Human capital theory connects education to the labor market. It posits that more education makes workers more productive, which increases earnings. A more educated and productive workforce subsequently increases the gross domestic product of a nation. This theory has been prevalent since the 1950s and continues to play a central role in minds of both policy makers and parents. You go to school because you will get a better job in the future. The government invests in education because it will have a return on investment in larger GDPs.

My guest today says human capital theory is dead.

Hugh Lauder is Professor of Education and Political Economy at the University of Bath. He specialises in the relationship of education to the economy and has for over 10 years worked on national skill strategies and more recently on the global skill strategies of multinational companies.

Citation: Lauder, Hugh, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 29, podcast audio, July 21, 2016. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/hughlauder/

Will Brehm  0:15
Hugh Lauder, welcome to FreshEd.

Hugh Lauder  0:24
Pleased to be here.

Will Brehm  1:08
Human capital theory is such a common place theory in many respects, because when people think about education, they think of it as for human capital development. What is human capital?

Hugh Lauder  1:54
Okay, so I need to take you back a little to the beginning of the theory. The theory was the first sophisticated account of the relationship between education and the economy, and it said that basically people who were better educated would be more productive. And in being more productive, they would then earn a higher income. So that brought education into the picture because what it required was for higher numbers of people to be educated in order they could become more productive so economies could grow, and their income would also accordingly grow. So that’s the basic idea behind it. And it’s an idea, of course, which has permeated through society. It first began really in Chicago in the 1950s at the university there in the Economics department. And then policymakers took it on board and policymakers thought, “Wow, we’ve got a win-win here. Because what’s happening is that if we increase the opportunities for education, so our economies will grow, so people will gain a greater income.” And at the same time, there’s a kind of connection with social justice. So that, for example, as long as people are prepared to work hard and are motivated in terms of education, then they will get their just rewards. And they’ll get their just rewards because employers will always choose the most talented; those that are likely to be most productive. So underlying what seems like an economic theory is actually also a theory of meritocracy. So that’s the economists, that’s the policymakers. And on top of that, of course, now we have parents and students who are going, “Okay, if I want a good job, then I’ve got to get a good education.” So that’s basically the idea behind human capital theory.

Will Brehm  4:01
And it’s led to some interesting notions in education like this rate of return. Can you talk a little bit about what this notion is?

Hugh Lauder  4:11
Yes, sure. So how do economists know, and policymakers know that this claim that education will lead to increased productivity, which will lead to increased income? Well, not how do they know it, but how do they make that assumption? They make that assumption by saying, “Let’s have a look at the rates of return for different kinds of education and skill in the economy.” And in the past – not now, but in the past – what they seem to have found is that the better educated you are, the greater your rate of return in terms of your income.

Will Brehm  4:52
So more schooling means higher income in the future.

Hugh Lauder  4:55
That was the idea, yes.

Will Brehm  4:58
So it’s like it’s predicting the future in many ways; that’s what they’re trying to do.

Hugh Lauder  5:02
For sure it is.  Yes, they really thought that they had a theory which would actually explain and predict the future. And in fact, it has been a theory which has been around, as I said earlier, since the 1950s. And so in terms of social science theories, it’s one of the longest living. But it’s now coming to an end.

Will Brehm  5:27
Before we go into those critiques about the end of human capital theory, can you talk a little bit about what sort of impact it had since the 1950s on education, on education policy, on education development?

Hugh Lauder  5:44
I think the impact has come about in a number of ways. First of all, one of the immediate forms of impact was in development. So the World Bank took on the notion of human capital theory and has argued consistently, since the 80s, that human capital embodied in educated workers would raise the income of countries and of individuals in developing countries. So that was one clear example of the consequence of that particular theory. But, at the same time, it’s also been the case that in developed countries, it’s been seen that if you can increase your higher education system, then you’ll also get a win-win. You get the win-win because people will earn more money as workers and countries will have higher levels of gross domestic product. So these have been the two major consequences of the theory. But it’s also had an extra twist. And that was the notion of the knowledge economy. And the knowledge economy, which sort of started to develop as an idea in the late 80s, also seem to reinforce the idea that we now needed more educated workers. And the more educated workers there would be, so they would become more productive. And this was known as skill bias theory because at the heart of this form of human capital theory was the idea that technology would drive the demand for higher educated workers. So the skill would be biased in favor of the technology and the demand for higher skills.

Will Brehm  7:34
And it would be education that would provide those skills to operate that technology that is driving the economy?

Hugh Lauder  7:44
Precisely that. Yes. Now in more recent times, economists have become a little more sophisticated in one sense and they’ve started to look at particular kinds of skill for which there’s a higher return. But at the same time they’ve been kind of “atomizing” education into particular kinds of skill. So employers have gone in the other direction, and very often look at potential employees holistically. They want to know about their all-around capability in character, rather than also the specific skills.

Will Brehm  8:21
The work that I’ve done in in Cambodia, I’m just amazed by the prevalence of the idea of human capital being the main purpose of education. It is always meant to build and develop human capital because it will increase incomes, and also increase GDPs of the nation. And the conversations that we have are always about this idea of projecting into the future: what sort of economy Cambodia is going to have in 2030, for instance, and what skills are needed? And it just seems like it’s a fool’s errand of trying to predict the skills that are needed in the economy in 2030 for a country like Cambodia that’s rapidly changing; for a global economy that’s rapidly changing.

Hugh Lauder  9:14
Yes, I think this is a very good point. Let me just step back for a moment and say that in developing countries, there are certain sorts of skill that are clearly required for their development. And these forms of skill are to do with the state and state workers. They’re to do with various forms of craft work, so electricians, builders of various sorts, carpenters, that kind of thing. You need those kinds of skill. But the idea that you can predict in 2030 what’s going to happen is more problematic. And it’s more problematic, because just at the time when these developing countries are emerging into the global economy, so many of the techniques which are adopted in the global economy will hit them hard. So, for example, computer algorithms – what Phil Brown, my coauthor, and I  have called “digital Taylorism” – that is moving up the skill chain very quickly, and robots. So, for example, if you look at China right now, there are less people in manufacturing in China now than there were in 2000. So in other words, many of the techniques which have been used in the knowledge economy – and actually it’s not the knowledge economy, its knowledge capitalism, because capitalism is always trying to reduce the cost of labor, including skilled labor – many of those techniques that have been developed in the developed countries are now being applied to developing countries. So that makes it kind of problematic as well.

Will Brehm  10:57
Let’s shift to your specific critiques of human capital theory. What do you find so problematic about the theory itself, maybe not the method that’s employed by the theory?

Hugh Lauder  11:11
Okay, let’s have a look at the theory itself. We start with education, and that’s meant to lead to greater productivity, which is then meant to lead to greater income for the individual and the GDP of the country. Well, when we look at that set of connections, we find that they are all problematic. They’re all problematic for this reason: That first of all, education. There’s now considerable split amongst economists as to what we mean by education. Is it something as I suggested earlier, which is a form of all-round development of an individual? Or is it about particular skills? And that debate has really not taken off yet, but it will. So the education itself in terms of human capital – ‘what is the capital’ is a problem. Then when you look at productivity, what we see overall is that there are more and more educated people in the world, more and more educated people in particular countries like the UK or USA, and yet productivity is either flatlining or is very uneven. So the link between education and productivity is now become wholly problematic. Then when you look at the relationship between productivity and income, it becomes even more problematic because what you see is that instead of workers getting rewarded for their productivity, since around 1978 to 1980 in the United States and the United Kingdom, what you see is that increasingly, the wealthy are creaming off the productivity of other workers. So there are problems with all these different accounts of the relationship between education, productivity and income.

Will Brehm  13:10
So this would be the Piketty’s argument of the rise of the 1%.

Hugh Lauder  13:16
The rise of the 1% certainly has been, in part, because they’ve creamed off the productivity of other workers, but we need to look more closely at the relationship between productivity and income than what Piketty was talking about. Because as far as I can see, and read him, he does assume that most of the rest of the income that people get is a reflection of their productivity. In other words, he becomes quite orthodox once he’s had to look at the 1% in terms of his account of wage determination, and I don’t think that’s right. You only have to look at feminist critiques of human capital theory – and I’m thinking in particular now of the work of Antonia Kupfer in Dresden – and you see that there are a whole range of jobs for which it’s very difficult to determine productivity. It’s not only super managers, as Piketty would say, but it’s care workers. How do we measure their productivity? Why is it that women who can be very skilled at care work get such low wages? There’s a whole range of different questions that can be asked about this relationship between productivity and income. And the idea that productivity simply determines income is taken as a truism in orthodox economics. But I don’t think we can take it as such anymore.

Will Brehm  14:48
So let’s turn to the way in which human capital theory has been studied empirically. What sort of critiques do you see in the way in which it’s been studied?

Hugh Lauder  14:59
Well the way it’s been studied empirically – I’ll give you a clear example since you raised the idea of 30 years as a future timeline for prediction. There’s work by two leading economists, Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann, and Hanushek and Woessmann have published a series of papers for the World Bank, the OECD, where they look at the quality of PISA data (this is international test data for different countries). And on that basis, they then predict that in the future if countries can raise their education standards and their educational achievement so this will increase GDP in 20 or 30 years by X amount. And that has become kind of a standard way of analyzing the returns to education in terms of human capital theory. But I don’t need to tell you this, you will know it and so will all your listeners, that that kind of assumption simply doesn’t take into account the real world. We know, for example – and this is often an example I use – that when you compare Korea in the 1950s and Ireland in the 1950s, what you see as two countries with large numbers of relatively unemployed graduates. Both countries then began to take off, but if you look at the path of Korea where much of the takeoff was state led, and is still highly state influenced, what you see is a totally different kind of success story to the story of Ireland, which of course collapsed in 2008. So different trajectories for countries based on different ways of developing them produce different results. So what Hanushek and Woessmann don’t really do is take into account strategy, institutions, all the things that actually make a difference to whether countries and individuals in them do well or not.

Will Brehm  17:16
One of the critiques you you put forward is that human capital theory or the scholars who are using human capital theory often employ methodological individualism. And we hear this quite a bit also in other education research, and I just would like to ask, what does that actually mean?

Hugh Lauder  17:37
Sure. Basically, the assumption of methodological individualism (which is an ugly term, I know), the basic assumption is that the only thing that exists in society are individuals, and therefore it is to the individuals that we look to explain educational outcomes, to explain income, to explain the key features of social life and economic life.

Will Brehm  18:06
And so it neglects things like history, and perhaps the privilege that one could get from his or her parents rather than just their individual unique ability to learn.

Hugh Lauder  18:22
Yes, absolutely, that’s correct. So it neglects history. It neglects the structures which govern our societies such as class, patriarchy, racism. They don’t enter the story at all. And at the same time it neglects institutions, specifically institutions of education, for example; institutions that steer an economy. All that is simply discounted in this kind of explanation, which focuses on individuals.

Will Brehm  18:58
So if we were to talk about alternatives to human capital theory, how would you describe the link between education, productivity and income?

Hugh Lauder  19:08
Okay, well, first of all, these are now very, very complex connections. They’re not at all simple in the way that the original theory assumed. So we need to think about this very, very differently indeed. Let me just come back to the issue of structures and institutions. When you look at, for example, skill bias theory, it says that we understand that in the 20th century, technology was skill biased – that actually what happened was that as technology developed, so the demand for skills increased. But when you look at the history, it can be read completely differently. And it can be read like this, it can be read: Well, actually, the basis of 20th century industry was Fordism, the idea that people could put a nut on a bolt on a production line and out would roll many cars, many televisions. All the consumer goods that we now take for granted. These people were not up-skilled, they were de-skilled, because originally the people that made the cars were craftspeople. So that’s where you have what they call “skill replacing”, where the technology replaces the skill, doesn’t enhance or demand an increased skill. So then you say, “Well, where did the skill bias, the skill enhancement and demand for it, come from?” And actually, it came from the large numbers of white-collar workers you needed to run a large corporation like it. So these are the people that did the marketing, these are the people that did the accounts, these are the people that did all the other finance work and the planning.

But in order to understand how those corporations grew, you also then have to go to a much wider political economy. You have to go to a political economy which talks about the structures of the labor market – and here we’re looking at trade unions as well as employers. And back in the 50s, for example, and the 60s, trade unions were very strong, and they could increase their wages so that their workers could then buy the cars that were rolling off these production lines. Now, you’ll see for a moment there that the story I’m telling is a very much more complicated story than the one that skill bias theorists assume. Now, they assume that because in the past, we have had skill bias theories, so we will in the future. But the political economy around skill and skill development has now changed dramatically, and we need to understand it in terms of globalization, not in terms of Keynesianism and the idea that you could get some kind of agreement between trade unions, employers and the state, because now trade unions are much weaker, for example. They’ve been weakened through neoliberalism.

So you need to tell a completely different story. And you tell a story now about globalization and the demand for skilled workers can occur anywhere; it doesn’t have to be in any particular country. Multinational companies can simply say, “Okay, these skilled workers we want, they’re cheaper in Shanghai than they are in London. We’ll shift the demand to Shanghai.”  So you can see that we’re living in a very, very different kind of world in which the sorts of prediction that human capital theorists made, or assumed they could make, simply no longer exist in that particular way. So we need a different kind of theory. But – and here’s the big but – the world we’re about to enter is going to be even more radically different from the one I’ve just described.

Will Brehm  23:16
How so?

Hugh Lauder  23:16
Well, robots.  People make a lot of robots. And I used to be very skeptical about this. But I’ve just been talking to very senior infocom officials in multinational companies, and they tell me they’re scared of the consequences. And if they’re telling me that, then I’m really beginning to sit up and look at the other studies which suggests that robots can take many of the jobs that skilled workers used to take. We are moving, I think, into an era in which jobs and income will become increasingly uncertain for many, including many graduates. And that requires us to rethink the entire relationship between education and the labor market, because the labor market is so radically changing.

Will Brehm  24:12
Right. It’s fragmented and global, and you see further changes in the future.

Hugh Lauder  24:17
Absolutely. And they’re going to cause policymakers huge problems, which I think they’re reluctant to really start thinking about and confronting.

Will Brehm  24:28
Before we we turn to, “What then of education?”, you use this term, “the global auction for jobs”. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Hugh Lauder  24:38
Yes. So this is a book that Phil Brown, and I wrote with David Ashton back in 2011, which has kind of taken off a bit, and it’s taken off because up until then, the assumption was that technology would always lead to an increase in demand for skilled workers, and particularly for graduate workers. The research we did was on the skill strategies of multinational companies. And they told us a very, very different story. And I’ll give you an example of that, and it goes like this: The first interview that we did was with a human resources, very senior executive for a German engineering company in Germany. So the interview was in Germany; multinational company, though. And I said to him, because I have still had the human capital thinking cap on, as it were. I said to him, “Do you have a shortage of engineers?” And he said, “No”. And I said, “Do you get them from Germany?” And he goes, “No”. So I said, “Do you get them from England?” And he goes, “No”. And I said, “Do you get them from America?” And he said, “No”. Now you can see how my mindset was. I was thinking, Germany, Britain, America, right?

Will Brehm  25:58
Right, the place where engineers you thought were being produced.

Hugh Lauder  26:01
Exactly. And I said, frustrated, “Okay, where do you get them from?”  He says, “We get them from China, we get them from India, we get them from Russia, especially if they’re computer engineers and mathematicians. And we get them from Bulgaria, because in the Soviet bloc, this was designated as the leading place for computer analysis and development.” And in that moment, our eyes opened to a whole new world that this guy in two sentences had given us. And that meant that we had to then get on airplanes, and go and interview executives of multinational companies from around the world to see what was going on. And two things were going on: First of all, because they are in such an intense competition, they’re always seeking to drive down costs, and brainpower they want to make as cheap as possible. So “cut price brainpower” we call it. Now you get that because you can get engineers, for example, in China and in India, for a fraction of the price you can get them in the West. So what you see then is the offshoring of jobs, or the movement of jobs, from particular countries like the United States and the United Kingdom to East Asia.

But at the same time, we picked up something else that was going on. And that was this notion of digital Taylorism, the idea that you can take skilled work that graduates used to do and you can break it down into discrete tasks, standardize it, routinize it and then put it into algorithms that you can ship across the world so that work can be done anywhere. So these are the two key features of the global auction. Now, there is one exception to this and that is at the same time as we’re producing all these graduates, highly skilled workers from around the world so then in comes a particular ideology which suggests that it’s only the very few of those graduates who are really talented. And so now on every bookshelf of every HR executive office that we went to, was this War for Talent book. And this is about how you recruit the most talented in competition with your other corporates. So this is the one exception: there are a few people who are now designated as talented. Now, there’s a major debate as to what’s really going on there and whether these people really are talented, or whether it’s just executives or corporations wanting to see a kind of great reflection of themselves in the younger new recruits coming into their company. Because, of course, these people designated as talented earn much more money than everyone else. So that’s the global auction in a nutshell. And that began to open up two debates related. The first was, “No, we don’t live in a knowledge economy. No, if you’re a graduate, you’re not going to enter a world where you’ll be highly rewarded necessarily, where you’ll have status, creativity and autonomy. Quite the opposite might happen, that you’ll be entering routinized work.” And alongside that, and following from that, is the idea that actually knowledge work itself is now being stratified. So that you’ll get an elite which is the talented, you might get another group beneath them that do their bidding, and then you’ll get these routinized workers. So that was why the book cause something of a stir, because we were arguing, for the first time I think, that the idea of the knowledge economy and of human capital and skill bias theory really didn’t work in the way that had been assumed.

Will Brehm  30:01
So what then of education? How do we make sense of education in this this world that you are painting for us here?

Hugh Lauder  30:09
Okay, this is, I think, a really important question. Because if you were to just think that we’re talking about today and tomorrow, then there could be a critique which comes in, especially from the right wing, which is: “Oh well, we’re just educating too many people to too high a level.”  And in itself, that is problematic, because what else are graduates going to do when in countries like the United States and Britain, we no longer have the forms of industrialization where people could do high skilled, high paid work that, for example, still obtains in parts of Germany. So that’s one problem, but there’s a much bigger problem on the horizon. And I kind of signaled it when I talked about the robots. Because if so many of the skilled jobs that we have are going to be done by robots, then what’s going to happen to graduates? What’s going to happen to those who are educated? And I think the answer to that is something like this: We are going to have to give people a basic wage, a universal basic wage. Because the insecurities in the labor market will be so great that many will simply not survive unless they get a universal basic wage. Now, that universal basic wage will enable people to do a number of different things. It will enable them to retrain, to re-skill, for which they will need learning accounts so that they can draw on an account to upscale where they see a need. It will enable them to innovate and to develop different ways of interacting with this world. And the universal basic income will expand the labor market from beyond the confines of a market to work which is seen as important and contributing to society. And of course, care workers would be a clear example of that. So, that’s the labor market part of it in a nutshell. Then what about education? Well, if we’re thinking about that world, and you reflect on that for a moment, the uncertainties of that world, then clearly we need people to be as best educated as we possibly can make them. We need people who are reflective, alert, resilient in order to be able to make the best of the opportunities they have. So education becomes more important in these terms than in the past.

Will Brehm  32:41
Well Hugh Lauder, thank you very much for joining FreshEd.

Hugh Lauder  32:44
It was a delight. I hope it was of some value to you.

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Private interests are increasingly becoming commonplace inside education. In today’s economic globalization, the attainment of knowledge is seen as the key difference between economies that succeed and economies that stagnate or fail. Perhaps more precisely, it is knowledge that determines if an individual — not a national economy—succeeds or fails. We call this the “knowledge economy” and it is one of the main reason why private interests have entered education systems. Private interests in education range from private schools and private textbook and examination companies to the emerging belief that education is an individual, positional good that can be purchased and to the financialization of education where companies buy and sell student debt. It also includes things such as evidence based policy and information technology

Our guest today, Professor Gita Steiner-Khamsi sees herself as a second generation researcher of educational privatization. Whereas the first generation of scholars aimed at describing the phenomenon, she attempts to explain — or theorize — it. How can we explain the rise of a global education industry?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi is a Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. She is a co-editor of the newest World Yearbook of Education, which focuses on “The global education industry.” The volume was co-edited with Antoni Verger and Christopher Lubienski and is the focus of today’s show.

Citation: Steiner-Khamsi, Gita, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 25, podcast audio, July 21, 2016. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/gitasteinerkhamsi


Will Brehm:  1:50
Gita Steiner-Khamsi, welcome to Fresh Ed.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  1:53
Thanks for inviting me, look forward to this conversation.

Will Brehm:  1:57
You’ve recently co-edited the World Yearbook of Education 2016 focused on the global education industry. And you’ve edited this with Tony Verger and Chris Lubienski and Chris has actually been on the show earlier. Private interests are increasingly becoming commonplace inside education. You call this the global education industry. What do you mean by this? What is the global education industry?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  2:30
Maybe I should start out by saying a little bit about the book, about the two co-editors that are not present right here. We all come from different directions. Tony Verger who has worked extensively on the global education industry but also global education policy in an international context. He is like the first editor and he pulled that volume together and he brought on board Chris Lubienski, who has done incredible work, especially on choice and on domestic US education policy showing especially how Gates Foundation was supporting and has become like a backstage advisor and the policy actor in domestic reform. So both of them really come from solid previous analysis on the private sector. I come more from globalization studies, and my interest is more what impact private sector has on public education. So we all wonderfully complemented each other. And we’re very happy that we found an incredible strong group of scholars contributing to this edited volume. This is so much about you know the book. But let me come back to your question and say, what the definition is on the global education industry. I should use the definition that Tony used at the CIES conference. And the definition is processes, systems of rules, social forces, and social relations that are involved in the production of a broad range of education services on the for-profit basis within a global economy. There are basically three elements that stand out: one is it has to do with educational services. This can be anything from textbook development to consultancies to provision of schools, it has to be a for-profit basis. And I think, Will, we should talk about that more. Because nowadays, we have interesting combinations of PPPs that don’t look like they are for-profit, but they are.

Will Brehm:  4:49
And a PPP is a public-private partnership?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  4:52
That’s right. And the whole definition of for-profit basis, this has changed in this, you know, recently, so we will talk about it, I’m sure. And the last one under the condition of a global economy, which also means these are providers that provide across national boundaries. So these three things I stick with Tony’s definition. I like that definition. It involves education services, it has to be for-profit, and it has to be more than just in one country. That’s the definition of a global education industry.

Will Brehm:  5:25
Right. And so this industry is expanding or like, how big is this industry?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  5:32
I mean, the most, you know, a lot of colleagues also at the last conference of CIES there we are just amazed how it is expanding. And there are a lot of figures out there. And then the presentation that Tony Verger and I did. He is quoting the company GVA advisors. They are based in California and they are an education industry. And one could say that they have an interest to exaggerate the success of how big the industry is, but there are so many figures, convincingly arguing that it is a huge industry and getting bigger and bigger. For instance, GVA advisors, they say globally, in 2015, the industry consists of $4.9 trillion, but then by the year 2020, they project $6.3 trillion, I don’t even know how to pronounce that. It’s like so much. And in the US, similarly there’s the figure of about 6 billion in 1999 and 125 billion more than double 12 years later, in 2011. And the interesting part is, it used to be that the private sector was very much involved in post-secondary education and pre-K, like early childhood education. But interesting phenomenon is now that it’s moving into, in America, in the US, we would say, K to 12, or to say it differently, it’s moving into elementary and lower secondary education also. And this is really a new phenomenon.

Will Brehm:  7:29
And so, what sort of goods and services are being sold? So you know, when I think of for-profit universities or for-profit schools in the United States, the one that always comes to mind is the University of Phoenix. And I think they make, they’re in the news quite a bit for their low quality and sometimes shady practices. But in my mind, University of Phoenix, at least to one I understand they are based only in the US and not cross national, so would they not be part of the global education industry?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  8:09
University of Phoenix, nowadays, higher education is boundaryless, and ICT is one of the early private sector providers of the global education industry. Because with technology, it’s becoming clear that it’s boundaryless so distance education, I would say, by definition, is already part of the global education industry if it is for-profit. And what we find is provision of schooling, like private schools and here there are like two different types of schools that are really interesting. One is the traditional private schools for rich families, for elites. One could argue it starts in colonial times, the whole idea of boarding schools eventually, but then eventually just also day schools. This is something very old and it always existed side by side to public education.
Nowadays, this has also increased massively to organizations such as IB, International Baccalaureate, IB is collaborating with education industry, for instance, in Switzerland, the country I was raised. IB there just opened the GEM school, which is a private sector provider with the basis in Dubai, just opened a school in Switzerland, where they offer IB, the International Baccalaureate in their school. So what you have is the interest of governments but also the private sector to have international accreditation of secondary schools. So this is one direction because the idea is they would enter the higher education system more easily. That’s the promise that they’re making. And on the other hand, on the other end of the spectrum, you have the low fee private schools that is also increasing and the low fee private schools, the leader in that field, I would say, is PALF nowadays, Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, they invest into companies such as Bridge, Omega, I think up to 10 companies right now that offer low fee private schools in Pakistan, in South Asia, but also in different West African and East African countries. So this is the second one. The first one was ICT. The second is provision of schooling but also, Will, your own research topic private, you know, tutoring is huge. It’s huge all over the world. And I think you know what Mark Bray, what you do, what Iveta Silova has written on that topic. They’re like the classics in the field. Just even bringing to the attention that this has become a big part of education and has created a lot of problem, for the education sector is really important to acknowledge. But then you also have what Helen Gunter, she is one of the authors in the book calls “Consultocracy.” All the consultancy firms like Booz, McKinsey, Deloitte, all these consultancy firms that help governments develop an education sector strategy to education sector, you think that usually development agencies used to do, or academics or researchers, they do it in the name of the government. And very often they have this agreement that they are invisible, like they do it for the government in the name of the government. Because there’s this whole, you know, discourse that we have in development on ownership.

Then the whole what I would call everything that deals with school reform, from textbook publishing, to test development, to teacher training, to monitoring and evaluation. And I find that especially interesting, Pearson is very active there, but also Cambridge education and others. I find that interesting because it’s like a closed system. And for me, that epitomizes how businesses work, they have like a, almost like a service contract with education sector. And it’s enormously lucrative. And I tried in my own research, trying to understand like, testing companies are so successful, and why they are expanding in education and what it does to public education.

Will Brehm:13:02
So and it seems as if the, you could have a public school in name, and you can have a public school building and children saying they go to the public school X, Y, and Z. But in effect, all of the services being offered inside in that school are offered by for-profit companies.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  13:20
That’s right. And that’s a new, one could say the ground was laid, maybe 20 years ago, with the back to basic movement in the US and many countries where government said, we only offer what is necessary and everything else has to be on a fee basis. And in many countries, this led to a focus on, you know, language and literacy and the basic subject and anything that was music or arts or chess or sports was all outsourced or was after school program. And the idea of having a fee structure is something that comes from the business sector and the epitome of the fee structure you find in one of the chapters of the book is about the GEM School, which is, as I mentioned earlier, they have one school now in Switzerland, but they are basically they’re based in Dubai and the CEO of GEMS openly says that we are following the model of the airline. We offer economy class, business class, and first class depending on what parents have to offer. So if parents only subscribe for the basic education, they have different kinds of teachers, for instance, they don’t have native English speakers, they have Indians and Pakistanis as teachers, or they don’t have access to physical PE or sports facilities.

And the opposite is for first class education, they have access to native English speakers and have just the richer curriculum. So the idea that you have a fee structure existed in public schooling, but now it has taken on a level that is unbelievable. And it’s amazing to watch how this has developed. So what you have now in public schools, schools where the basic is offered, and for everything else, parents have to pay. And even in countries such as Switzerland, we have now one school that is a recorded gymnasium, they have the regular curriculum. But if students or parents wish to have an additional accreditation for International Baccalaureate, they have to pay or rather the school picks up the cost for that thing. And IB, even though I totally believe in what they do, it’s totally interesting their curriculum, it is like all other business products, it is a closed system, you cannot just buy a curriculum. And they of course, they speak the language of education, they always give educational reasons, like quality reasons, you have to buy everything, you have to train the teachers to teach it, you have to use the textbooks, you have to have all this kind of quality assurance. And they argue that it’s in the name of quality assurance, because it’s a trademark, and they don’t want to, you know, water down the product that they’re selling. But it is very expensive, you know, so this is what I mean with a closed system. Pearson functions the same way Cambridge education, IB, they have business model and they have fee structures, they have its, I would call it they have almost like a service contract, you cannot just buy one element, you have to buy the whole thing and you have a commitment over years. And it ends up being expensive, because it is a closed system that once you buy the test, you have to buy everything else that goes with it.

Will Brehm:  17:21
So it’s a slippery slope of additional services.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  17:25
It creates a dependency, you know, it does create a dependency and, you know, now seeing how business operates in education, one has to ask, I mean, why didn’t they enter it earlier? It’s so lucrative because we are in a knowledge society, we believe in lifelong learning, we have 12 years customers staying the same pipeline, it’s amazing. I mean, of course, it is lucrative. Education and health, I would say, are the most lucrative sectors because everyone is exposed to it.

Will Brehm:  17:59
So why did it take so long? Why did it take over?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  18:02
That’s a good that’s a really good question. I think something happened like I’m coming from systems theory, Niklas Luhmann’s system theory, something has changed in the public education sector that allowed the private sector coming. And we should be analyzing this. And one of the arguments that I made that this standards-based education reform that we have the outcomes orientation allowed together with international testing, PISA and PIRLS and what have you, specially PISA because PISA is not measuring national outcomes. But it is a global set of 21st century skills. This makes it very interesting for business to enter education sector, because you can develop the same kind of test not for one dist, not for one school, not for one district, not for one country but for many. Because PISA measures 21st century skills and not national curriculum and it opens up a market that is huge. It’s, I mean, beyond imagination, how big that market is, it just needs some local adaptation done once you believe that what students should learn is not the national curriculum but a socially agreed 21st century skills then you can be a global education industry by working transnationally so that standards based education reform and I published an article on that that was read a lot in the journal Globalisation, Societies and Education opened up the ground for businesses to enter this standards based education reform.

Will Brehm:  19:58
And then it just evolved from there and it’s now, it seems as if it’s pretty much out of hand now. Everything and anything can go.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  20:05
I mean others such as Stephen Ball or Susan Robertson and Tony Verger, they early on they analyzed and Jenny Ozga, I could you know name others. They say, which is true, the neo-liberal reform environment or Stephen Balls calls it endemic privatization was also a condition the fact that parents have a choice that governments are ready to pay vouchers and the fact that, you know, schools results are made public that there is monitoring that the state stops to be the only provider but it’s only a regulator. All these are reasons why together with standards based reform, why it became interesting, because PPP is not really a partnership, it means the public sector giving money to the private sector, it’s a one way street, even though we call it PPP. But this whole neo-liberal reform that you allow choice, you create competition and schools get per capita financing money from the government or vouchers, we could call it, this is all a condition for businesses to entering the public-school market, making it interesting to them.

Will Brehm:  21:36
So this brings up the impact of privatization or the global education industry on public sector on the government where it’s not necessarily a partnership where they are where public actors are working in conjunction with the private sector. Rather, it’s just simply a mechanism the public becomes mechanism through which the funding can be channeled to the private sector.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  22:03
Exactly, exactly. And what we have, I think, we are now at the really interesting stage in research on the private sector. And that’s where I become interested. The early research that we were just, people were just, and scholars who wrote about it, I would call them the first-generation private sector researchers such as my colleagues, Chris Lubienski and Tony Verger and Stephen Ball. They were like the, Susan Robertson, there were the first-generation analysts that basically just described the phenomenon and, you know, why did they enter, why did they become so successful? I consider myself a second-generation researcher in that field. I came along more from policy borrowing research, and I always try to understand the system logic. And in this case, I think we have to have a paradigm shift in education research. For the longest time, I don’t know if you know the book by James Scott. It’s called Seeing Like a State. I just love that title. And I love that ethnography, what he did with it. But you know, all the, a lot of critical studies in education research was all about governmentality, like using Foucauldian or Bourdieu to analyze how bureaucracy and government imposed or used education to basically create docile citizens. And right, this was like, for the longest time, that’s what critical studies and education meant and how it would reproduce the class system, and, but in a language of meritocracy, to make people feel bad, and make it so they take individual responsibility, if they do not succeed in life. It was, so a lot of research was about demystifying this whole meritocracy belief and show how stratification and education is interlinked. But I think what we should be doing now, with the entry, with the advance of the global education industry, we should start to not see like a state trying to understand how the state sees education and appropriate education as a means to reproduce inequality. But we should start and I like that term, that’s why I’m creating that term counting like a business we should count like a business and try to understand what is the logic, business logic that comes from the private sector now into the public sector. Because in system theory, we say, all the subsystems, the private sector, public sector, or education, and health and economy, these are all sub sectors, they interact. So if something happens in their interaction and what happens is that both sides take on systems thinking or beliefs or values that are important in the other sector. For instance, now the private sector, as I said, they speak the language of education now. They talk about quality assurance, they talk about, especially like when it comes in low fee private schools, they talk about how important it is to have access to education, they talk about the importance of the right to education, so they have all the language and the semantics that we have in education, the same happens now vice versa. And of course, you know other colleagues also here at Teachers’ College Jeff Henig talks about marketization in education, but what it really means from a system theory perspective is that the public sector takes on not only mechanisms like, you know, demand, supply-driven, competition-driven and, you know, choice that is endemic for the market and the private sector, but also beliefs and mechanisms and ways of seeing it, such as the fee structure, the fact that we have a fee structure now in public education is crazy. And it comes from the private sector. It is like registering for Dropbox, or for any service, anyone, everyone gets it for free the basic but for everything else we have to pay.

Will Brehm:  26:40
You can be a premium subscriber.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  26:43
Yes, exactly. And this is what we now have in public education. And this is something that is also, it makes it interesting for the business to come in. They say the public sector should just give the basics and for everything else, the private sector can be contracted. And the next step is to say that for students that cannot afford these extra services, the government should give scholarships or vouchers or what have you.

Will Brehm:  27:17
Right. So how else do we need to learn how to count like a business? Like what does that mean for educational researchers going forward?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  27:32
There’s something I think we can learn positively. And the way we should be asking why is the private sector interesting for governments, I work in developing countries. So let me talk about developing countries. In developing countries, we have the situation where the donors all pull in different directions. Right now, for instance, I’m working in a curriculum reform project in Kyrgyzstan, funded by the Asian Development Bank. It really is a problem before that in Mongolia, I worked in Central Asia. It really is a problem that, first of all, many, many reforms that are donor funded that are high costs, they are not replicable. And the reason is because USAID, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNICEF, it could be anyone even Soros Foundation who I love and work a lot with. They are all, they have all their accountability systems. And they want to have successful projects well implemented, they pay a lot of money to international consultants to come to have like showcase projects, which even though well intended, it makes them not replicable. So what we end up having all these donor funded projects, including in curriculum reform are never scaled up. They’re just very nice pilot projects that end the moment the project ends. Business works differently, business works differently day. And then the other thing I wanted to say. So first of all, they are not scalable, because they’re too expensive. The second feature of donor funded projects are that they are not coherent. Because, you know, in one country, you have the World Bank, revising the textbooks and other donor focusing on teacher training, and another one yet on student assessment. So you end up with, and all of them should be coherent, because students are supposed to be tested on what the teachers were prepared to teach, and what the textbook say, but they are not. And everyone knows that working in developing countries. So businesses are different. They have like a monopoly, and they have, you know, they go to the government, like in Mongolia, they say, Cambridge Education, if you want us to build those bilingual education schools in Mongolia, you have to buy the whole package, you can’t just buy the test, you have to buy our teacher training, you have to buy our textbooks, you have to have our everything.

And that accounts for the coherence of the reform. And it is a totally different approach. So I think what we could learn from developing, in developing context, is we should just stop doing these very expensive pilot projects that are not scaled up. And I think there is some lesson to be learned, actually, from how businesses operate in developing countries, this whole idea of having low cost reform, they have it for a different motivation, but I think some things we could be learning or having more coherent reform where all the elements of a reform are in sync with each other.

Will Brehm:  31:09
Yeah, I mean, as a government, that would be quite attractive, if you have development partners, having all sorts of incoherence, and then a company coming in and saying, just go with us, and we will have it coherent from teacher training to assessment. And, you know, you don’t have to worry.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  31:26
I like the question that Tony always asks. And, you know, we both do globalization studies, but I just say the way he posed that question, I just like it so much that I quote, I, you know, cite him. He always asks, Why, I say, why does Global Education Policy resonate? He says it even more straightforward. And he puts agency in the question and he says: Why do governments buy or buy into a reform? That’s a good question, because there is agency, you know, governments have a choice to hire businesses or not hire businesses. And I think we have to ask this question seriously, why do they buy into? I mean, one could say there’s a, you know, kickback and probably there is some kickback in some countries, they get some money, they make good deals with them, and maybe they have a profit. But, you know, beyond that cynical approach, I think there are some really attractive features of the global education industry that what, as I said, we have to have a paradigm shift and try to understand how do businesses see education and how do they sell it to education, trying to understand why it resonates with governments. This is the second-generation kind of question what I mean. The first one is to just describe and analyze the incredible boom of private sector involvement. The second one is to ask why is it happening? What is in the public sector? And how do they sell the product? Why does it resonate? Why do governments buy into it? And in order to do that we have to think like a business and one interesting if you don’t mind just adding that I add this for. One of the authors in the book and she’s right now visiting scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University, Eva Hartmann. She is a professor at the Copenhagen Business School. She looks at the transnational private actors who do credentialization, and this is big in the ICT business, but also vocational, post-secondary education. Nowadays, you know, similar like we have IB in secondary school, or we have in the university system, we have branch campuses and we have universities that works transnationally. It is interesting in a day of a global economy, that transnational certification has a greater value than national certification and she writes about that, about especially in the area of vocational technical education, that this is like a brand name to have transnational private certification. And the way they work you don’t even need the government, you just need a professional association. We always thought that the government is the sine qua nonin education, and either its government or inter-government, you know, trans, you know, intergovernmental organization, but the UN or the World Bank or OECD — but now we’re moving into private transnational accreditation. They just get together as a professional association and they’re private providers and they accredit degrees and this did make, they put money in the public relations, they make them known, they have a whole set of qualification and quality assurance criteria and they run with it and governments buy it and private customers also buy it and this is really new phenomenon and in the literature they talk about network governance and all this. This also at CIES there were a couple of really interesting presentations on the topic. This is also a new phenomenon that you can deal and provide education with no government involved especially at the post-secondary level, no government involved and people pay for it. You can have governments pay for it, but even in a time of knowledge society and lifelong learning, even the private customer would you know, go for it.

Will Brehm:  35:53
Well, Gita Steiner-Khamsi, thank you very much for joining FreshEd.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  35:55
Thank you so much. It was a pleasure talking to you, Will.

Will Brehm:  1:50
Gita Steiner-Khamsi, bienvenue à FreshEd.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  1:53
Merci de m’avoir invité, je me réjouis à la perspective de cette conversation.

Will Brehm:  1:57
Vous avez récemment co-édité le World Yearbook of Education 2016, qui porte sur l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation. Et vous l’avez édité avec Tony Verger et Chris Lubienski. Chris a d’ailleurs déjà participé à l’émission. Les intérêts privés sont de plus en plus courants dans le secteur de l’éducation. Vous appelez cela l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation. Qu’entendez-vous par là ? C’est quoi l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  2:30
Je devrais peut-être commencer par évoquer un peu le livre, les deux co-éditeurs qui ne sont pas présents ici. Nous venons tous de directions différentes. Tony Verger qui a beaucoup travaillé dans le domaine de l’industrie de l’éducation mondiale mais aussi sur la politique de l’éducation mondiale dans un contexte international. Il est comme le premier éditeur et il a rassemblé ce volume et il a fait appel à Chris Lubienski, qui a fait un travail remarquable, en particulier sur le choix et sur la politique d’éducation nationale des États-Unis, en montrant notamment comment la Fondation Gates soutenait et est devenue comme un conseiller en coulisses et l’acteur politique de la réforme nationale. Les deux sont donc vraiment issus d’une solide analyse antérieure sur le secteur privé. Je suis davantage issue d’études sur la mondialisation et je m’intéresse davantage à l’impact du secteur privé sur l’éducation publique. Nous nous sommes donc tous merveilleusement complétés. Et nous sommes très heureux d’avoir trouvé un groupe d’universitaires incroyablement compétents pour contribuer à ce volume édité. C’est tellement en rapport avec le livre. Mais laissez-moi revenir à votre question et vous dire quelle est la définition de l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation. Je devrais utiliser la définition que Tony a utilisée lors de la conférence du CIES. Et la définition est celle des processus, des systèmes de règles, des forces sociales et des relations sociales qui interviennent dans la production d’une large gamme de services éducatifs à but lucratif au sein d’une économie mondiale. Trois éléments ressortent fondamentalement : le premier est qu’il s’agit de services éducatifs. Cela peut aller de l’élaboration de manuels scolaires à la fourniture d’écoles, en passant par les services de conseil, et doit être à but lucratif. Et je pense, Will, que nous devrions en parler davantage. Parce qu’aujourd’hui, nous avons des associations intéressantes de PPP qui n’ont pas l’air d’être à but lucratif, mais qui le sont.

Will Brehm:  4:49
Et un PPP est un partenariat public-privé ?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  4:52
C’est exact. Et toute la définition de la base du profit, cela a changé récemment, vous savez, donc nous en parlerons, j’en suis sûr. Et la dernière dans le contexte d’une économie mondiale, ce qui signifie aussi que ce sont des fournisseurs qui fournissent au-delà des frontières nationales. Donc ces trois choses, je m’en tiens à la définition de Tony. J’aime cette définition. Elle implique des services d’éducation, elle doit être à but lucratif et elle doit être plus que dans un seul pays. C’est la définition d’une industrie mondiale de l’éducation.

Will Brehm:  5:25
C’est vrai. Et donc, cette industrie est en expansion, ou bien quelle est sa taille ?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  5:32
Je veux dire, le plus, vous savez, beaucoup de collègues aussi lors de la dernière conférence du CIES là-bas nous sommes juste étonnés de voir comment il se développe. Et il y a beaucoup de chiffres. Et puis la présentation que Tony Verger et moi avons faite. Il cite la société GVA Advisors. Ils sont basés en Californie et ils sont une industrie de l’éducation. On pourrait dire qu’ils ont intérêt à exagérer le succès de l’industrie, mais il y a tellement de chiffres qui montrent de façon convaincante qu’il s’agit d’une industrie énorme qui ne cesse de croître. Par exemple, les conseillers de la GVA disent qu’au niveau mondial, en 2015, l’industrie représente 4,9 billions de dollars, mais qu’en 2020, ils prévoient 6,3 billions de dollars, je ne sais même pas comment prononcer cela. C’est beaucoup. Et aux États-Unis, le chiffre est similaire : environ 6 milliards en 1999 et 125 milliards de plus que le double 12 ans plus tard, en 2011. Et ce qui est intéressant, c’est qu’avant, le secteur privé était très impliqué dans l’enseignement post-secondaire et dans la pré-maternelle, comme l’éducation de la petite enfance. Mais le phénomène intéressant est que maintenant il se déplace vers, en Amérique, aux États-Unis, nous dirions, de la maternelle à la douzième année, ou pour le dire autrement, il se déplace vers l’enseignement élémentaire et le premier cycle du secondaire également. Et c’est vraiment un phénomène nouveau.

Will Brehm:  7:29
Et donc, quels types de biens et de services sont vendus ? Vous savez donc que lorsque je pense aux universités ou aux écoles à but lucratif aux États-Unis, celle qui me vient toujours à l’esprit est l’université de Phoenix. Et je pense qu’elles font, qu’elles font beaucoup parler d’elles pour leur faible qualité et leurs pratiques parfois louches. Mais dans mon esprit, l’université de Phoenix, du moins pour une d’entre elles, je crois qu’elle est basée uniquement aux États-Unis et qu’elle n’est pas transnationale, alors ne ferait-elle pas partie de l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation ?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  8:09
L’Université de Phoenix, de nos jours, l’enseignement supérieur est sans frontières, et les TIC sont l’un des premiers fournisseurs du secteur privé de l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation. Parce qu’avec la technologie, il devient clair qu’elle est sans limites, donc l’enseignement à distance, je dirais, par définition, fait déjà partie de l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation si elle est à but lucratif. Et ce que nous trouvons, c’est l’offre de scolarisation, comme les écoles privées et ici il y a comme deux types d’écoles différentes qui sont vraiment intéressantes. L’un est l’école privée traditionnelle pour les familles riches, pour les élites. On pourrait dire que tout commence à l’époque coloniale, avec l’idée des internats, mais aussi des écoles de jour. C’est quelque chose de très ancien et qui a toujours existé parallèlement à l’enseignement public.
Aujourd’hui, cela s’est également étendu massivement à des organisations telles que l’IB, le baccalauréat international, l’IB collabore avec l’industrie de l’éducation, par exemple, en Suisse, le pays où j’ai été élevé. L’IB vient d’y ouvrir l’école GEM, qui est un fournisseur du secteur privé ayant son siège à Dubaï, et vient d’ouvrir une école en Suisse, où il propose l’IB, le baccalauréat international, dans son école. Vous avez donc l’intérêt des gouvernements mais aussi du secteur privé à obtenir l’accréditation internationale des écoles secondaires. Il s’agit donc d’une orientation, car l’idée est qu’ils accèdent plus facilement au système d’enseignement supérieur. C’est la promesse qu’ils font. Et d’un autre côté, à l’autre bout du spectre, vous avez les écoles privées à bas prix qui augmentent également et les écoles privées à bas prix, le leader dans ce domaine, je dirais, est le PALF aujourd’hui, le Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, ils investissent dans des entreprises telles que Bridge, Omega, je pense jusqu’à 10 entreprises en ce moment qui offrent des écoles privées à bas prix au Pakistan, en Asie du Sud, mais aussi dans différents pays d’Afrique de l’Ouest et de l’Est. C’est donc la deuxième. Le premier était les TIC. La seconde est la fourniture d’une éducation mais aussi, Will, votre propre sujet de recherche : le tutorat privé, vous savez, c’est énorme. C’est énorme partout dans le monde. Et je pense que vous savez ce que Mark Bray, ce que vous faites, ce qu’Iveta Silova a écrit sur ce sujet. C’est comme les classiques dans le domaine. Le simple fait d’attirer l’attention sur le fait que cela est devenu une grande partie de l’éducation et a créé beaucoup de problèmes, car le secteur de l’éducation est vraiment important à reconnaître. Mais vous avez aussi ce qu’Helen Gunter, l’un des auteurs du livre, appelle la “consultocratie”. Toutes les sociétés de conseil comme Booz, McKinsey, Deloitte, toutes ces sociétés de conseil qui aident les gouvernements à développer une stratégie du secteur de l’éducation pour le secteur de l’éducation, vous pensez qu’habituellement les agences de développement le faisaient, ou les universitaires ou les chercheurs, ils le font au nom du gouvernement. Et très souvent, ils ont cet accord qu’ils sont invisibles, comme ils le font pour le gouvernement au nom du gouvernement. Parce qu’il y a tout ce discours, vous savez, que nous avons dans le développement sur la propriété.
Ensuite, tout ce que j’appellerais tout ce qui concerne la réforme scolaire, de la publication de manuels, à l’élaboration de tests, à la formation des enseignants, au suivi et à l’évaluation. Et je trouve cela particulièrement intéressant, Pearson y est très actif, mais aussi l’éducation de Cambridge et d’autres. Je trouve cela intéressant parce que c’est comme un système fermé. Et pour moi, cela illustre bien la façon dont les entreprises fonctionnent, elles ont comme un, presque comme un contrat de service avec le secteur de l’éducation. Et c’est extrêmement lucratif. Et j’ai essayé dans mes propres recherches, en essayant de comprendre, par exemple, que les entreprises de test ont un tel succès, et pourquoi elles se développent dans l’éducation et ce que cela fait à l’éducation publique.

Will Brehm: 13:02
Donc, et il semble que le, vous pourriez avoir une école publique de nom, et vous pouvez avoir un bâtiment d’école publique et des enfants disant qu’ils vont à l’école publique X, Y, et Z. Mais en fait, tous les services offerts à l’intérieur de cette école sont offerts par des entreprises à but lucratif.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  13:20
C’est exact. Et c’est une nouveauté, on pourrait dire que les bases ont été jetées, il y a peut-être 20 ans, avec le retour à un mouvement de base aux États-Unis et dans de nombreux pays où le gouvernement a dit, nous n’offrons que ce qui est nécessaire et tout le reste doit être payant. Et dans de nombreux pays, cela a conduit à mettre l’accent sur, vous savez, la langue et l’alphabétisation et sur le sujet de base et tout ce qui est musique ou arts ou échecs ou sports était entièrement externalisé ou faisait l’objet d’un programme extrascolaire. L’idée d’avoir une structure tarifaire vient du secteur des affaires et l’un des chapitres du livre est consacré à l’école GEM, qui, comme je l’ai déjà mentionné, a une école en Suisse, mais elle est basée à Dubaï et le PDG de GEMS dit ouvertement que nous suivons le modèle de la compagnie aérienne. Nous offrons la classe économique, la classe affaires et la première classe en fonction de ce que les parents ont à offrir. Ainsi, si les parents ne s’abonnent qu’à l’éducation de base, ils ont différents types d’enseignants, par exemple, ils n’ont pas d’anglophones de langue maternelle, ils ont des Indiens et des Pakistanais comme enseignants, ou ils n’ont pas accès à l’éducation physique ou aux installations sportives.

Et le contraire est vrai pour l’éducation de première classe, ils ont accès à des anglophones de langue maternelle et ont juste le programme d’études le plus riche. L’idée d’avoir une structure tarifaire existait donc dans l’enseignement public, mais elle a maintenant atteint un niveau incroyable. Et c’est incroyable de voir comment cela a évolué. Ce que vous avez maintenant dans les écoles publiques, les écoles où l’enseignement de base est offert, et pour tout le reste, les parents doivent payer. Et même dans des pays comme la Suisse, nous avons maintenant une école qui est un gymnase enregistré, ils ont le programme régulier. Mais si les élèves ou les parents souhaitent obtenir une accréditation supplémentaire pour le baccalauréat international, ils doivent payer ou plutôt l’école prend en charge les frais de cette démarche. Et l’IB, même si je crois totalement en ce qu’ils font, est un programme d’études très intéressant, comme tous les autres produits commerciaux, c’est un système fermé, vous ne pouvez pas simplement acheter un programme d’études. Et bien sûr, ils parlent la langue de l’éducation, ils donnent toujours des raisons pédagogiques, comme des raisons de qualité, vous devez tout acheter, vous devez former les enseignants pour l’enseigner, vous devez utiliser les manuels, vous devez avoir tout ce genre d’assurance qualité. Et ils soutiennent que c’est au nom de l’assurance qualité, parce que c’est une marque déposée, et ils ne veulent pas, vous savez, diluer le produit qu’ils vendent. Mais c’est très cher, vous savez, alors c’est ce que je veux dire avec un système fermé. Pearson fonctionne de la même manière que l’éducation de Cambridge, l’IB, ils ont un modèle commercial et des structures de frais, ils ont son, je dirais qu’ils ont presque comme un contrat de service, vous ne pouvez pas simplement acheter un élément, vous devez acheter le tout et vous avez un engagement sur des années. Et cela finit par coûter cher, parce que c’est un système fermé qui, une fois que vous achetez le test, vous devez acheter tout le reste qui va avec.

Will Brehm:  17:21
Il s’agit donc d’une pente glissante de services supplémentaires.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  17:25
Cela crée une dépendance, vous savez, cela crée une dépendance et, vous savez, maintenant que l’on voit comment les entreprises fonctionnent dans l’éducation, on doit se demander, je veux dire, pourquoi elles n’y sont pas entrées plus tôt. C’est tellement lucratif parce que nous sommes dans une société de la connaissance, nous croyons en l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, nous avons des clients qui restent dans le même pipeline pendant 12 ans, c’est incroyable. Je veux dire, bien sûr, c’est lucratif. L’éducation et la santé, je dirais, sont les secteurs les plus lucratifs parce que tout le monde y est exposé.

Will Brehm:  17:59
Alors pourquoi cela a-t-il pris autant de temps ? Pourquoi a-t-elle pris le relais ?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  18:02
C’est une bonne question, c’est vraiment une bonne question. Je pense que quelque chose s’est passé comme si je venais de la théorie des systèmes, la théorie des systèmes de Niklas Luhmann, quelque chose a changé dans le secteur de l’éducation publique qui a permis au secteur privé de venir. Et nous devrions analyser cela. Et l’un des arguments que j’ai fait valoir est que cette réforme de l’éducation basée sur les normes, nous avons l’orientation vers les résultats autorisée avec les tests internationaux, PISA et PIRLS et tout ce que vous avez, en particulier PISA parce que PISA ne mesure pas les résultats nationaux. Mais il s’agit d’un ensemble mondial de compétences du XXIe siècle. Il est donc très intéressant pour les entreprises d’entrer dans le secteur de l’éducation, car vous pouvez mettre au point le même type de test non pas pour une seule distance, non pas pour une seule école, non pas pour un seul district, non pas pour un seul pays, mais pour plusieurs. Parce que le PISA mesure les compétences du XXIe siècle et non le programme national, et qu’il ouvre un marché énorme. Je veux dire par là que l’ampleur de ce marché dépasse l’imagination, il nécessite simplement une certaine adaptation locale. Une fois que vous pensez que ce que les élèves doivent apprendre n’est pas le programme national mais des compétences du XXIe siècle socialement acceptées, vous pouvez devenir une industrie mondiale de l’éducation en travaillant au niveau transnational, de sorte que la réforme de l’éducation fondée sur des normes et j’ai publié un article à ce sujet, qui a été beaucoup lu dans la revue Globalisation, Societies and Education, a ouvert la voie aux entreprises pour qu’elles s’engagent dans cette réforme de l’éducation fondée sur des normes.

Will Brehm:  19:58
Et puis ça a évolué à partir de là et c’est maintenant, il semble que ce soit un peu incontrôlable. Tout et n’importe quoi peut disparaître.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  20:05
Je veux dire d’autres comme Stephen Ball ou Susan Robertson et Tony Verger, qu’ils ont analysés très tôt et Jenny Ozga, je pourrais vous en citer d’autres. Ils disent, ce qui est vrai, que l’environnement de réforme néo-libéral ou Stephen Balls appelle cela une privatisation endémique était aussi une condition ; le fait que les parents aient le choix ; que les gouvernements soient prêts à payer des bons d’études ; et le fait que, vous savez, les résultats des écoles soient rendus publics ; qu’il y ait un contrôle ; que l’État cesse d’être le seul fournisseur mais qu’il ne soit qu’un régulateur. Ce sont toutes ces raisons qui, avec la réforme fondée sur les normes, ont rendu la chose intéressante, parce que le PPP n’est pas vraiment un partenariat, cela signifie que le secteur public donne de l’argent au secteur privé, c’est une voie à sens unique, même si nous l’appelons PPP. Mais toute cette réforme néo-libérale qui permet le choix, crée de la concurrence et permet aux écoles de recevoir de l’argent du gouvernement pour le financement par habitant ou des bons, nous pourrions l’appeler ainsi, tout cela est une condition pour que les entreprises entrent sur le marché des écoles publiques, ce qui le rend intéressant pour elles.

Will Brehm:  21:36
Cela fait donc apparaître l’impact de la privatisation ou de l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation sur le secteur public, où il ne s’agit pas nécessairement d’un partenariat, mais où les acteurs publics travaillent en collaboration avec le secteur privé. Il s’agit plutôt d’un simple mécanisme par lequel le public devient un mécanisme par lequel le financement peut être canalisé vers le secteur privé.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  22:03
Exactement, exactement. Et ce que nous avons, je pense, nous en sommes maintenant au stade vraiment intéressant de la recherche sur le secteur privé. Et c’est là que je commence à m’intéresser. Les premières recherches que nous avons menées, les gens étaient justes, et les universitaires qui ont écrit à ce sujet, je les appellerais les chercheurs de première génération du secteur privé comme mes collègues, Chris Lubienski et Tony Verger et Stephen Ball. Ils étaient comme les, Susan Robertson, il y avait les analystes de la première génération qui ne faisaient que décrire le phénomène et, vous savez, pourquoi sont-ils entrés, pourquoi ont-ils eu autant de succès ? Je me considère comme un chercheur de deuxième génération dans ce domaine. Je suis davantage issue de la recherche sur les emprunts politiques et j’essaie toujours de comprendre la logique du système. Et dans ce cas, je pense qu’il faut un changement de paradigme dans la recherche en éducation. Depuis longtemps, je ne sais pas si vous connaissez le livre de James Scott. Il s’intitule Seeing Like a State. J’adore ce titre. Et j’aime cette ethnographie, ce qu’il en a fait. Mais vous savez, toutes les, beaucoup d’études critiques dans la recherche sur l’éducation portaient sur la gouvernementalité, comme l’utilisation de Foucauldiens ou de Bourdieu pour analyser comment la bureaucratie et le gouvernement ont imposé ou utilisé l’éducation pour créer fondamentalement des citoyens dociles. Et c’est vrai, c’était comme si, pendant très longtemps, c’était ce que les études critiques et l’éducation signifiaient et comment elles reproduisaient le système de classes, et, mais dans un langage de méritocratie, pour faire en sorte que les gens se sentent mal, et qu’ils prennent des responsabilités individuelles, s’ils ne réussissent pas dans la vie. C’était le cas, donc beaucoup de recherches visaient à démystifier toute cette croyance en la méritocratie et à montrer comment la stratification et l’éducation sont liées. Mais je pense que ce que nous devrions faire maintenant, avec l’entrée, avec l’avancée de l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation, nous devrions commencer à ne pas voir comme un État qui essaie de comprendre comment l’État voit l’éducation et l’éducation appropriée comme un moyen de reproduire l’inégalité. Mais nous devrions commencer et j’aime ce terme, c’est pourquoi je crée ce terme en comptant comme une entreprise ; nous devrions compter comme une entreprise et essayer de comprendre quelle est la logique, la logique commerciale qui vient du secteur privé maintenant dans le secteur public. Parce que dans la théorie des systèmes, nous disons que tous les sous-systèmes, le secteur privé, le secteur public, ou l’éducation, la santé et l’économie, sont tous des sous-secteurs, ils interagissent. Donc, si quelque chose se passe dans leur interaction et que ce qui se passe, c’est que les deux parties adoptent une pensée systémique ou des croyances ou des valeurs qui sont importantes dans l’autre secteur. Par exemple, le secteur privé, comme je l’ai dit, parle désormais le langage de l’éducation. Ils parlent de l’assurance qualité, ils parlent, en particulier lorsqu’il s’agit d’écoles privées à bas prix, ils parlent de l’importance de l’accès à l’éducation, ils parlent de l’importance du droit à l’éducation, donc ils ont tout le langage et la sémantique que nous avons dans l’éducation, la même chose se passe maintenant à l’inverse. Et bien sûr, vous savez que d’autres collègues ici à l’École normale Jeff Henig parle de la commercialisation dans l’éducation, mais ce que cela signifie vraiment du point de vue de la théorie des systèmes, c’est que le secteur public assume non seulement des mécanismes comme, vous savez, la demande, l’offre, la concurrence et, vous savez, le choix qui est endémique pour le marché et le secteur privé, mais aussi les croyances et les mécanismes et les façons de voir les choses, comme la structure des frais, le fait que nous ayons maintenant une structure de frais dans l’enseignement public est fou. Et cela vient du secteur privé. C’est comme s’inscrire à un Dropbox, ou à n’importe quel service, n’importe qui, tout le monde l’obtient gratuitement – le minimum, mais pour tout le reste, nous devons payer.

Will Brehm:  26:40
Vous pouvez être un abonné premium.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  26:43
Oui, exactement. Et c’est ce que nous avons maintenant dans l’éducation publique. Et c’est aussi ce qui rend l’entreprise intéressante. On dit que le secteur public doit se contenter de donner les bases et que pour tout le reste, on peut faire appel au secteur privé. Et l’étape suivante est de dire que pour les étudiants qui ne peuvent pas se permettre ces services supplémentaires, le gouvernement devrait donner des bourses ou des bons ou ce que vous avez.

Will Brehm:  27:17
C’est vrai. Alors comment apprendre à compter comme une entreprise ? Par exemple, qu’est-ce que cela signifie pour les chercheurs en éducation à l’avenir ?

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  27:32
Je pense que nous pouvons apprendre quelque chose de positif. Et comme nous devrions nous demander pourquoi le secteur privé est intéressant pour les gouvernements, je travaille dans les pays en développement. Laissez-moi donc vous parler des pays en développement. Dans les pays en développement, nous avons une situation où les donateurs tirent tous dans des directions différentes. En ce moment, par exemple, je travaille sur un projet de réforme des programmes scolaires au Kirghizstan, financé par la Banque asiatique de développement. C’est vraiment un problème avant qu’en Mongolie, j’aie travaillé en Asie centrale. C’est vraiment un problème que, tout d’abord, beaucoup, beaucoup de réformes qui sont financées par des donateurs sont des coûts élevés, elles ne sont pas reproductibles. Et la raison en est que l’USAID, la Banque mondiale, la Banque asiatique de développement, l’UNICEF, tout le monde, même la Fondation Soros que j’aime et avec qui je travaille beaucoup. Ils sont tous, ils ont tous leurs systèmes de responsabilité. Et ils veulent que les projets réussis soient bien mis en œuvre, ils paient beaucoup d’argent à des consultants internationaux pour qu’ils viennent mettre en place des projets de démonstration, ce qui, bien que bien intentionné, les rend impossibles à reproduire. Ainsi, tous ces projets financés par des donateurs, y compris dans le domaine de la réforme des programmes scolaires, ne sont jamais reproduits à grande échelle. Ce ne sont que de très beaux projets pilotes qui se terminent au moment où le projet prend fin. Les affaires fonctionnent différemment, les affaires fonctionnent différemment au quotidien. Et puis l’autre chose que je voulais dire. Tout d’abord, ils ne sont pas extensibles, parce qu’ils sont trop chers. La deuxième caractéristique des projets financés par des donateurs est qu’ils ne sont pas cohérents. Parce que, vous savez, dans un pays, vous avez la Banque mondiale, qui révise les manuels scolaires et un autre donateur qui se concentre sur la formation des enseignants, et un autre encore sur l’évaluation des étudiants. Vous vous retrouvez donc avec, et tous devraient être cohérents, parce que les étudiants sont censés être testés sur ce que les enseignants étaient prêts à enseigner, et sur ce que dit le manuel, mais ils ne le sont pas. Et tout le monde sait que travailler dans les pays en développement. Les entreprises sont donc différentes. Elles ont comme un monopole, et elles vont au gouvernement, comme en Mongolie, elles disent, Cambridge Education, si vous voulez que nous construisions ces écoles d’éducation bilingue en Mongolie, vous devez acheter tout le paquet, vous ne pouvez pas simplement acheter le test, vous devez acheter notre formation de professeur, vous devez acheter nos manuels, vous devez avoir tout.
Et c’est ce qui explique la cohérence de la réforme. Et c’est une approche totalement différente. Je pense donc que ce que nous pourrions apprendre du développement, dans un contexte de développement, c’est que nous devrions simplement arrêter de faire ces projets pilotes très coûteux qui ne sont pas mis à l’échelle. Et je pense qu’il y a une leçon à tirer, en fait, de la façon dont les entreprises fonctionnent dans les pays en développement, toute cette idée d’avoir une réforme à faible coût, elles l’ont pour une motivation différente, mais je pense que nous pourrions apprendre certaines choses ou avoir une réforme plus cohérente où tous les éléments d’une réforme sont en harmonie les uns avec les autres.

Will Brehm:  31:09
Oui, je veux dire, en tant que gouvernement, ce serait très intéressant, si vous avez des partenaires de développement, ayant toutes sortes d’incohérences, et puis une entreprise qui vient et dit, juste allez avec nous, et nous aurons une cohérence de la formation des enseignants à l’évaluation. Et, vous savez, vous n’avez pas à vous inquiéter.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  31:26
J’aime la question que Tony pose toujours. Et, vous savez, nous faisons tous les deux des études sur la mondialisation, mais je dis juste que la façon dont il a posé cette question, je l’aime tellement que je le cite, vous savez, je le cite. Il demande toujours : “Pourquoi, dis-je, pourquoi la politique mondiale de l’éducation a-t-elle une résonance ? Il le dit de façon encore plus directe. Et il met l’agence dans la question et il dit : Pourquoi les gouvernements achètent-ils ou souscrivent-ils à une réforme ? C’est une bonne question, parce qu’il y a une agence, vous savez, les gouvernements ont le choix d’engager ou non des entreprises. Et je pense que nous devons nous poser sérieusement la question suivante : pourquoi s’engagent-ils dans une réforme ? Je veux dire, on pourrait dire qu’il y a, vous savez, des ristournes et probablement des ristournes dans certains pays, ils reçoivent de l’argent, ils font de bonnes affaires avec eux, et peut-être qu’ils font des bénéfices. Mais, vous savez, au-delà de cette approche cynique, je pense qu’il y a des caractéristiques vraiment attrayantes de l’industrie mondiale de l’éducation qui font que, comme je l’ai dit, nous devons avoir un changement de paradigme et essayer de comprendre comment les entreprises voient l’éducation et comment elles la vendent à l’éducation, en essayant de comprendre pourquoi elle trouve un écho auprès des gouvernements. C’est le genre de question de deuxième génération que je veux dire. La première consiste simplement à décrire et à analyser l’incroyable essor de la participation du secteur privé. La deuxième consiste à se demander pourquoi cela se produit. Qu’y a-t-il dans le secteur public ? Et comment vendent-ils le produit ? Pourquoi cela résonne-t-il ? Pourquoi les gouvernements y adhèrent-ils ? Et pour ce faire, nous devons penser comme une entreprise et une entreprise intéressante, si vous voulez bien ajouter que j’ajoute ceci pour. L’un des auteurs du livre, Eva Hartmann, est actuellement professeur invité au Teachers College de l’Université de Columbia. Elle est professeur à l’école de commerce de Copenhague. Elle s’intéresse aux acteurs privés transnationaux qui s’occupent de la délivrance de diplômes, et c’est important dans le secteur des TIC, mais aussi dans l’enseignement professionnel et postsecondaire. Aujourd’hui, vous savez, comme nous avons l’IB dans le secondaire, ou nous avons dans le système universitaire, nous avons des campus annexes et nous avons des universités qui travaillent au niveau transnational. Il est intéressant, à l’heure de la mondialisation de l’économie, que la certification transnationale ait une plus grande valeur que la certification nationale et elle écrit à ce sujet, en particulier dans le domaine de l’enseignement technique professionnel, que c’est comme une marque de fabrique d’avoir une certification privée transnationale. Et la façon dont ils fonctionnent, vous n’avez même pas besoin du gouvernement, vous avez juste besoin d’une association professionnelle. Nous avons toujours pensé que le gouvernement est la condition sine qua non de l’éducation, et que son gouvernement ou une organisation intergouvernementale, vous savez, trans, vous savez, une organisation intergouvernementale, mais les Nations unies ou la Banque mondiale ou l’OCDE – mais maintenant nous passons à une accréditation privée transnationale. Ils se réunissent en association professionnelle et ce sont des fournisseurs privés qui accréditent les diplômes, ce qui leur permet de faire des économies, de mettre de l’argent dans les relations publiques, de les faire connaître, de disposer d’un ensemble de critères de qualification et d’assurance qualité, de fonctionner avec ces critères, les gouvernements les achètent et les clients privés les achètent également. Au CIES, il y a eu quelques présentations très intéressantes sur le sujet. C’est aussi un phénomène nouveau que vous pouvez traiter et fournir l’éducation sans que le gouvernement n’intervienne, surtout au niveau de l’enseignement supérieur, sans que le gouvernement n’intervienne et que les gens ne paient pour cela. Les gouvernements peuvent payer pour cela, mais même à l’heure de la société de la connaissance et de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, même le client privé, vous le savez, est prêt à le faire.

Will Brehm:  35:53
Eh bien, Gita Steiner-Khamsi, merci beaucoup de nous avoir rejoints sur FreshEd.

Gita Steiner-Khamsi:  35:55
Merci beaucoup. C’était un plaisir de vous parler, Will.

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Competition within and across universities is so common that it may not seem like a big deal. Professors compete for tenure. Students compete to get into a best universities. And universities compete for rankings.

But where does this competition come from and what effects is it having on higher education systems?

My guest today is Prof. Rajani Naidoo, professor in higher education management at the University of Bath. She recently edited a special issue of the British Journal of the Sociology of Education looking at what she calls the “competition fetish” in higher education. The special issue, which comes out later this year, brings together articles that show the varieties of competition and the various ways actors channel, reproduce, internalize and secure competition logics. Some of the articles address the consequences of competition.

Prof. Naidoo presented some of the ideas discussed here in her Worldviews lecture. 

Citation: Naidoo, Rajani, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 20, podcast audio, July 21, 2016. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/rajaninaidoo/

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