Education corporations 'want to mine our kids for profit' says campaigner
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“Global capital is on the move and it wants to take over education,” Angelo Gavrielatos, Project Director with Education International (EI), the peak body of the world's teacher unions, told the state Council of the NSW Teachers Federation on March 12.
Around the world they are “exploiting kids, exploiting education and, worst of all, reducing kids to an economic unit as part of their ambition to take over the world of education,” he said.
“Globally education at present is valued at approximately 4.5-5 trillion dollars and it's estimated that in 2016 it will be valued about 6-7 trillion because of the dramatically growing markets of Brazil, India, China and parts of Africa.
According to Mr Gavrielatos, “At this stage global capital has only capitalised a very small fraction of that”, but they want this “most lucrative market” as other sectors of profit making decline. He says they see children as a “sustainable resource” for profit.
Capital flows automatically to the most profitable sectors of the economy. Where once education and the rest of the service sector were seen as costs to be shouldered by the public through governments, now a privatised public sector is the last remaining profit bonanza.
“They want to mine our kids to increase their profit margins. This is manifesting itself in so many grotesque ways around the world,” Mr Gavrielatos stated.
'Innovation' = two weeks' training, plus scripted curriculum
Mr Gavrielatos said global corporations have made their biggest gains, in places like Africa, where legislative frameworks are weak.
“I've just come back from Kenya, Ghana and Liberia. We are seeing the promotion of what are called low cost (there's nothing low cost about them!) for-profit chains of schools, sponsored by global capital, venture capitalists, that are trying to take over education in those countries.”
Mr Gavrielatos said Pearson Education, a former textbook company, now giant British-based edu-corporation is behind many of these companies.
“Whether it's Bridge International Academies that's operating in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, or Omega chains in Ghana, they are behind these operations ripping off parents, ripping off kids.
“These chains of schools operate on a business plan where they aim to maximise profits. They do that by employing high school graduates, give them two weeks training, give them a tablet and a scripted curriculum which they read word for word. That's the quality of 'education'.
“When we were involved in campaigns exposing that… in Kenya a few weeks ago, for example, we were accused of attacking the very essence of the 'innovative' nature of these companies.
“Delivering a scripted curriculum. But not to their own kids! And what we've been saying around the world, to ministers, governments, policy-makers, venture capitalists... until the moment you're prepared to volunteer your own kid, don't expect that should be okay for everyone else's kids.”
Citizens or venture capitalists?
“Last year in Bogota Colombia, Pearson called a meeting of venture capitalists interested in exploiting educational opportunities in Latin America.
“In June will be the second annual “Innovation” Conference in Nairobi, again inviting venture capitalists.
“What is important for our kids is a quality education with a curriculum to allow them to become citizens in their communities,” Mr Gavrielatos said.
He explained that a conference in Rome in April will help build the strategy, and arm national teacher organisations in EI in the global south with a lot of information to build their own national industrial, political and media campaigns.
Legal and capital strategies, including shareholder action “to expose companies like Pearson” at their shareholder meeting in April, are already underway.
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