(cohort mean: 70%)
Privatization of education is having a detrimental impact on teachers’ work and children’s’ learning. This paper investigates the social and moral implication of privatization in educational institutes and the forces driving this campaign to commercialize education. In exploring these ideas, this paper raises the underlying concern that education is no longer a means by which people can improve their knowledge and skills, but as a tool for increasing the profits of big business.
Privatization in relation to education, refers to “transfer of public-sector responsibility to privately owned or operated organizations or companies” (Adamson, Astrand, & Darling-Hammond, 2016, p. 8). Often, this means that the public funds private educational institutions through taxes, regardless of their lack of public accountability. A public education system counteracts this weakness with politically appointed leaders. It is evident then, that privatization forfeits democratic processes in favor of capitalistic ideologies. Therefore, it is essential to explore these implications on learners and teachers and what it means for the future of education.
The primary Government body that oversees the regulation of the New Zealand education system and therefore the main government representative acting in the interests of children’s’ learning is the Ministry of Education (MoE). MoE’s (2007) educational objectives, most notably, states that students will be provided the choice and opportunity to be the best they can be. However, as Kishan (2008) points out, opportunity is limited when privatization is present. The conflict within the MoE’s own ethos is a strong indication that they have additional motivations for privatization, which will be explored later in this paper.
Belfied and Levin (2016) believes that privatization of education increases social stratification. Those with a middle-to-upper socio-economic class are provided with more choices when selecting an educational institute, while their lower socio-economic peers are left to make use of government schools, which generally lack teaching resources (Kishan, 2008). If they come from a disadvantaged family then privatization limits their learning opportunities (Kishan, 2008). Therefore, access to education is being limited to students on the discriminatory grounds of economic status with resources being abundant for the wealthy.
Another impact of privatization demands a new set of skills from teachers to acquire quality education. Pring (2006, p. 291) argues that by opening educational institutes and resources to private organizations it turns education into a marketplace whereby “inefficient financial management, inadequate marketing skills, or lack of entrepreneurial drive will affect what a school can acquire”. These are not attributes formerly associated with teachers and demonstrates the impact privatization is having on the profession. Unfortunately, even public schools are having resource commercialized. By providing insufficient funds to the public sector, Governments indirectly turn private schools into business centers (Pring, 2006). With limited funds, schools seek to obtain the best value for money, exposing them to corporate interests and neoliberalism (Powell, 2015). The impact of this is that learners now become a target demographic for companies that have the primary motivation of increasing profit and not education. The effect of which is that private stakeholders prosper while public is pauperized (Tilak, 2002, Becket, 2000, Tooley, 2000).
Privatization impacts teaching further by commercializing initiatives popularized by media sensationalization (Powell, 2015). In contemporary education, there is a tendency to harmonize business and school motives. This is evident when the perceived obesity epidemic in New Zealand (Powell, 2015). The Ministry of Education encouragement of community input has lead New Zealand schools to adopt initiatives that address contemporary issues, portrayed by private media monopolies (Burrows & Wright, 2007; Macdonald, Hay, & Williams, 2008). commercialization in schools is seen to coincide with contemporary issues and private initiatives, such as “Jump Jam” and “jump rope for heart” have allowed private companies into the public sector, the effects of which are detrimental to learners. Many students now define health as ‘not-skinny’ and the traditional teacher role becomes disrupted as they now cater to the contemporary initiatives (Powell, 2015).
With Privatization, student learning becomes secondary to profits. Private schools, by the nature of any corporation, is primarily geared to make profits for shareholders.
Private educational institutes are notorious for cutting subjects that are not considered profitable. The effect of which, is that now you have companies dictating the knowledge bestowed to future generations.
Private education alienates students from the realities of life rather than preparing them for it. This is evident in the demographic disparity between the public and private schools of New Zealand. Private schools have an overwhelming predominance of ‘Pakeha’ students when compared to other nationalities (Dench, 2009). These statistics are not indicative of the general population, therefore, creating an artificial ecosystem for learners, protected from cultural diversity and tolerance.
Privatization is a part of a large process of deregulation of the state services (De et al, 2002). Education is considered the most vital component for the growth and prosperity of a nation (Kishan, 2008), however, educational institutes are slowly moving away, from their traditional systems to that of corporate interest. Many believe that basic education should be the sole responsibility of the state (Mathema, 2006; Himal, 2003). Education is the only institution that all individuals are required to attend, but as Connell (2012, p. 681) points out, that schools and colleges do not just produce culture, they shape the new society that is coming into existence all around us”.
A key advantage of privatization is that it fills the market with niches (Nechyba, 2005). As Belfied and Levin (2016) point out, these segments are based upon “religion, child philosophy, instructional approaches”. The plethora of choices provided through privatization help improve learner outcomes by catering to their specific needs. Nevertheless, there are arguments that this opportunity has replaced ‘meritocracy’ by ‘parentocracy‘ (Coffey, 2001). Privatization is that these school seem more responsive to meet the needs of their community. Pring (2006) points out that profits for private education depend on their responsiveness to community values.
Privatization can be argued to improve educational outcomes for learners by increasing competition and efficiency (Adamson et al., 2016). Instead of a state monopoly, privatization allows for multiple companies to provide education. This increase in services improves education quality as they compete for business (Kishan, 2008). In addition, Adamson, Astrand, & Darling-Hammond (2016, p. 6) affirms this theory by stating that by “providing parents with the ability to choose a school, it will motivate the schools to provide better education”.
However, Kishan (2008) argues that private schools place more pressure on learners, as their marks are seen to be reflective of the institutes quality. In addition, Belfied and Levin (2016, p. 170) support this claim by stating that “strict discipline policies can be used to suspend or expel disruptive students” in private institutions. This further exacerbates the pressure on learners to do well, detracting from education.
Privatization also helps to reduce the financial burden on Governments. Globalization means that countries, such as New Zealand, now compete on a global scale, and, therefore, educational institutions are expected to meet the international curricula standards. There are concerns, however, that increased private support could result in the decrease of Government funds and accountability. Disparities in educational funding has been linked to low academic achievement among needy students (Adamson, Astrand, & Darling-Hammond, 2016). A limitation faced by public schools is that they cannot extract additional funding from parents, while private schools may.
I have provided several arguments for and against the privatization of education. Whilst my initial view was to condemn private corporations operating within education, I am now ambivalent. Pressure is increasing for nations to develop world class education systems and therefore it is becoming necessary to utilize external resources to accelerate learning outcomes. I believe privatization has its place in education, but only as a tool to enhance the learning outcomes of all students. In the case of New Zealand, it appears to be a means by which the Government can offloading responsibility and reduce financial obligations. If their passive approach is sustained, private interests will continue to operate unchecked, perverting education (as seen with the aforementioned obesity initiatives).
In conclusion, privatization has been identified as creating segregation and inequality, based on economic status. Additionally, the main goal of education is to provide universal access to all students, however, privatization creates winners and losers. Support for privatization of education is built on the economic rationales of efficiency, choice-quality, and scarcity of resources. Therefore, privatization, with proper controls and monitoring by public agencies can ensure equitable education and accessibility to the largest number of people (Kishan, 2008).
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