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“Education must be protected from the forces of privatization” – UN human rights expert

NEW YORK / GENEVA (27 October 2014) – “Education is not a privilege of the rich and well to do; it is an inalienable right of every child,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, said during the presentation his report to the UN General Assembly.*

“The exponential growth of private education must be regulated by Governments to safeguard education as a public good,” the expert told the global forum, warning that the rapid expansion of private education is increasingly replacing public education, rather than supplementing it.

“The costs associated with private schools are exacerbating inequality in societies as poor and marginalized groups are often excluded from going to them,” he said. “The State is both guarantor and regulator of education which is a fundamental human right and a noble cause. Provision of basic education free of costs is not only a core obligation of States, it is also a moral imperative.”

Mr. Singh’s report addressed many of the concerns that have emerged in terms of State obligations for the provision of the right to education as well as respect for the principles of social justice and equity, which are core principles of the UN system.

“Governments must make every effort to strengthen their public education systems, rather than allowing or supporting private providers; for-profit education should not be allowed in order to safeguard the noble cause of education,” Mr. Singh noted.

The Special Rapporteur underlined that Governments must meet their international obligations through careful regulation of private schools, with diligent monitoring and enforcement, in developing countries where the public system is overwhelmed and unable to cope with rapidly rising demand.

“Not doing so has resulted in for-profit low-cost schools taking money from parents, but failing to deliver a quality education to their children. This perversely traps poor students into a further life of poverty, despite the best efforts of their parents,” he said, calling upon States to put an end to market-driven education reforms providing subsidies to private education.

Mr. Singh warned that privatization by definition is detrimental to education as a public good, and impairs the humanistic mission of education. “We must recognize the importance of preserving the social interest in education, and uphold education as public good,” he said.

“This is invaluable for fostering the humanistic value of education for common well-being. This should be a central concern in regulating private providers of education so that the social interest in education is not sacrificed for the sake of private profit,” the human rights expert stressed.

“Along with government regulations and human rights mechanisms, regulators, civil society, parents and students should have the right under law to challenge any abuses of such schools in tribunals and courts,” the Rapporteur said.

Mr. Singh noted that parliamentarians play a crucial role in promoting the right to education, through the passing of legislation, and the stimulation of public debate, centered around preserving education as a public good and ensuring that ‘for-profit’ education is outlawed.

“I call again for all Governments to meet their basic obligation to provide free, high quality primary education for all, and to recognize the great benefits which accrue to their economies and societies when public education is made available to all, at every level,” the Special Rapporteur told the UN General Assembly.

(*) Check the full report (A/69/402): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/SREducation/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

Kishore Singh (India), the Special Rapporteur on the right to education since August 2010, is a professor specialized in international law who has worked for many years with UNESCO for the promotion of the right to education, and advised a number of international, regional and national bodies on right to education issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh has supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked to promote better understanding of this right as an internationally recognized right. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/SREducation/Pages/SREducationIndex.aspx

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