UN Committee recommends The Philippines to strengthen its public education system
(Nairobi, 17 October 2016) The Global initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) welcomes another important new set of recommendations (available here: http://bit.ly/2dhMWp7) from the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), which calls on The Philippines to strengthen its public education sector, to regulate all schools, including low-cost private schools, and to review its public-private partnership scheme in education. These recommendations follow research conducted by the education coalition in the Philippines, E-Net Philippines, and the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE), which presented a report (available here) to the CESCR with the support of GI-ESCR. In a press release published last week, E-Net Philippines and ASPBAE welcomed the recommendations and expressed confidence that they can constitute a basis for meaningful reforms in the country towards ensuring the right to education and achieving the SDG targets on education (see below and here: http://bit.ly/2en1aT4).
These recommendations add to seventeen others related to the role of private actors in education published since September 2014 by UN human rights treaty bodies. A synthesis paper published and regularly updated by GI-ESCR (the latest versions are posted here) lists these recommendations, and identified at least ten types of recommendations made by UN human rights treaty bodies.
Together, these recommendations, called "concluding observations", form a body of jurisprudence that lay out how the human rights framework applies to States' obligations with regards to private actors in education. In this context, the concluding observations of the CESCR on The Philippines are particularly significant for:
They reaffirm that "the State has the primary responsibility in ensuring the right to education" and the CESCR recommends that the Government "Strengthen its public education sector [...] with a view to improving access to and the quality of primary and secondary education for all". This clarifies that human rights generally requires education to be mainly provided publicly, as it's the only way to ensure quality education for the poorest.
They call on regulating and monitoring specificallylow-cost private schools. These schools have long been ignored, and operated outside of any legal framework. this is partiulcarly important in The Philippines, where a report from Curtis Riep for Education International had shown the challenges of APEC schools, a chain of low-cost schools at the secondary level backed by Pearson.
They challenge and as the Government to review the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme in The Philippines, the "Education Service Contracting scheme". This scheme has been particularly criticised in the report, in particular the report from E-Net and ASPBAE which shows its limitations and negative impacts on human rights. This confirms that, while the human rights framework leaves Governments free to decide on their policies and economic approach, this does not mean that they can freely implement any measure, and must ensure that whatever choice they make is in line with their human rights obligations. This can contribute to the reflection on PPPs in developing countries, in particular as countries like Liberia are exploring the possibility for large-scale PPPs (see our page here)
This body of recommendations is currently being analysed and reviewed to define human rights Guiding Principles on States' obligations with regards to private actors in education. These Principles will unpack existing human rights law that States have to follow. You can find out more here