled in LFPS. Individual ‘edupreneurs’, private school chains, and missionaries have emerged as important players in the sector. No actor’s entry into the market is more surprising than that of BRAC, the largest NGO in Bangladesh, and the world. In 2012, BRAC piloted a chain of LFPS, and today overseas a franchise of fee-charging primary schools. This chapter presents an excerpt from a larger study on the quality of LFPS in Bangladesh. Findings revealed that BRAC has recently shifted its low-cost approach to educational provision for disadvantaged children to a LFPS model that no longer reaches low-income families. This chapter also highlights BRAC’s plans for expansion, and policymakers’ perceptions of this phenomenon.

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Joanne Barkan

“Death by a Thousand Cuts” surveys the controversial, market-driven, education reform movement in the United States: where it came from, how it operates, and what it has delivered so far. The historically strong commitment of Americans to public education has been under assault since the resurgence of laissez-faire economics in the 1980s and the decline of government commitment to racial integration. The neoliberal education strategy has included an ongoing campaign to convince Americans that public schools are failing, policies that transfer public resources to privately run schools, and financing political support at all levels of government for privatization. An investigation of two key policies—charter schools and publicly funded vouchers—reveals how they have resulted in academic failures, widespread corruption, and increased racial and economic segregation. Despite the radical conservative hold on power in the United States, grassroots efforts to preserve democratically controlled public education have produced some creditable local victories.