Reframing Education as a Public and Common Good: Enhancing Democratic Governance


 Presenter (s) Rita Locatelli

The global education landscape is undergoing significant changes. These are characterized by the greater involvement of non-state actors in educational policy and provision, as well as by the growing scale of for-profit education at all levels. Under the trends of education privatization lies the assumption that the private sector can provide better quality education and, when functioning as corporate or business organizations, be more efficient also in the management of the education system. Moreover, the education decision-making process is shifting from a national to a global level. Indeed, regional and global initiatives are increasingly influencing national policies and practices, encouraging the development of for-profit private education.

This book provides an analysis of education development discourse with regard to the use of the concept of education as a public good by the main actors involved in international education policy and identifies the multiple yet interrelated conceptualizations of education as a public good by different international actors. It examines the extensive literature on the complex classification of public goods, and highlights the limits of the transposition of the economic theory of public goods to the field of education. This book further analyzes the implications that growing for-profit private engagement in schooling has for the role of the State and for the democratic governance of education. The spread of market approaches in the education sector poses important questions about both the organization of education systems and the purposes of education itself. Indeed, the prioritization of economic aspects of education may lead to the weakening of the role of the State in ensuring equality of opportunity and social justice, and thus to a significant risk of considering education as merely a private, marketable good.

This volume examines complementary frameworks for the governance of education that may favor democratic participation and a humanistic approach while countering neoliberal influences in the sector. By reframing the theoretical debate on education in the public sphere, it provides insights into how the principle of education as a public good can be reinterpreted in a context of greater privatization and marketization. The need to strengthen democratic institutions, however, requires more than a mere reaffirmation of the principle of education as a public good. While reaffirming the primary responsibility of the State in the governance of education, understanding education as a common good also entails that the process of producing and benefitting from education is intrinsically shared. Overcoming the utilitarian tradition of “decomposable goods”, the notion of common goods suggests that education incorporates common understandings of its value, grounded in specific cultural and social backgrounds. This concept calls for the development of participatory and democratic institutions that enable citizens to have greater voice in the decisions that affect their well-being.

This book ultimately discusses the extent to which the principle of education as a global common good may orientate the global governance of education with a view to revisiting existing hierarchies of power within global structures and strengthening more democratic processes at a global level.

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