Is privatization the solution to Higher Education?

Here is the headline: Freire or Friedman in defense of critical education.

Privatization seems to be the trend in Higher Education, as this xMOOC movement unveils.

Friedman and Rose are essentially calling for the accelerated privatization of global education. This is a trend that has already begun in the US, as we have witnessed the growth of schools run by private corporations, an unflinching emphasis on test scores, and the decimation of teachers unions coupled with the flawed notion that teachers alone are responsible for educational underachievement.

In a capitalist world, privatization of higher education is a growing trend that is unstoppable.

It has its merits and demerits.

The merits stem from the competition arising out of these MOOCs, where the more cost effective and pedagogically attractive design and delivery of online education would eventually win all the “contracts” and audiences. It could improve overall quality of higher education, though such quality is not easily measurable and agreeable.   An improvement in quality may mean that it is now possible to add value to higher education, by producing more degree level learners with higher skills at a much lower costs, across the communities, states, nations, and even other nations.

This would also boost the reputation of the philanthropists and institutions, and the governments to an all time high level, where MOOCs could be seen and perceived by the public as a panacea to the overly expensive, unaffordable and unaccessible Higher Education.  This would also be viewed as a reinstating of the importance of Higher Education.  This could potentially reduce and remove the gaps in knowledge and education among those haves and haves not.  Improvement in such knowledge equity could further reduce poverty in third world countries, as a claim made in many broadcast and news.

Indeed, the past decade of economic growth in business has always been based on venture capitals, with education opportunities being monetized for commercial purpose, quite often in private businesses and higher education institutions.

The purpose of education is now more directed towards the globalization of the education business, though there are always higher calling for democratization and openness of Higher Education in an international arena.

Personalized education and cost effective education solutions would likely be the best selling points for the promotion and positioning of this privatized education movement.

There are obvious merits for the global learners who are in need of Higher Education.  However the uncertainties still lie with the recognition of studies of MOOCs towards credits in degree programs in higher education institutions.

The demerits with privatization in higher education with MOOCs however would include the tensions developed due to the conflicts and challenges that are facing many of its stakeholders – the private providers of Higher Education, the government education authorities, the teachers’ unions, the teachers and professors, and the industry and business associations.

As reported in many posts and news, there are significant impacts on professors and educators serving in Higher Education.  The increase in MOOCs would possibly lead to a reduction in the need of faculties.  There could be a need to merge sections and departments in institutions, in order to save costs in administration, teaching and technical support, and improve the efficiency in education delivery, with the innovative use of technology in online and distance education.

There are also further needs of structuring the curriculum to suit the changing needs of society, and to respond rapidly to the  reduction of funding to the Higher Education Institutions.  This could impact on the long term growth of Higher Education Institutions, in terms of the research and teaching activities, and the recruitment and retention of staff to support those work.

There are always two sides of the coin, when privatizating Higher Education.   As innovation and entrepreneurship and venture capitals are all mixed into the same pot, opportunistic education would emerge.  As I shared in my post here on the impact and significance of MOOCs on Higher Education, we would see more rapid changes in this complex landscape of Higher Education in coming years.

I have also commented that:

Yes, I agreed, that there are attempts to monetize MOOCs. Treating MOOC as a commodity have lots of implication. What I am concerned is: when such “education” becomes a business for profits only, who would be engaged? Only those who could afford it would buy it. Business people talk, sell, trade, and profit from education. That’s fine. But is that education? What is the value of education to the society? What is its real purpose? If we reflect on what makes a great education, then would we be more interested in growing and developing people, in supporting each other to become more active, engaging, valuable and valued members and individual & independent learners of society? MOOC is owned by the people, not the rich who could pay, nor the poor who couldn’t afford to pay, but everyone who shows or shares an interest, in the conversation, in debates and discourse, or in games, or in education and learning, that would hopefully lead to the achievement of one’s goals and aspirations. Some may use it for upgrading their skills at work, or developing or enhancing knowledge in formal study or lifelong learning. I would be hesitant in using it as a “selling” weapon though.
What could a MOOC offer? I think your sizzle metaphor could be applicable to those for profits MOOC. I like your question about removing money from that statement, what sizzle would compel people to participate in a MOOC? Can you force a horse to drink water when it doesn’t want to? You could only lead it to the river, and it will drink, especially when it feels thirsty.

Finally, as Sajjad concludes:

 It all comes back to the original question of the purpose of education. For Friedman and Rose, its purpose is to produce worker who will further entrench an unjust economic order that created the problem in the first place. The overarching goal is to convince us that the remedy for our current problems is actually the very pill which caused the sickness to begin with. For Freire, education’s purpose is to enable students to flourish in a manner that critically analyzes how we arrived to this bleak situation and how we can begin to transform it.

Freire or Friedman? The choice is ours to make.

I don’t think it is easy for any of us to agree on the purpose of education.

Has anyone predicted such significant movements in the past?

Photo: from Google image

MOOC LECTURE images (3)