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The Education Business

Globalisation, Corporatisation, Publicly funded, Privatised, Education as a Business are all perennial issues. Whether the explosion of communications is changing things or whether it simply speeds up change is a moot point. Analysis and comments on emerging trends and themes make interesting reading for those who care about how we do the education business.

Globalisation - The Big One

Globalisation looms large from time to time, and will continue to impact on educational practice whether we like it or not. CAUT representatives at the 1998 World Conference on Higher Education were alarmed at the World Bank's proposals for the commodification of information/ knowledge/ education in the interests of global economic imperatives. This year's meeting of OECD Education Ministers determined a new mandate for global education strategies 2002-2006. See also a summary of the OECD's Education Policy Analysis: 2001 Edition. Contrary positions are found in ATTAC Weekly Newsletter no 53, with interesting figures on the value of education as an export commodity to various national economies, including the U.S.A, U.K. and Australia. AVCC News Focus (13 September 2000) references recent pertinent Australian legislation.  

National Aspirations

Government and political party policy statements define national perspectives on education; they vary widely in idealism, but always sit on a solidly economic bottom line. For instance, compare the Australian ALP's Platform 2000, Chapter 3 , the British Higher Education in the Learning Society ,  New Zealand's  Tertiary Education in New Zealand: Policy Directions for the 21st Century and the U.S.A's  National Education Goals, as well as Mr. Bush's current  initiative, No Child Left Behind.  However, as rhetoric is seldom matched by reality in execution, we now have some decidedly pragmatic developments in organising the business of education: corporatisation, privatisation, and other for-profit variations.


William Bostock explains corporatisation and privatisation in The Global Corporatisation of Universities: Causes and Consequences.  Proceeding from working definitions to an explanation of historical roots in the IT Revolution, the ascendance of English in global communication, and the end of the Cold War, he explores the concept of the corporate university, listing problems, consequences and responses, though not without a wistful backward glance at the evaporating ideals of a liberal education.
Erica McWilliam, Caroline Hatcher, and Daphne Meadmore  examine how corporate practice has influenced Australian school management and teachers' professional development. The prospect of corporatisation of Australian education leading to privatisation was aired by Adam Hanieh  as far back as 1994.  

Privatisation and Private Schooling.

William Bostock explains privatisation: a State-owned institution is transferred to private ownership, shares may be listed on the stock exchange, and the institution  operates in the market place either to make money or to cover costs.
The idea of privatising schools enjoys considerable currency in the U.S.A, but not without opposition from stakeholders like the American Federation of Teachers. Deborah King explores the issue in Partnership and the Public Sector.
By 1998, critics like Will Marshall (Australia) and Liz Smith (U.K)  were decrying trends towards privatisation of education in their respective countries.  

Public Funds for Private Schools

Private schooling everywhere is an option for those who can choose to pay, but should private educational institutions also be publicly funded? This issue is currently defeating George W. Bush's voucher initiative.
In Australia, "state aid  for church schools"  has been hotly debated for many years in the face of inadequate state funding of public schooling - the Australian Council for the Defence of Government Schools presents an historical resume in the transcript of a Lionel Murphy Memorial Lecture (Monash University, 26 Oct 2000). Teachers' organisations are also extremely active in this ongoing controversy.  

Charter Schools

These began to appear in the U.S.A in the early 1990's to foster diversity of practice and greater freedom of choice; they are not as much bound by bureaucratic red-tape as other public schools, but are publicly funded and accountable in terms of charter contracts. An article from Education World gives a concise account of the way they work, along with an assessment.
A case study by Giselle Lundy-Ponce offers a first-hand evaluation of a charter school.
Alex Molnar's recent article Calculating the Benefits and Costs of For-Profit Public Education  presents a rather less rosy perspective on charter schools since education management organisations (EMOs) have been involved in running charters for profit; of 2,073 charter schools, 300 - 400 are run by for-profit EMOs. Molnar criticises Edison Schools Inc.( the largest EMO) for lack of profitability, questionable financial  management, archaic teaching practices, poor relations with faculty, and insensitivity to local needs. His figures indicate generally lack-lustre test results from for-profit charter schools - in fact, he doesn't consider them a very good idea, either financially or academically.  

Supplementary Reading List

Commission of the European Communities: The eLearning Action Plan: Designing tomorrow's education. (2001)
Langdon Winner : The Handwriting on the Wall: Resisting Technoglobalism's Assault on Education. (1997)
Kit Sims Taylor: Higher education: from craft-production to capitalist enterprise? (1998)
David F Noble: Digital diploma mills: the automation of higher education. (1998)
Thomas H. Thompson: Three Futures of the Electronic University: To Dream the Possible Dream. (1998)
Lawrence E. Gladieux & Watson Scott Swail: The Virtual University and Educational Opportunity. (1999)
Alan Ryan : The American Way. (1999)

Graeme Daniel and Kevin Cox
7th May 2001

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