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Public-Private Partnerships in Educational Governance: An analysis of its dissemination, implementation and impact in a globalizing world

Final Report Summary - EDUPARTNER (Public-Private Partnerships in Educational Governance: An analysis of its dissemination, implementation and impact in a globalizing world)

Over the past decades, an outstanding trend has been the growth of private sector involvement in the financing and provision of education at a global scale, which is altering profoundly the way education is governed. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are one of the main policy proposals under this rapidly emerging trend. In recent years, PPP reforms are being extended to a range of national education systems. Latin America is the world region that has embraced PPP reforms more enthusiastically, and where private sector enrolement has increased further in both primary and secondary education in the last decades. The EDUPARTNER project analyzes the emergence and evolution of PPP policies, as well as its implementation and impact in a sample of countries of the Latin-American region, with a focus on Chile and Colombia.

The EDUPARTNER project has been structured in five different sub-projects (SP). These are:

• SP1 Systematic Literature Review of Education Privatization processes
• SP2 Mapping Education Privatization in Latin America
• SP3 School Demand-Offer interactions in a local education market
• SP4 Charter schools in Bogotá: main implications for quality and equity in education
• SP5 School responses in the education marketplace

The main results of EDUPARTNER, in relation to each of these sub-projects are:

SP1) Systematic Literature Review of Education Privatization Processes:
• Education privatization policies are being adopted and applied in countries and regions with very different levels of economic development and different administrative traditions, and for very different reasons (namely, efficiency, efficacy and equity).
• From a political economy perspective, there are at least six different paths towards education privatization that can be identified, namely: a) Privatization as a deeply ideological and structural state reform; b); Scaling up privatization through school choice reforms; c) Privatization as a tool to promote school diversification in several social democratic welfare states; d) Historical public–private partnerships in education systems with a tradition and high presence of religious schooling; e) Privatization by default in low-income countries through the emergence and expansion of low-fee private schools; and f) Privatization by way of catastrophe.

SP2) Mapping Education Privatization in Latin America
• Latin America is the world region where education privatization is expanding faster. This private sector expansion is usually channeled through PPP formulas (contracting out schooling services, charter schools or voucher schemes).
• In contrast to other less developed world regions, education privatisation in Latin America is mainly constituted through endogenous policy processes that are contingent to the local reality and to structurally selective institutional legacies.
• In Latin America, most of the different paths toward education privatization identified in our global review (SP1) are present. However, processes of so-called latent privatization in countries such as Uruguay can be identified as well.

SP3) School Demand-Offer interactions in a local education market (Valparaiso)
• Educational actors’ responses in quasi-market settings are conditioned by a large number of factors. As our work demonstrates, after more than thirty years of persistent pro-school choice policies in Chile, family decisions are neither irrefutably based on “objective information” nor automatically responsive to traditional indicators of school quality.
• In relation with families’ school choice patterns five different typologies have been identified: utility oriented parents, parents searching for the most appropriate school for children with special needs, critical acceptance and accommodation, parents searching for security and protection, and absence of choice.
• Market mechanisms and dynamics in education increase the level segmentation of school supply, but do not necessarily promote the expected pedagogical diversification. School providers have large incentives to compete for the best students and to exclude those who can adversely affect their results and reputation.

SP4) Charter schools in Bogotá: main implications for quality and equity in education:
- According to our findings, the most significant advantage of charter schools in Bogotá (or Colegios en Concesión, CEC for its acronym in Spanish) is that both students and families develop a strong identity and attachment to these types of schools.
- However, the CEC frequently select the most academically-skilled and/or motivated students from their neighborhood, despite students’ selection is not allowed in Bogotá. These cream skimming practices promote the social segregation and segmentation of the local education system.
- There are not statistically significant differences in academic outcomes between charter schools and public schools after controlling for two variables: school day length and the economic status of students.

SP5) School responses in the education marketplace (Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile):
• Schools develop four different strategies to position themselves in the education marketplace, namely: product diversification, students’ selection, improving academic results in external assessments, and marketing.
• In relation to the latter, there are three different types of marketing strategies that schools can develop. These are latent marketing strategies, focused strategies (i.e. schools that target a specific sector of the school population), and schools with extensive strategies. Most schools adopt one of these strategies according to how they position themselves in the local school hierarchy.
• The different strategies developed by schools combine in what several authors call the schools’ logics of action. In the context of education markets, the schools’ logics of action are oriented toward improving the school position in the local education market, toward guaranteeing their economic viability and, somehow paradoxically, toward reducing the level of competition to which schools are exposed.

The most relevant results of EDUPARTNER have been published in some of the most prestigious academic journals in the education policy field, and with the most relevant book publishers. The literature review of the political economy of education privatization has been published in a monograph with Teachers College Press (Columbia University). This book has received the 2017 Award to the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) best book on globalization and education.

Our project has also had an important social, policy and media impact. The results of the project have been disseminated in several high circulation Latin American newspapers. Furthermore, several civil society organisations, including the Global Campaign for Education, the Right to Education Project and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural rights have used our research results to position themselves within the education privatization-PPPs debate Last, but not least, UNESCO - which is the most important UN organisation with an education mandate - has commissioned our team a research paper to promote further debate on the PPPs theme among their country members.

These and other publications can be consulted in and downloaded from the project website: