Report Advocates Privatizing Schools Overseas, but Without Convincing Evidence

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Little support is provided for claims in ideologically biased report.

A new report, Beyond the Mirage: How Pragmatic Stewardship Could Transform Learning Outcomes in International Education Systems, prescribes a shift in the leadership role of education ministers – from providers and guarantors of education to pragmatic stewards of education systems.

Frank Adamson, of California State University, Sacramento, reviewed the report and found that its use of questionable evidence and possible conflicts of interest were enough to “render the report’s recommendations unsubstantiated.” While the report appears to have strong funding behind it, no information is available about the publisher or organization producing the publication.

Focusing on the organization of education sectors in the Global South, the report contends that this shift from “provider” to “steward” will address the need for higher quality education, rather than simply providing access to education. The “pragmatic stewardship” advocated in the report involves strategies that increasingly incorporate private actors. Accordingly, the report draws on four case studies of different types of private-sector involvement in education as examples of a recommended broader shift by education ministers.

Professor Adamson argues that all four cases contain limitations – some discussed, others not – that undermine their suitability as successful examples of divesting public education systems of their primary role as guarantors and providers of education.

Moreover, while the report claims to be “non-ideological” and “beyond the mirage” of the education privatization debate, the funders of the report have a material stake in a main program cited as evidence, raising concerns about conflicts of interest. For these reasons, Professor Adamson concludes that education ministers should “take the suggestions in this report with a grain of salt.”

Find the review, by Frank Adamson, at:
https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/mirage

Find Beyond the Mirage: How Pragmatic Stewardship Could Transform Learning Outcomes in International Education Systems, written by Katelyn Donnelly, Arvind Nagarajan, and Ross Lescano Lipstein, at:
https://www.seeingbeyondthemirage.com

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

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William J. Mathis

Frank Adamson
California State University, Sacramento
(916) 278-4639
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