A carriage without horses

World Bank and the right to education

The recent launch of the World Bank’s target “Cut Learning Poverty”, generated new arguments that highlight its counterproductive role in education and exposes its spasmodic ambition to regulate education through financial measures.

World Bank interventions are driven by a business logic

This World Bank and other development banks’ intervention strategy has been emulated by international aid agencies (with different approaches and divergent and even contradictory conclusions) who condition the disbursement of funds to the adoption of education reforms which often times do not agree with in countries social contexts.

Profit maximisation inspires the work of the banks and agencies even when they attempt to address social aims; therefore, economic returns are equated with the realisation of educational aims. It is this simplistic and cost-benefit reductionist logic that encourages the privatisation of education and is the same that points to deepening countries’ indebtedness in response to low domestic investment.

This business logic is increasingly dominating the education debates, driven by the political and ideological aim to negate the key educational objectives stipulated by the international human rights law, which is binding on governments, but refractory for development banks.

The complex interrelation of access, relevance, adaptability and acceptability of education is treated under the banking perspective as issues of inputs and products. Likewise, school governance is reduced to efficiency standards, in which the right to education is only a nickel flag-saluting.

And it does not take into consideration the full extent of the right to education

Education financing is ultimately a political issue. The influence of the World Bank, other banks and aid agencies leads to the displacement of the right to education framework. It ends up imposing utilitarian pedagogical models focused on school performance and curriculum reduction, so that education systems respond to employers’ needs, rather than the development of critical thinking, or citizenship building committed to equality, justice and the strengthening of human rights as a way of life.

Let us not forget that the central issue is education, not financing, and that by reversing the order of the factors (all important, no doubt), the results can be catastrophic.

The carriage does not work without horses.

By Vernor Muñoz

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