UN Education Expert Highlights Dangers of Privatisation in Education

Press Release, 29 October 2014 UN Education Expert Highlights Dangers of Privatisation in Education

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, the UN’s human rights exert on that topic, Mr Kishore Singh, this week warned of the alarming rise of unregulated private education and of its threat to the right to quality education for all. In his annual report[1] to the General Assembly, Mr Singh described how ‘the phenomenon of education as an attractive business is assuming alarming proportions, with scant control by public authorities.’[2] He insisted States ‘not abandon their primary responsibility, above all for the provision of free and quality basic education, to the advantage of private providers, who find the inadequacies of public education fertile ground for making money from the provision of education, reaping uncontrolled profits.’[3] Further, Mr Singh stressed that ‘Governments should ensure that private providers only supplement public education, the provision of which is the Government’s responsibility, rather than supplant it.’[4]

The report was welcomed by civil society groups and academics that have been highlighting the adverse impacts of privatisation in education and urging governments to halt the rush to privatisation and critically examine its repercussions, particularly on societal inequality. Mayra Gomez of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) said ‘The Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Education highlights the human rights impacts of privatisation in education and challenges States to respond to serious concerns about the detrimental effects of privatisation policies on the right to education.’

The Report highlights the discriminatory impacts of privatisation policies and describes how ‘privatization in education cripples the universality of the right to education as well as the fundamental principles of human rights law by aggravating marginalization and exclusion in education and creating inequities in society.’[5] It further elaborates: ‘Privatization in education favours access to education by the privileged. It throws overboard the fundamental principle of equality of opportunity in education...’[6]

Mr Singh warns that ‘for-fee’ education ‘exacerbates discrimination against girls in gaining access to education. It is well known that families prioritize the education of boys over girls and that girls are less likely to be enrolled in private education owing to parents’ perceived return on the costs of educating girls compared to that of boys.’[7]

‘We are very pleased to see the Report draw attention to the way privatisation policies reinforce societal segregation of rich and poor and aggravates systemic discrimination against girls and marginalised groups, in their access to quality education‘ said Dr Gomez.

The Special Rapporteur underlined the importance of preserving education as a public good, with the State as its custodian and cautioned that privatisation undermines this principle. Sylvain Aubry of GIESCR said ‘We welcome the report’s reaffirmation that education is a public good and that States have the primary responsibility to provide quality free public education for all. In practice this means reinvesting in public education and moving away from support for private education.’

The alarm sounded about privatisation by the Special Rapporteur follows similar concerns expressed recently by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in respect of privatisation in education in Morocco and Ghana,[8] results based on the interventions of the GIESCR and its international and country-based partners.

Mr Singh calls on States to ‘establish and maintain a transparent and effective system that monitors the right to education and regulates private providers,’[9] including obligatory reporting on financial operations, profits and fees.[10]


For more information on privatization and the right to education, see HERE.


The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) is an international non-governmental human rights organization which seeks to advance the realization of economic, social and cultural rights throughout the world, tackling the endemic problem of global poverty through a human rights lens. The GI-ESCR has worked with the Special Rapporteur on the issue of privatization of education and has helped link locally-based advocates with UN human rights mechanisms to strengthen their advocacy on this important topic. See www.gi-escr.org

Mayra Gomez, Co-Executive Director, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, mayra@globalinitiative-escr.org, / +1 218 733 1370

Sylvain Aubry, Right to Education Researcher, sylvain@globalinitiative-escr.org / + 212 6 22 37 86 37 or + 254 7 88 28 96 34


[1] UN Doc A/69/402, see here http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N14/546/82/PDF/N1454682.pdf?OpenElement

[2] Para 32

[3] Para 103

[4] Para 96

[5] Para 41

[6] Para 48

[7] Para 47

[8]Concluding observations on the third and fourth periodic reports of Morocco of 30 May 2012 (CRC/C/MAR/3-4), adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child at its sixty-seven session, CRC/C/MAR/CO/3-4; Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Ghana, CRC/C/GHA/Q/3-5.

[9] Para 57

[10] Paras 20 & 21