We The Educators — A new conversation about the future of public education

Education systems around the world are now witness to a variety of educational changes and improvements, numerous social and economic disruptions, and the onset of rapid technological advances that were unimaginable in the past. Within this tsunami of change, innovative teaching and learning practices that employ emerging technologies are sweeping into schools and classrooms with the broader goal of transforming student learning.

While technologies present education systems with both significant opportunities and challenges, some of the most profound developments are related to standardisation, personalisation, privatisation, and the datafication of learning.

To this end, Education International (EI), the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) identified a need to explore the interdisciplinary research underpinning technology-driven datafication and its effects on teaching and learning around the world.

We the Educators - Educational Technology and the Personalisation, Standardisation, Privatisation and Datafication of EducationThis literature review (PDF – 601 KB) attempts to provide a balanced view of the interdisciplinary concepts under investigation in order to inform an analysis of the converging fields of educational technology and datafication. It is part of a larger project, entitled “We the Educators” (www.wetheeducators.com), which brings the concepts explored in this research to life through video and animation in multiple languages.

It is hoped that this project will stimulate a rich public dialogue—and greater professional scrutiny—around the relationship between the datafication of education systems and the (de)personalization, privatization and standardization of student learning. We invite colleagues and advocates for quality public education worldwide to draw on this research and to use the videos to continue the conversations.

This project is the result of a global collaborative effort of many talented people including Graham Brown-Martin and teams from EI (Angelo Gavrielatos, Nikola Wachter and Mar Candela), the ATA (Dr Philip McRae, Dr Lindsay Yakimyshyn and Dr J-C Couture) and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (Cassandra Hallett, Bernie Froese-Germain). The collective attention, analysis, support and imagination provided by all of these individuals has brought to life a project with the intention to inform and help to (re)shape the future of teaching and learning.

All of the partners in this project will continue to research and advocate for the conditions of professional practice required to create teaching and learning environments that advance the goal of strong publicly-funded public education systems: to educate all children and youth well.


Please follow, like and connect to these platforms and help us spread this conversation.

Website: https://wetheeducators.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeTheEducators
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WeTheEducators
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/WeTheEducators/
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/WeTheEducators
YouTube: http://bit.ly/WTEyoutube

When crisis for many means opportunity for some: Private profit and the education of Syrian refugees

By Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary, Education International

The war in Syria has been on the front pages of newspapers for six years now. We have witnessed the plight of those who flee, the long winters in refugee camp tents. But little is said about the fate of refugee children when it comes to their education. Do they have schools to go to? Who teaches them?facebook_Arabic

A new study answers these questions. “Investing in the Crisis: Private Participation in the Education of Syrian Refugees”, conducted by Francine Menashy and Zeena Zakharia from the University of Massachusetts, examines the situation of 900,000 refugee Syrian children who are out of school in their host countries, with enrolment rates ranging from 70 percent in Jordan to 40 percent in Lebanon and 39 percent in Turkey.

Clearly, there is a deficit in access to education for refugee children – and private providers are actively engaging in that space. Naomi Klein, who coined the term ‘disaster capitalism’, outlined how the private sector is quick to respond whenever a crisis or natural disaster strikes. However, in the case of education in such emergencies, little has been known about the scope and aims of private engagement.

This report highlights a surge in private actor involvement in the Middle East since 2015, with 144 non-state actors currently engaged in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. This includes 46 businesses and 15 private foundations, the majority of which have their headquarters in the global north, and 61 percent of which do not have education as their primary mandate.

What other drivers apart from education pull private investment into the region?

In their study, Menashy and Zakharia explore the nature of private sector involvement in the education of Syrian refugees. The study raises questions about the profit motive driving these actors which may be at odds with what is best for refugee children, including their right to quality education. Furthermore, part of the new trend of ‘philanthrocapitalism’, which is increasingly influencing education policies and programmes, is the involvement of private companies in the education of Syrian refugees which may contribute to undermining democratic governance and accountability in education that was once inextricably linked to social dialogue and legislative processes.

While the intervention of private actors may be unavoidable in certain crisis contexts, the study unveils clear areas of concern. Private actors on the ground seem to be insufficiently coordinated, leading to imbalances and duplication of services – a situation which is worsened through inadequate communication between the private actors and the state.

The authors also highlight that private stakeholders often overemphasise the role and presence of technology in education. This emphasis on ICT is questionable given the scarcity of resources, with schools often lacking the most basic infrastructure and tools. Do children need tablets when they have no benches to sit on, no toilets to go to at school? In this regard, governments are well advised to seek and consider the expert voice of teachers and their unions – a vital part of a humanitarian response in education – to ensure that interventions are contextualised and appropriate for the reality in the classroom.

Lastly, the engagement of private actors in Syrian refugee education is translating into political influence, where numerous businesses are becoming key decision-makers in refugee education policymaking. This influence can and will promote an increase in the private provision of education and non-formal education environments. This is deeply problematic due to the overall lack of accountability in terms of educational quality and equity, as previous studies commissioned by Education International have shown.

This report lays bare the undeniable obligation of all governments to ensure that the rights of all children, including refugee children, are met. This includes the provision of free inclusive and equitable quality public education. Beyond this, governments are also required to regulate the involvement of private actors within clear legal frameworks addressing the commercialisation of education in fragile settings. We must challenge the exploitation of those in need. Seeking to profit from those in need cannot be labelled as anything but unethical.

PISA, strong on equity, but weak on positive teacher policy

By Education International

Education unions worldwide have acknowledged that the latest results of the Programme for International Student Assessment contain a range of strong and positive proposals on equity, tackling disadvantage and on the promotion of science teaching, but fail to adopt a coherent narrative on positive teacher policy.

Education International (EI), the global confederation of 401 national education unions and organisations in 172 countries, representing 32.5 million individual members, has commented on the outcomes of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“There is much in the latest PISA from the OECD which affirms just how important it is for countries to have strong thriving public education systems,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Many of its proposals for improving equity are vital for the future of all young people.”

The EI General Secretary welcomed the proposals for targeting additional support for children of immigrants and disadvantaged backgrounds, and urge all governments to support them. The report’s condemnation of gender stereotyping in Science rightly highlights how society’s attitudes towards girls and Science can limit ambition, he said. Boys from lower socio economic backgrounds were also more likely to repeat years of schooling.

Students in advantaged schools have access to better materials and resources whereas students in disadvantaged schools have less teaching time and are more likely to be required to repeat grades, the report says, also emphasising that targeted additional resources will make a positive difference for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Positive policies towards supporting the learning of young people from immigrant backgrounds can lead to major increases in students’ learning, although the majority of students from immigrant families have lower levels of achievement.

However, Van Leeuwen admitted his disappointment with the report’s conclusions and tone around the use of resources for schools. “Higher public expenditure on education has not always delivered better results. This directly contradicts the need for sufficient resources. The best experts on resources are teachers themselves,” he said, adding that their voice is largely silent in this edition of PISA. Leaders are referred to again and again, but the teachers survey has barely been used. This is a missed opportunity.

Many school systems are still seriously underfunded, he deplored, stressing that it is to teachers themselves that governments should turn if they want to know what resources schools need and how to spend them wisely.

Education International strongly believes that the OECD must be very careful not to promote a false dichotomy between ensuring sufficient resources for schools and quality education. This contradicts OECD’s own proposals for targeted resources for immigrant students, education in the early years and disadvantaged students and equity in resource allocation. For EI, sufficient resources enable teachers to do their jobs, and a wise use of resources comes both from engaging the teaching profession and their unions in evidence informed policy development and evaluating the effects of education reforms.

The OECD urges that the priority must be to “attract and retain qualified teachers, and ensure that they continue to learn throughout their careers,” yet the OECD seem more confused than ever about the relationship between class size, teacher qualification and student achievement. Again, this goes against their own data where it unequivocally says, “in schools with smaller classes, students report that teachers can dedicate greater attention to individual students’ needs and knowledge, provide individual help to struggling students, and change the structure of the lesson if students find it difficult to follow”. Education International also regrets that the OECD has a narrow view of education systems, e.g. when it investigates the results of Shanghai students or Singapore’s students.

Education International clearly supports the focus on equity, disadvantaged students and the fact that the teachers in the public sector are for the first time acknowledged as the best in the world, gaining better results than their private counterparts when socioeconomic data is accounted for. However, the writing team has failed to take a nuanced view of the impact of qualified teachers, small classes and adequate resourcing on the development of quality education.

Education International is organising a post publication webinar for affiliates whose countries have participated in PISA 2015 on 14 December 2016 from 1:30 – 3:00 pm (GMT). The purpose of the webinar is to brief affiliates on key messages from PISA 2015 and enable affiliates to discuss its outcomes. PISA Senior Manager Peter Adams and PISA Senior Advisor Michael Stevenson from the OECD PISA Team will to take part and present key findings from PISA 2015.


Contact:

John Bangs, Education International: email: John.Bangs@ei-ie.org or tel: +447879480056 or +32473840732

Education International is the largest global teacher organisation representing over 30 million teachers in more than 170 countries and territories.

APEC schools’ model undermines education quality

Teachers’ unions call for greater funding of public education, not private

studentsbeforeprofit-philippines_small

Amid an educational system “overburdened and underresourced,” the Affordable Private Education Center (APEC) Schools, a joint venture of international education company Pearson and Philippine business giant Ayala Corporation, seek to provide for-profit secondary education through an edu-business model approved by the Department of Education (DepEd) raising questions on quality and teachers’ rights.

With over 10,000 students in Grades 7 to 9 and Grade 11, the education chain now operates schools in 29 sites in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. APEC aims to establish 500 schools in 10 years enrolling up to 250,000 students.

Through an agreement signed in 2013, DepEd has in effect waived its existing regulations for private schools in basic education in favor of APEC and its “market-based solutions in order to grow more private schooling …, instead of building more government schools.”

apec-003APEC has been renting unused office spaces in commercial buildings instead of constructing school facilities on purchased land, a practice which would have been in violation of DepEd regulations on size, location and accessibility of school buildings, Riep’s research revealed. Other facilities such as science laboratories, libraries, and gymnasiums are either inexistent, not fully equipped, or shared among APEC schools.

Riep’s study also found that up to 70 percent of APEC’s teachers are not licensed. The teachers are then paid low wages and asked to stick to standardized lesson plans.

In an earlier statement, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) called on DepEd to repeal its agreement with APEC and for the government to divert to the public education system the P12 billion fund now being allocated to vouchers, which are given to students to attend private schools like APEC.

“P12 billion could have built around 30,000 classrooms and could have catered to more than one million students. Solving the problems of public education is not through privatization schemes. The voucher system is designed to shift money away from public schools and to private schools including for-profit schools such as APEC, making education highly profitable in the Philippines,” said Raymond Basilio, ACT national secretary-general.

He added that APEC’s non-compliance with DepEd requirements for private schools shows how APEC values profiting from students and the voucher system, putting profit before the well-being of Filipino youth.

In the DepEd budget hearing at the House of Representatives on September 2, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that APEC’s agreement with the department has not been renewed for the present school year and is under review.

Other previous research by EI and Riep has also expressed concern over the growth in countries such as Kenya and Uganda of private for-profit school chains employing unqualified teachers, providing scripted lessons and using unsuitable environments for learning to drive down costs.

Riep’s study titled “Corporatised Education in the Philippines: Pearson, Ayala Corporation, and the emergence of Affordable Private Education Centers (APEC)” can be accessed here.

Media contact:
Raymond Basilio, ACT Teachers: +63 917 638 9151
Curtis Riep, University of Alberta: riep@ualberta.ca

Unite for Quality Education

As a a long-standing member of Education International (EI), CTF has actively participated in EI’s Unite for Quality Education and Global Response campaigns. The purpose is to advocate for governments to act in the public interest with adequate funding, resources and policy to ensure quality inclusive public education and to stop edu-business from profiting at the expense of access for all to free quality publicly-funded public education. What follows is an excellent op-ed by Susan Hopgood, EI President and Fred van Leeuwen, EI’s General Secretary: http://tinyurl.com/unite4ed

Report on edu-business in Uganda describes deficiencies and substandard operations

student-before-profit

A new study released Oct. 5 by Education International (EI) reveals how profits come before students and how legal standards in education have been disregarded by an edu-business operating in Uganda.

The EI report, “Schooling the Poor Profitably”, follows weeks of investigation into the operations of Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Uganda where it has established 63 private for-profit schools, since February 2015, with an estimated 12,000 fee-paying customers. This is the same company that attempted to intimidate Canadian researcher, Curtis Riep, by having him falsely accused and arrested while he was in Uganda last May.

The company has been the subject of significant criticism for failing to meet legal and educational standards and a government order closed all the schools in August. Although the schools have since reopened temporarily, EI is keeping a watchful eye.

In summary, the report’s key findings are:

  • 9 of 10 teachers hired by BI are unqualified and unlicensed;
  • Teachers read from a script as part of the BI ‘Academy-in-a-box’, with pre-programmed curricula transferred to tablet e-readers;
  • BIA facilities are below par, with reports of “poor hygiene and sanitation” in school buildings which often do not meet the Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards;
  • School fees prevent poor families from sending their children to school;
  • School fees are 20% of family income – per child;
  • Drop-out rates are high – from 10 to 60%.

For further information, please see the following statement issued by EI:

The grip of Bridge International Academies in Uganda

The education provided by Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Uganda disregards legal and educational standards established by the Government, according to a new study by Education International (EI). These include requirements to employ qualified teachers, observe the national curriculum and standards related to school facilities.

BIA is one of the largest education for-profit companies in the world, with plans to sell basic education services directly to 10 million fee-paying students in low-income communities throughout Africa and Asia by 2025. In Uganda, BIA has expanded rapidly since February 2015, with an estimated 12,000 fee-paying students. However, in August, the Permanent Secretary of Uganda decided to close all BIA schools due the company’s failure to meet the Government’s educational and legal standards.

EI’s analysis of Bridge’s curriculum and pedagogy reveals serious implications for teachers and students that fundamentally alters the nature and practice of education itself. The company has created a business plan based on strict standardisations, automated technology, cheap school structures, and internet-enabled devices that are used to carry out all instructional and non-instructional activities that make up an education system.

BIA uses broadband technology to deliver its ‘Academy-in-a-box’, with pre-programmed curricula transferred to tablet e-readers – ‘teacher-computers’ – that distribute knowledge and information to pupils. This represents a business strategy for drastically reducing operating costs and benefiting from economies of scale by employing unqualified teachers and paying them severely low wages. EI’s research revealed that up to nine out of ten BIA teachers are unlicensed, in direct contravention of Uganda’s Education Act (2008).

In addition, the physical structures of Bridge Academies are below par, with reports of “poor hygiene and sanitation” in school buildings which often do not meet the Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards established by the Ministry of Education.

BIA fails in its mission to provide ‘affordable’ education for all children in Uganda. Children of low class cannot afford to pay anything for education, much less BIA fees, according to a Ministry official. Families with an average household income have to expend up to 23 – 27% of their earnings just to send one child to a Bridge school for one year. Indeed, the BIA school dropout rate ranges from 10%-60%.

Education International’s General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, said: ”We call on the Government of Uganda to remain steadfast in demanding that Bridge International Academies operate in accordance with Ugandan legislative and regulatory requirements. Every child deserves to be taught by a qualified teacher delivering an engaging curriculum in safe schools conducive to good teaching and learning.”

Download here the report: SCHOOLING THE POOR PROFITABLY: the innovations and deprivations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda by Riep, C. & Machacek, M. (2016)

Media Contact:

Angelo Gavrielatos (Project Director, Education International): +61488012045
angelo.gavrielatos@ei-ie.org.au

Bridge International Academies Adds Fear and Intimidation to Its Business Strategy

The flailing reputation of the Pearson-backed ‘edu-business’ has fallen to a new low after it was caught spreading false accusations to have a Canadian academic researcher jailed while studying its Ugandan operations.

Just when it thought its business couldn’t get any worse, for-profit education provider Bridge International Academies has resorted to dangerous tactics to avoid questions of its practices. Last week, Canadian Curtis Riep, a University of Alberta doctoral student and researcher for the global teachers’ federation Education International (EI), found out the length the corporation is willing to go to silence its critics..

Continue Reading (Unite for Quality Education, Education: International: https://www.unite4education.org/global-response/bridge-international-academies-adds-fear-and-intimidation-to-its-business-strategy/

 

Do as you say, or say as you do? The World Bank’s doublespeak on teachers

WBpictSMALLThe World Bank has become an increasingly influential player in the education policy debate and is now the largest supplier of external funding to the education sector. With this in mind, but also as the education goal, Sustainable Development Goal 4, moves towards implementation, EI commissioned us to conduct a research and to take a closer look at recent (2005-2014) World Bank publications and projects to carve out an understanding of how the World Bank perceives and conceptualizes teachers and which teacher policies it recommends.

The final review of the World Bank’s activity around teachers in the last ten years reveals a significant disconnection between, on the one hand, the policy preferences that predominate in the Bank’s publications on teachers and, on the other hand, the teachers’ related policies that the Bank effectively supports through its lending operations.

Continue reading (Education International): http://educationincrisis.net/blog/item/1322-do-as-you-say-or-say-as-you-do-the-double-speak-of-the-world-bank-on-teachers-policies

Education International represents organisations of teachers and other education employees across the globe.

Filipino students are simply cogs in the ‘low-cost’ corporate machine

The United Nations decided in September that primary and secondary education should be free. But the Philippines is heading in the opposite direction. The authorities are outsourcing secondary education to profit seeking corporations. Pay as you learn, seems to be the axiom. In a study commissioned by Education International, researcher Curtis Riep shows how the right to education is being sold out, leaving the faith of the countries’ teenagers at the mercy of the market.

In the world’s poorest nations so called “low fee” education comes at an ever rising cost for those who cannot afford it. Filipino officials claim that their country’s state coffers lack the funds to support a free quality secondary system. That claim holds no ground, according to the study.

In the Philippines, 40 percent of secondary schools, which accounts for 5,130 schools, are privately owned. These schools charge tuition fees which are promoted as being “low cost”. However, these fees are beyond the reach of most students from low-income homes.  Annual fees often exceeding $500 USD makes school inaccessible for the majority of poor families and their children, many of whom are forced to live off of one dollar a day.

In his study, Curtis Riep makes it clear that the government’s decision to farm out secondary education to the highest bidders is a strategic choice rather than one forced by financial constraints.  The move toward low-cost, for profit schools seems an economic plan to raise consumers rather than citizens and to ensure a future workforce flexible enough to meet the market needs for cheap labour.

Since 2009 the government’s allocation of funds to private school chains has increased to more than PHP 31 Billion, nearly $700 million USD, which Riep points out could have paid for 60 thousand more classrooms and accommodated roughly 3 million students.

Among the beneficiaries of government handouts, exposed in this research, are Pearson Plc and the Ayala Group, which back Affordable Private Education Centers, known as APECs. Ayala, which oversees a plethora of companies in the Philippines and around the world, has its hands in the curriculum of its low-fee for profit schools in order to produce workers with the skills suitable for its labour needs. Known as reverse-engineering the curriculum in its schools, APEC is set on creating a generation programmed “with specific skills, values, and knowledge that can be employed in the global labour market.” Free thinkers do not apply in APEC’s world.

By the end of 2016, APEC schools are setting their sights on accommodating 4,000 students, or clients, as they refer to them, in at least 50 schools over the next three years. In Manilla alone the number of low-fee for profit schools is set to double to 24 by the end of this year.

The Philippine government recently announced that it intends to implement grades 11 and 12. This is an important step for the country and its children. However, in order for these two years to properly provide benefit, the Philippine Government must commit more financial resources to the education system. Globally, it is recommended that governments invest 6 percent of GDP and 20 percent of the national budget to education. The Philippines continues to fall short of those targets with less than 3 percent going towards education.

With the government already claiming that it does not have the financial capacity to pay for secondary education, how does it plan to pay for another two years of mandatory education? Well, Riep’s work shows exactly how that can be accomplished through the private sector. And although Filipino President Benigno S. Aquino III says that another two years of school is needed to prepare more young people for high-level jobs, one needs to look at how many employers on the other end connect to the web of Ayala Group companies.

There is international consensus that for-profit education is not the way.  “All girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education” is one of the main Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN General Assembly in September.  But instead of a free quality education, Filipino youth are being left to pay for the cheap version. Low-fee private education comes at a price that the Philippines, its teenagers and their future cannot afford. It is time that the Philippine government comes to its senses.

Read the full study (PDF – 877 KB)

Fred van Leeuwen is the General Secretary of Education International