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  • For-Profit Education Service Providers in Primary and Secondary Schooling:The Drive For and Consequences of Global Expansion
  • Amy M. Steketee, J.D. Candidate, M.S., Ed., B.A.

Innovations in technology, transportation, and communication during the twentieth century have paved the way for greater global connectedness and interdependence.1 Economic globalization2 and democratization3 have accompanied these trends toward interconnectedness. While these transformations brought vast increases in the exchange of goods, people, and information even to remote locales, this new exchange has been a boon for transnational corporations.4 [End Page 171] Consequently, there is a strong impetus for transnational corporations to expand their markets by seeking a relaxation of trade barriers.

Traditionally hailed as a free, open, and community-sponsored endeavor,5 public education increasingly is permeated by corporate mechanisms and influences.6 In the United States and the United Kingdom, a growing awareness of the deficits in primary and secondary public schools, coupled with a mounting need to ready students for the global workplace, has spurred numerous reform [End Page 172] efforts, among them for-profit school management corporations.7 For-profit school management corporations have lucrative potential, but only if they operate on a large scale. Thus, there is great incentive for these for-profit education service providers to broaden their markets, while there is little reason for them to invest in cultivating communities that can self-sufficiently educate their children.

Consequently, there is a strongly supported drive to expand global trade in service industries, even in education at the primary and secondary levels.8 Specifically, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) aims to eliminate the barriers to trade in services and to promote the policies of liberalization.9 While the expansion of markets benefits the for-profit education service industry, it is likely that public education will be the loser in this zero-sum game. This Note examines the viability of for-profit education services and the indicators that encourage its expansion in trade. Further, it offers some likely implications for systems of public education if trade in primary and secondary educational services flourishes.

Part I outlines the trends in economic globalization and discusses the effects of a policy of liberalism and the proliferation of privatization and deregulation— including service industries such as education. Part II discusses the current trends in the United States and the United Kingdom that facilitate and support the privatization and corporatization of primary and secondary education. This section also suggests ways in which globalization has encouraged the growth of this market. Part III addresses the impact that for-profit school management organizations have had on primary and secondary education in the United States and the United Kingdom. This section also considers the quality of education delivered, the effectiveness of the management system, and the degree of monetary success that for-profit school-management corporations have enjoyed. [End Page 173] Part IV highlights mechanisms, such as GATS, which broaden global trade in services and encourage privatized management. Finally, Part V considers the implications of for-profit education service providers on systems of public education, particularly in those countries vulnerable to market influences.

I. Privatization and Deregulation: The Byproducts of Economic Globalization

Economic globalization targets the opening and integration of world-wide markets.10 Alex Seita discusses three characteristics of economic globalization: it increases opportunities for trade—benefiting both sellers and buyers; it simultaneously stimulates competition and cultivates interdependency among nations; and it promotes the spread of a free market economy model because the primary proponents of globalization are industrialized nations that subscribe to free market policies.11 Today over 80 percent of the world's population lives in countries where market economies prevail.12 Consequently, the advancement of neo- liberal economic policies hinges on the expansion of markets.13

Alongside market expansion come changes in the purpose and function of the state and its agencies. Neo-liberalism "calls for a less interventionist state in economic and social arenas and proposes such measures as deregulation... decentralization...and privatization...."14 As a result, governments are assuming [End Page 174] greater roles in facilitating and regulating economic activity rather than directly producing and delivering goods and services.15 In the race...


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