The National Education Union has serious concerns about the Government’s newly released International Education Strategy: global potential, global growth.

The strategy was created without the consultation of many unions, including the NEU. The strategy highlights the UK’s ambition “to increase education exports to £35 billion by 2030” without appropriate consideration for the negative consequences this may have on public education systems.

It is well-established that privatisation of education undermines public education systems and operates at the expense of inclusivity, affordability, transparency and quality education.

The strategy further supports UK exports as a form of “soft power”, disregarding a rights-based approach to education in favour of an instrumental approach that benefits the UK. Engaged in this practice is the FCO, DIT, DFID and BEIS, which “all play important front-line roles in facilitating market access, shaping international agendas and opening opportunities for UK trade, influence, relationships and partnerships.” The importance of a holistic, inclusive and rights-based delivery of education is lost in this “whole-of-government” approach.

The NEU is further concerned about the changing nature of aid. The OECD defines it as ‘administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective.’ The UK’s position, reaffirmed in this strategy, suggests a favouring of economic and cultural influence over a human rights approach.

Commenting on the strategy, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Education is a human right and a public good, one that is the ultimate responsibility of governments. This strategy illustrates the determination of the UK Government to marketise education, focusing on profits over pupils. It is deeply troubling to see our Government’s determination to view the rights of children and young people around the world as a money-making opportunity.”

Notes to editors