UN calls on Pakistan to regulate and assess privatisation of education
In its Concluding Observations following the review of Pakistan that were released last week, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) expressed detailed concerns and recommendations on the impacts of privatisation of education in the country. The Committee calls on the state to conduct human rights impact assessments of privatisation, regulate private schools, improve quality and in a breakthrough recommendation to eliminate social segregation in education. The Global Initiative on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights welcomes these important recommendations which reflect the findings of research by the Pakistan Coalition for Education, submitted in a report to the CESCR with the support of GI-ESCR.
The CESCR also raised concerns on the increased number of low-fee private schools occurring in the form of public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives, finding that there is a lack of effective regulation of these schools, which are of poor quality and charge high non-fee expenses. Such expenses disproportionately impact girls’ access to education. These recommendations indicate an increasing awareness by the UN human rights treaty bodies of the discriminatory effects of unregulated privatisation. The Committee notes this has reinforced social segregation in education in Pakistan, with high income families sending children to high quality schools while the children of low income families attend underfunded public schools or BECS schools.
The Committee raises further concerns on the state’s failure to conduct “proper assessments of the impact of the BECS and the public-private partnership initiatives on the right to education prior to their adoption as well as of their effectiveness in realizing the right to education since their adoption”.
The Committee reminded the State “that before starting a privatization process, a thorough human rights impact assessment would be necessary to live up to their legal obligation to progressively realize the right to education”. In light of these concerns the Committee recommends that the state conduct an assessment of the impact of the PPPs and on the human rights effects of low-fee private schools. The Committee also calls on the state to strengthen and strictly enforce the regulation of private schools and improve their quality.
CESCR recommended that Pakistan ensure “no children drop out of school for not being able to pay the non-fee expenses” and to “[p]rogressively eliminate social segregation in the education system be ensuring an education of quality to all children in all public and private schools”.
The Pakistan Coalition for Education welcomed these recommendations. In a press release Ms. Zehra Arshad, National Coordinator of the Pakistan Coalition for Education states “Given the status of education in the country where almost 21 million children are still out of school, the rapid privatization of education without a thought on how this development will impact the rights of children to a quality education holds an alarming significance, as echoed by the UN committees. I am hopeful that the State will give considerations to these recommendations on a priority basis”.
Read the UN CESCR recommendations here.
Read the press release by Pakistan Coalition for Education here.