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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 08:49 AM


The World Bank as Prime Mover in the Global Privatization of Public Education: Mexico

This is a very long article which I've summarized. It explores the role of the World Bank in the ongoing global privatization of education, with special reference to Mexico and Mexico's universities in particular.

Basically, it shows the World Bank as a prime mover of education deform, beginning in the 1980s, with a long-term global strategy.

And this is why we see the same tactics used to bust education across the globe.



World Bank & IMF were created in 1944 as tools of US power, to open the British empire & the rest of the world to US investment. US still has effective veto power in both, and operations are linked to multinational corporations.

Commercialization of education has been pushed in a two-phase process beginning in 1980; first to create national 'education markets,' then to create a transnational one.

By 1998, when the “second stage” was well underway, the WB published a report; “The Financing and Administration of Superior Education” which laid out an agenda for educational “reform”.... “…the reform agenda of the 90s, and almost certainly extending well into the next century, is oriented to the market rather than to public ownership or to governmental planning and regulation”. Central to WB’s higher education programs, the report calls for its privatization, deregulation and “orientation by the market”.

World Bank proposed shifting costs to students & introduction of debt-financing as a norm:

- The introduction of substantial increases in registration costs
- Charging full fees for room and board
- The introduction of mechanisms to investigate economic resources of students applying for grants and loans.
- Loans for students based on market interests rates
- The improvement of the students’ loan payments by subcontracting private companies.
- Implementation of a graduation fee imposed on all students.
- Promotion of philanthropy to establish foundations for direct operation of universities or to grant scholarships to students.
- Improving the quality of education by entrepreneurial training.
- Offering for sale, research projects findings, training courses and all university services by means of concession agreements (multiple service agreements) or by subsidies.
- Increasing the number of private institutions with a progressive decrease in public education.

This ongoing privatization is being presented to Mexicans as “educational reform” & conditional World Bank loans help push politicians into supporting it. Profits are growing "It is, indeed a juicy business that could greatly expand if higher education is formally defined and treated as a “commodity” under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS)"

GATS mandates non-discrimination against foreign multinationals in service markets: e.g. under its rules, Mexico couldn't bar "The University of Phoenix in Mexico" from setting up shop. And if there were any disputes, they must be resolved through the WTO's dispute process, not by the people of a country or its politicians.

In a World Bank Country Assistance Strategy document, 2002-2006 for Mexico, WB encourages a “new educational culture” in which, “…supervisor and parent participation will have to focus less on process and more on actual results, as measured by published student scores in standardized national tests.”

In Latin America as a whole, such policies have resulted in higher percentage of students attending private universities but a smaller percentage of the population attending university at all. Cuba, the only country which hasn't responded to WB pressure, leads the region in average years of education of its population.

In response to WB guidelines Mexico has also cut graduate scholarships to study abroad. The authors see a future in which Mexico produces fewer high-level scientists, etc and loses more of them to international 'brain drain' -- leaving Mexico even more dependent on the 'first world' for technology, etc. "This is an up side down welfare state on a global scale and has been, all along, the expected result of the application of so called “neoliberal policies”, promoted in the Global south by the WB through its loans and through its debt and new credit line negotiations."

World Bank *conditional* loans for education have dramatically increased from 1990 to present.
These loans are conditional on the recipients making certain 'reforms'. The same tactic is used in the US under Bush and Obama: federal education money became conditioned on states making specific 'reforms'.

Because of such tactics, in Chile, for example, most of the education system has been privatized, and university training and research in the hard sciences has declined in favor of more business training. In Mexico there is strong WB pressure to privatize public universities and their strong science & technology programs and infrastructure, especially the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) which is highly rated in the region.

WB is pushing student loan programs in Mexico like those in the US. Public financing for universities has been reduced and faculty pushed to get private grants for research and other activities, the same as in the US. There was a strike at UNAM 1999-2000 which forced resignation of complicit administrators and forestalled this process for awhile, but the WB responded with new tactics.

The Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) 2002-2006 for Mexico, has been updated. The new CAS blueprint for 2004-2008 includes funds for an “anti-corruption laboratory”, for the year 2007-2008, that would be located at UNAM, with the purpose of “…sharing knowledge of the international experience on monitoring and evaluating governmental programs”. The “anti-corruption” project seems to be a mechanism geared at funneling funds to influence internal decision making at UNAM...this project would operate as a true WB Trojan Horse. Once a “change of culture” in favor of privatization is accomplished at UNAM through this “subtle” mechanism, the WB expects to spread its privatization blueprint to the rest of the educational system. At the National “Autonomous” University of Mexico, and in Latin America as a whole, the WB´s programs for higher education pose a fundamental threat for they undermine a basic premise for scientific research and freedom of teaching, namely the capacity of researchers and teachers to operate within the framework of an “autonomous” community.

This is interesting, since the head of the Mexican Teachers' Union was just arrested for "corruption", a day after the President of Mexico signed a education reform bill.

The authors link the privatization of the universities to a more general privatization of research, technology and science, similar to what is happening in the US, with universities signing exclusive contracts with corporations for patent rights in exchange for funding. An example is Berkeley's Dept of Plant & Microbial Biology, which gave all rights to its discoveries to Novartis in exchange for $25 million.

The privatization trend of science and technology now being fostered by both big corporations and powerful institutions, such as the WB, carries with it a profound change in the sense that science and technology will be driven by the fulfillment of market “requirements” and not by principles such as the universal evaluation and sharing of new discoveries and the advancement of knowledge. This, of course, includes research in areas not necessarily of immediate “market value”.

This kind of international lending & philanthropy will also 'denationalize" Mexican scientific achievements & allow the North to control strategic research globally and locate it in institutions of its choosing. (Note: "North" = developed capitalist countries)

Popular movements, of parents, teachers and students have succeeded, so far, in stopping the completion of the educational “reform” through the types of projects and programs described in this paper. To reverse current trends, these resistance movements require specific information on the strategies being implemented against the public interest. A clear cut perception of the actors involved is equally vital to determine who is accountable, and who are the main beneficiaries and victims of these schemes.

As has been shown in this paper, the privatization of public education is clearly an attractive business deal. Like oil, gas, water and other natural resources of the “Global South”, “public education” is being treated by the WB, multinational corporations and their local partners, as an attractive booty. From their perspective, the “public institutions of education and research” can be transformed, through privatization and denationalization into a juicy business that is above and beyond any consideration or limitation of a social nature. As the WB explicitly states: “higher education is a private and not a public commodity”.

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