Across Europe, public education institutions and administrations are witnessing an influx of private sector technologies and services. From digital learning platforms to the surging market for educational consultancies, the increasing use and influence of private sector actors and philanthropists in public education has availed a series of gaps in our understanding of the interplay between private and public, capitalism and pedagogy, and democracy and private solutions. From primary to tertiary education, these gaps present an impending need to explore and question the implications of privatization for the values, practices, and policies of European education.
PRIVATOPIA Research Network on the Privatization of European Education invites scholars working across a variety of fields in educational research to join forces in addressing and exploring how, why, and to what extent privatization appears, is politicized, and enacted in different educational arenas across Europe. As a surging global force with myriad expressions, we are convinced of the benefits of sharing, discussing, and theorizing the historic and contemporary evolvement of privatization across different traditions of public administration, research disciplines, and epistemological positions.
During the pandemic, several PRIVATOPIA members and other colleagues from across Europe got together to write a collaborative article on digitalization and privatization during the lockdown of physical schooling. The results of our efforts were published in the European Education Research Journal in September 2021. Spanning cases from Sweden, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Norway, and Denmark, the article explores (some of) the digital networks and platforms that emerged in Europe during the lock-down of schools. Looking across the five different case studies, the article provides a glimpse of how the pandemic has both accelerated and consolidated the involvement of commercial and non-commercial actors in public education.
Together with Oxfam Ibis, the Policy Futures PRIVATOPIA Network hosted the event "Global Trends in Education: Commercialization – Why should we care?" on January 22. with Dr. Prachi Sristava from University of Western Ontario, one of the leading experts on commercialization of education and low-fee private schooling.
The event was a great success – a packed room with students, researchers and political activists interested in education, development and the politics around the private and the public sector. Many thanks to Lucas Cone and Oxfam Ibis for organizing this.