Call for Expressions of Interest on Latin America and the Caribbean

Privatisation in Education Research Initiative
Publication Date:
Mon, 18/03/2013 - 20:05
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Call for Expressions of Interest for Investigating Dimensions of the Privatisation of Public Education in Latin America and the Caribbean



The changing dynamics of education in most countries over the last thirty years obscures an understanding of how the requirements of human rights and economic and social justice are to be met under the new and increasingly pervasive conditions of private, public and private-public provision in education. The Privatisation in Education Research Initiative (PERI) is a multi-annual global initiative supported by the Education Support Program of the Open Society Foundations that seeks to contribute to a better understanding on whether, through what mechanisms, with what outcomes, and for whom the increasing adoption of a widening range educational service regulation and delivery mechanisms might lead to education systems that deliver quality, are equitable and cost-effective, and promote education as a societal good.

PERI has two core objectives. First, to animate an accessible and informed public debate on alternative education provision that leads to informed choice by governments and parents. To this end, PERI has created a platform through which normative, theoretical and empirical positions on the privatization of a range of education services can be debated. Second, to centralize a social justice lens through which to debate the consequences of changes in the coordination of education services. This is being pursued through a twin-track approach of scholarly research and media work, which is accessible through the PERI website - www.periglobal.org – that also features discussions, forums and other resources.

PERI aims to:

- Raise concerns by contributing to the better understanding of the fundamental change in the nature of public education under conditions of de-regulation, de-centralisation, de- nationalisation, privatisation and competitive tendering of public functions in education.

- Enhance knowledge by undertaking critical case-based and comparative empirical analysis of distributed educational service delivery in the case of compulsory schooling, especially focusing on the desirability of state provision under conditions of market failure, complex agency problems, and the challenges faced by input-based policy.

- Support new research by funding in-depth analysis and collection of new empirical data providing insights into the ways in which the interplay among different local, national and international educational agents acting in multi-level, often interdependent institutional structures, with different and sometimes conflicting interests, shape the quality and equity of compulsory educational service regulation and delivery.

- Expose the controversy of privatization by making accessible the competing views advanced and advocated by different institutional actors at the global, regional, national and local levels, centralizing a social justice lens in the debate, and describing the manners in which alternative provision of education services have pervaded different spaces.

- Engage policy makers at national and regional levels to better understand the social justice consequences of increasing and varied forms of privatization in and of education.

PERI proposes that four criterions are essential for education to lead to just, equal and open societies. These equally become the lenses for examining all forms of education - private, public and private- public hybrids.

  1. Education systems must deliver quality. Quality is not limited to narrowly defined and measured learning outcomes though clearly cognitive skills are essential to education quality. Rather, quality also relates to non-cognitive skills and capacities such as resilience, self- confidence, critical thinking, leadership and citizenship. These are as essential as cognitive skills and measureable learning outcomes.
  2. Education systems must promote equity. Private elite schools have been around for centuries and will continue to be for those who really are able to choose to educate their children in a different system. But access to quality education cannot be the preserve of the wealthy or powerful but must be open to all citizens equally; education inclusion must promote social justice for all and an education system must include a just distribution of society’s resources.
  3. Education systems must be efficient or, in other words, be cost-effective. All costs for education need to be considered including, essentially, the social returns to investment in education. Efficiencies can be clearly be made in government systems and business sector logics may offer some insights but these need to be considered alongside the social costs of slicing and dicing the education sector’
  4. Education systems be effective, and in particular they must promote the societal good. Societies are – or at least should be – built on the idea of a shared future and education systems must promote that shared future, not divide it up between those in positions of authority and power and the rest.

In 2011-2012, PERI supported twenty-one pieces of research in Africa and Asia. PERI will open a new body of research in Latin America and the Caribbean countries (LACCs) in 2013. This document sets out the research focus areas and provides guidance for institutions and individuals wishing to submit an abstract for a research grant. The research agenda was developed with the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE), who has partnered with the Open Society Foundations on PERI in LACC. CLADE shall play the central role in the dissemination of the Expression of Interest and in receiving responses, which shall then be reviewed by two regional actors and OSF. CLADE will also dialogue with OSF on the results of upcoming researches through a virtual fora created for this process. CLADE shall not, however, form part of the decision making panel for PERI research grants in the region to avoid possible conflicts of interest that may arise if member organizations of the CLADE respond to the Call.


PERI research focus in Latin America

Observers agree that private provision and the privatizing of education services not only looks different in different regions and countries of the world, but that these services are shaped by a different set of dynamics between the global and the local, and between the state, economy, civil society and religious organizations.

In the last decade in Latin America and the Caribbean, policies that involve some level of education privatization, like public-private partnerships, vouchers or charter schools have acquired an increasing centrality in the global education arena. The urgency to achieving the ‘Education For All’ goals and the MDGs and the effects of the financial crisis worldwide have increased the willingness of governments and international organizations to introduce different forms of education privatization, including exo- privatization (explicit privatization of public education) and endo-privatization (promoting competitive behavior and business management ideology within public education systems). Observers increasingly observe private sector identifying public education systems as viable profitable profit-making markets creating businesses (and profit for shareholders) through the commodification of textbook sales, consultancies, ICT technologies, teacher training, evaluation systems and tests, slicing and dicing education that can be traded and ushering proxy market competition via high stakes testing and school league tables. The push for private sector development in education goes hand in hand with a shrinking confidence in public schooling (which is both a manufactured and a real crisis) and the notion of public processes of policy making and debate, sidelining citizens as key actors of policy making whilst increasing the space of private corporations and organizations and segmenting education quality by the ability to pay.

PERI considers that these debates remain deeply ideological with protagonists of non-state and private sector provision arguing how the market logic of competition and choice will drive innovation and increase overall quality in both private and public sectors. Reciprocally, champions of state provision contest that education is a public good and a basic right that the state has the responsibility to guarantee for everyone, regardless of the ability to pay.

Additionally, PERI considers that many positive claims of private sector provision are not only made on questionable bodies of evidence but the lack of attention to social justice implications of private, public and private-public hybrids narrows the discourse to focus on the ‘private premium’ – learning outcomes in private schools being marginally better than poorly performing public schools – that make much of financial cost-effectiveness – which is debatable – yet avoids the more significant development question of the societal impact of hybridised education systems.

The response of PERI is to develop a small but robust evidence base through scholarly research, production of short films, seminars and consultations that refines a critical perspective and establishes an evidence-based narrative in response to the question of: who gets access to what kind of education and at what cost? The insistence on evidence and a social justice lens militates against the debate collapsing into ideological camps.

This expression of interest invites proposals for research on the privatization of education or private provision of education that are focused on one or more countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that respond to the criteria above and the focus areas laid out below. Regional and comparative studies between countries within the region are also welcome, as are submissions from research consortiums and individual and organizational proposals. This expression has a broad understanding of the term ‘privatization’, including processes of increased private provisioning ranging from schools run by local entrepreneurs, NGOs, local community provision and religious schools, and also so-called ‘endoprivatization’, meaning the application of private for profit principles, values and approaches within the public education system. In this broader sense, privatization trends also include the privatization of educational debate and policy making and processes for profiting in and through education.

EoI focus areas

Expressions should address one or more aspects of the coordination or governance of education services in the formal (schooling) and/or the informal (shadow schooling, home tutoring) sector. It is essential that research proposals centralize a social justice lens, be analytical as opposed to solely descriptive and address one or more of the following core areas:

1. Laws, Policies, Administration and Funding of Privatization in Education

Suggested issues include:

  • How much progress has been achieved in focusing on education as a human right, regarding legislation and compliance with these laws? How are privatisation processes inhibited or stimulated in the region through the legal and policy frameworks?

  • How are educational policies for privatisation developed, legitimised and disseminated at the global, regional and national levels? (Sources and empirical comparisons should be rigorously examined, country case studies encouraged)
  • How are education budgets in different countries utilised for subsidising private education?
  • Who are the beneficiaries of public spending in education?
  • What degrees of regulation, transparency and accountability of private sector providers exist in different countries in the region? Which actors engage in these processes and with what effects?
  • How is the privatisation of education manifested at each level of the educational process, from primary education to universities?

2. Ideologies and Actors in the Privatization of Education

Suggested issues include:

  • Who are the actors and what delivery mechanisms are involved in the processes of education privatization? What logics, rationales, instruments and strategies are utilised?
  • What are the relations between the corporate sector, politicians and government authorities that promote privatisation? What are the relations between politicians and private education stakeholders?
  • How and where are corporate networks for education operating in LACs, what are the objectives and what are their levels of influence over public policies?
  • What are the degrees of knowledge, awareness and empowerment on these issues with teachers and teachers unions?

3. Implications of Privatization on Quality of Content and Equity of Access

Suggested issues include:

  • What effects do privatization trends (endogenous and exogenous) have on educational content (the emergence and absence of subjects, curricula, complete programs, variations in textbook content, etc.) and/or on educational practices (course methodologies and pedagogical practice, the role of teachers, etc) in LACC countries?
  • How is differentiated access to school and segregation related to privatization and the commercialisation of education in educational systems in Latin America and the Caribbean?

  • What effects does privatization have on democratic governance of schools and education systems?

4. Privatisation, Profit and PPPs in Education

Suggested issues include:

  • How are ownership and service delivery contracts defined in different models of education Public Private Partnerships (ePPPs)?
  • How are risk sharing, accountability and legal literacy manifested in ePPPs?
  • Through which mechanisms is profit being made in private and public education systems?
  • To what extent is philanthropy related to profit making and privatization in education? How do free trade treaties pertaining to services and education affect potential actions to defend public policies in education? 

5. The Media and Privatization

Suggested issues include: 

  • How does the media and communications industry treat the theme of education and in what way do they reinforce the value of the private sector in relation to the public sector?
  • What actors are engaged and what do they benefit from multi-sector industries in areas associated with the power of images and symbols, such as culture, publishing and communications market?

Other questions that explore the regulation, funding, ownership and provision of privatized education services are also welcomed.

In its first 12 month phase in Latin America and the Caribbean, PERI seeks to commission up to four pieces of research. Proposals that focus on the primary and/or secondary sectors will be prioritized, however proposals will be considered which address these issues in the higher education sector that have implications for schooling, such as teacher training. It is intended that additional funding will become available in 2014 that may lead to a further call for proposals.


Eligibility criteria:

1. Eligible submitters include: academic research centers and universities; individual researchers including PhD candidates; think tanks; NGOs; civil society networks; Social Movements, among others.

2. Proposals from individual actors are welcome, as are those that are based on a consortium or alliance of two or more actors, and/or that involve more than one country with different in-country partners.

3. Interested actors from outside Latin America and the Caribbean MUST apply in consortium with peers from the region.


Envisioned key activities, conditions and requirements

Commissioned proposals will be:

1. Overseen by a member of the PERI Research Steering Committee and relevant ESP staff member.

2. Discussed in detail at a regional meeting in June 2013 with regular engagement with PERI staff and steering committee members.

3. Completed by 5th May 2014, following blind external review

4. Presented at a regional conference in 2014

5. Within a 10,000 word limit

6. Include a separate policy brief that sets out the problem statement, the research findings and proposed policy responses on the basis of these findings (guidance on format will be provided after commissioning)

7. Within a budget of $17,000-$25,000

8. Authors retain intellectual property of the work but, if selected, agree to have it published on the PERI website and in an edited collection


Application procedure

All applications should be submitted by 24th April 2013 and include the following:

  • A covering letter indicating the potential significance of the research
  • An explanation of how the research will be disseminated after completion, what networks it will be shared with and what actions will be planned to engage policy makers at either the national or regional level
  • A Curriculum Vitae
  • Two writing samples written in Spanish and if possible already translated into English.
  • A proposed research design of no more than 2000 words that includes research questions, 
methodology, timeframe, ethical considerations and outputs. 
Send an electronic copy of the documentation, including a scanned copy of the Cover Letter, to Illich Ortiz ilich@campanaderechoeducation.org and Trine Petersen at trine.petersen@opensocietyfoundations.org. For further information, please contact Trine Petersen. 

Selection Results

Applications submitted with all required documentation will be reviewed by a panel committee. Commissions will be granted according to the panel’s assessment and selected applicants will be notified on the 6th May 2013.

Download Call for Expressions of Interest (English)

Download Call for Expressions of Interest (Spanish)

Photo Credit: francisco_osorio