New Actors and Modes of Governance in a Globalizing World
Edited by Susan L. Robertson, Karen Mundy, Antoni Verger and Francine Menashy
Chapter 6: The GATS Game-changer: International Trade Regulation and the Constitution of a Global Education Marketplace
Antoni Verger and Susan L. Robertson Introduction In 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was launched, joining a longer standing set of international institutions with a mandate to govern economic, social and political affairs at a global level. For education watchers, however, the more remarkable element of this initiative was the inclusion of all levels of education, from early years to higher and continuing education, as a services sector in the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). This event led activists and commentators alike (cf. Kelsey 2003; Knight 2007) to argue that the emergence of the GATS represents an extraordinary change in the framing of the rules over global trade in services more generally, and most importantly for our analysis, of the transformation of education, as largely a nationally-located and governed public service, into a globally regulated tradeable economic commodity. Indeed, the GATS aims at the liberalization of all kinds of education services via the modification (and/or elimination) of a range of state regulations, thus favouring trade and foreign investment in the educational sector. Following Fligstein’s (1996, p. 657) insight, that ‘…the production of market institutions is a cultural project’, we will be arguing in this chapter that the significance of the GATS is its far reaching political ambition; to reshape the architecture of the education sector to include ownership rights, more marketoriented governance structures, the basis of rules of exchange, and conceptions of control that in turn enables a market logic to flourish. Gill describes this as...
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