The influence of privatization or public investment in education

13 July 2017

In 2011, thousands of Chilean students flooded the streets to protest against the privatization of education, a movement that started four decades earlier under Augusto Pinochet. Meanwhile in Finland, the country’s decision to focus on equity in education during the 1970s has led to a consistently high performance in Pisa tests, a major global study of educational performance. These two trajectories are a stark reminder of the ramifications a policy decision can have on a country for years to come. 

During IIEP’s last Strategic Debate, on 11 July, guest speaker Frank Adamson, PhD. Senior Policy and Research Analyst at Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (Scope), set the record straight on why public or market-based approaches to education financing is a global concern.  

In his recently published book, Global Education Reform, Adamson and a group of researchers compared six countries in three different continents –Chile, Cuba, the United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland–, to illustrate how privatization and public investment on education systems influence education outcomes. 

Time and again, the research showed privatization causing radical stratification between students and schools, as well as poorer learning outcomes and decreased professionalism within the teaching force. In response to these findings, Adamson says public investment in education must prevail, governments must continue to invest in teachers, in infrastructure and in quality education. 

Watch the Strategic Debate, with Manos Antoninis, Senior Policy Analyst, Global Education Monitoring Report, as discussant, and Suzanne Grant Lewis, Director of IIEP, as the moderator, here


View Frank Adamson's presentation from the Strategic Debate here.

View an infographic on the book’s major findings. 


“Six Countries. Two Educational Strategies. One Consistent Conclusion.” is an infographic that presents the differences in approaches and outcomes between privatization and public investment in education.

For more information, watch these videos with Frank Adamson: 

Privatization and Public Investment

Our Kids, Our Future: Privatization and Public Investment in Education