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Argentina: private interests are critically undermining public education

A new study reports on the worrying expansion of private interests in the public education sector in Argentina and its undermining effects on equity and quality education.

“The privatisation of education in Argentina” a report by Education International (EI) and EI member Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina (CTERA) was launched today during a public event in Buenos Aires.

The report was written and edited by local researchers and a team from the University of Cambridge. It provides an overview of the processes driving the privatisation of education and their impact on quality and equity in Argentina’s public education system. 

Lack of transparency and shifts in funding

The findings show an increase in subsidies for private education, which rose from 15% of the education budget between 2000–2007 to 17.5% of the budget by 2015. The study also draws attention to an overall lack of transparency with regard to the allocation of these subsidies, with public funds being allocated to private establishments without clear selection criteria. The profit-seeking nature of the individuals or organisations in charge of educational establishments is rarely considered when granting them subsidies. 

There has also been a decrease in public funding of key areas necessary for quality education such as teacher training, the budget for which has been cut by almost one full percentage point since just last year. The report reveals that these policies are the result of increased influence by the private sector—corporations, non-governmental organisations, philanthropic organisations—in government infrastructure and policy development. 

Growing presence of private actors

These non-state actors are increasingly present in the development of educational materials, teacher training programmes and standardised tests. Professor Susan Robertson from the University of Cambridge said that the study documents trends and actors within the sector, such as the Varkey Foundation and Teach For America. These actors, she said, have changed: “the pioneers of the past have been replaced by others of a new ilk, a group whose blind faith in the market, in entrepreneurship and in profitability now guides the decisions of those responsible for developing education policies”.

Trade union response

Sonia Alesso, General Secretary of CTERA, said that her union was fully aware of the need to “share and spread the findings of this study in every province, in every municipality, in every school of Argentina in order to strengthen and foster this movement of a global response to the privatisation and the commercialisation of education”.

Angelo Gavrielatos, Project Director at Education International, added: “Governments have a collective responsibility to provide their citizens with quality public education. Intelligent governments examine the evidence and take it into consideration for their policy-making decisions. This report only adds to the mounting body of evidence that shows that application of market principles in education does not improve student results”. Gavrielatos also regretted the absence of delegates from the governing party during the presentation of the study at the National Congress on the eve of the launch.

You can download the full report here (in Spanish).

An executive summary in English can be found here.