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  • General Secretary of the global teachers’ advocacy organisation, Education International, Fred van Leeuwen, has cautioned Governments against the outsourcing of education to private interests, noting that this could undermine the foundation of public schooling.
  • “In too many places portions of our public school systems are being carved out and outsourced to private businesses. In too many places, market principles determine what happens in our classes and schools,” he pointed out.
  • Mr. van Leeuwen, who was giving the keynote address at the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s (JTA) 16th Anniversary Education Conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St. James recently, said that while there are reasons to be pleased about all the interest being shown in education, he is also wary that there might well be ulterior motives by some special interest groups.

General Secretary of the global teachers’ advocacy organisation, Education International, Fred van Leeuwen, has cautioned Governments against the outsourcing of education to private interests, noting that this could undermine the foundation of public schooling.

“In too many places portions of our public school systems are being carved out and outsourced to private businesses. In too many places, market principles determine what happens in our classes and schools,” he pointed out.

“Let me say this loud and clear: The simplistic transfer of ideas from the corporate world will not advance the quality of our school systems,” he added.

Mr. van Leeuwen, who was giving the keynote address at the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s (JTA) 16th Anniversary Education Conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St. James recently, said that while there are reasons to be pleased about all the interest being shown in education, he is also wary that there might well be ulterior motives by some special interest groups.

“Mind you, we do not oppose businesses building schools and producing learning materials; they have done this throughout the ages. Where we draw the line is where corporations start running our schools on a for-profit basis causing social inequity or where they would invade teachers’ professional space and tell us what and how to teach,” he added.

He said the notion that “education can be delivered more cheaply and efficiently by the free market, preferably with fewer, less qualified staff and a liberal dose of one-size-fits-all online programmes and standardised testing is nothing short of an illusion.”

Mr. Van Leeuwen urged educators to guard the profession and not to allow outsiders to determine their professional standards.

He said the idea that “quality can be improved by introducing standardised testing, league tables and performance pay, by ranking schools by measurement, is wishful thinking.”

“It does not work,” he argued.

“What it definitely will do is generate angry teachers, frustrated principals and lots of paper work. And let me ask you: Do we believe that standardised testing produces relevant, dependable information about a child’s development or do we feel it as a vote of no confidence in the profession? Mind you, we are not against testing. We do it all the time. We invented it. But testing is a teachers’ diagnostic tool for improvement, not a political device,” he contended.