Review of Clive R. Belfield's and Henry M. Levine's "Education privatization: causes, consequences and planning implications."

Literature Review 2011 7 Pages

Pedagogy - Miscellaneous Topics


About the Authors:

The book ‘Education privatization: causes, consequences and planning implications’ is a well-researched work of Clive R. Belfield and Henry M. Levin. Clive Belfield is the Associate Director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education; Adjunct Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Education, University of Birmingham. Henry Levin is the William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of the Economics of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and the Director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education.


There has been tremendous expansion of education at all levels, starting from elementary to universities. Privatization has become a catchword the global over, championed by some as a panacea for all ills, and branded by the others as the cause behind increasing social inequalities. Education is not exempt from this loaded debate. In developed countries, education privatization primarily concerns questions of management and accountability while in developing countries, state finance and taxation systems are still under construction, and increasing private schooling and financing may be the only way in which the education system can grow to accommodate the increasing demand. The specific purpose of this book is to suggest certain number of criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of privatization policies, including efficiency and equity considerations in education. It weighs up the positive and negative aspects of education privatization and explores the different forms that it can take. The authors make a clear presentation of the different issues at stake for all parties concerned, in both developed and developing countries. In analyzing privatization from governments’ point of view, educational institutions, parents and taxpayers, the authors have examined the practices that best accommodate the needs of all concerned and which are suitable for a given context, in order to make educational access a possibility and a reality for all.

The Summary of the Book Content

The book is about an important aspect of education reform-privatization, and its varied programmes designed to meet many educational objectives. The book shows, the way in which a privatization initiative is planned, implemented and funded has a critical effect on its outcomes. The principal aim is to describe, explain and analyze education privatization reforms and distil that understanding into some implications for educational planning.

Before commenting on this book, let me briefly illustrate its contents. The book in the main is categorized into five chapters. In chapter one (‘what is education privatization’ ) authors narrates education privatization and defines concept of privatization as applied in the book “the transfer of activities, assets and responsibilities from government/public institutions and organizations to private individual and agencies” (p.19); educational reforms framework of possible policy reforms and programmes in education that are complementary one another are described with respect to considerable flexibility in introducing and implementing reforms for policy-makers and planners. The authors have managed to describe trends in private provision of education, private funding-parents pay for schooling rather than government; private regulation, decision-making and accountability-giving parents more choice over what goes on in schools or what types of school are available.

However, the chapter concludes that education privatization can be planned by considering number of factors including; increasing the number and proportion of private providers; raising the amount of funds contributed directly by the users of the services and lowering amount of contribution through subsidies or enhancing parental monitoring of schools and school choice over government rules and regulations. Privatization policies and programmes in education such as educational vouchers, public school choice, public school liberalization, private contracting of specific services; tuition tax credits and deductions for parents; subsidies and assistance grants to private schools and home-schooling and private payments for schooling are narrated.

Chapter two (‘why is privatization happening’ ); deals with logical argument of the growth of privatization in recent decades and its prospect development in the future. The pressures posed on policy-makers and educational planners, school mapper on social problems or inequalities within the education system; the authors charting the pressures for privatization being demand-side pressures (excess and differential demand on education); supply-side pressures and lastly general pressures- concluding on this chapter the authors see “privatization of education as an effort to reduce the inequalities in the current public schooling (p.33).” miserably

Chapter three (‘ a framework for evaluating privatization programmes’ ) sets out a framework for evaluating many education reforms described and far-reaching consequences posed on education systems and planners need to be able to evaluate these reforms fully. The authors employed four basic criteria: “freedom of choice; productive efficiency, equity and social cohesion (p.35)”. This idea is also supported by other scholars such as Mohanty (2005, p.238) who posits that the “best suggested criteria for privatization is regarded as an alternative strategy not only to encourage sharing of the financial burden, but also to make the system more cost-effective and competitive”.

Chapter four (‘international privatization reforms’ ); try to documents crucial evidence on privatization reforms across a number of different countries as cases avail. It is most extensive chapter in the book describing practices of privatization reforms mainly focusing on four aspects including universal voucher programme in Chile-1980-aiming to increase the supply for-profit private schools and the proportion of enrolments; large-scale voucher programme in Columbia-1991 focus on families residing in low-income neighborhoods and who had children in public primary schools being eligibility for the voucher; small-scale voucher programme in Milwaukee, USA-1990-focusing those from low-income families at any approved private school; universal public school choice programme in England and Wales-1988; private school management system in the Netherlands; private school liberalization in the Czech Republic-1990s as well as private payments for higher education as an international evidence. The authors have successful provided evidences from studied countries

In the last chapter, is five (‘implications for educational planning’ ); where the authors identify a set of general implications of privatization reforms for educational planning and programme implementation. They itemized them separately into several sphere of influences as political, legal and economic. In this chapter the authors, describe the space options for planners in designing privatization to meet any number of objectives, since the options for privatization are broad and flexible in reform and strategy, to clarify this they add “for any voucher programme, it is necessary to specify the eligibility criteria, voucher amounts, and the extent of support services, all these are done by the policy-makers (p.61). On the other hand they argue that “planners must be mindful and well-versed that privatization programmes will prompt strong political response, both against and in favour, from ‘special interest groups” (p.63); to avoid to affect certain groups other that it should be understood that families with school age children are far more concerned with education reforms than the average voter: for these families, the quality of education may be a critical issue in deciding which political or community group to support. However educational planners should be mindful that there is considerable doubt, uncertainty, and ignorance about what privatization reforms are and what impact they will have.

In concluding the book, the authors, advocates maximal joint appreciation of private education sector in developing and developed countries and disclose that “if privatization reforms really do raise efficiency, then the government sector may be able to reduce taxes but maintain educational standards and quality” (p.72).

Relevance of the Book

I believe Belfield and Levin’s work is relevant and rigor for various reasons. In the first place, it works on the width and the depth of Policy planning and project design in education as a field. Since the authors provide functional sides to recognize education privatization as a policy adopted in most of developing countries that allow close administrative, managerial and funding possibilities to organizations and individuals for the provision of education; as they argue “education can be provided and funded by private agencies or individuals rather than through government subsidies (p.20)”. In Tanzania context, among the broad policy objectives of education and training is the need to enhance partnerships through efforts directed at encouraging the private sector and individuals to participate in the provision of education at all levels.(Temba, 2008)

Second, the work is relevant also to Tanzania context in the fact that the government has embarked on rectifying its policies to support private sector expansion as the greater aim of those who privatize education system is to provide greater efficiency and effectiveness. The idea is supported by Coulson, (2009), who put it: there has been an explosive growth of privatization of education in Tanzania which mainly financed by students fees. Galabawa, et al (2000) and Shah (2009, p. 39) opine that “the rapid growth of privatization of education in Tanzania is a part of what appears to be a global trends towards greater diversification in education and its causes, consequences should be studied with precautious”

A third reason per why it is relevant while reading and pondering over this book is the way equity is addressed, since provide a lesson to educational planners in developing countries, Tanzania inclusively, equity is referred to universal accepted goal of schooling; the quest of fairness in access to educational opportunities, resources and outcomes by gender, social class, race, language origins and geographical locations of students, all these aspects are reflected in PEDP (phase I (2002-2006) &II (2007-2011)) and SEDP (2004-2009).

Fourth, the book highlights the issue of social cohesion in schooling (social good) as promoted in schools and traces historical perspectives of provision of common educational experiences that will give students the start that they need to become full participants in the books is a concern; social good can be created through designing the educational systems and the instruction that students receive in school; as educational planners, policy-makers and curriculum designer should take into accounts ( Galabawa, 2000, p.226)



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review clive belfield henry levine education Private Education Low-income families Secondary schools Programme in Education



Title: Review of Clive R. Belfield's and Henry M. Levine's "Education privatization: causes, consequences and planning implications."