Education supporters claim their tremendous win at the new decision by the GPE

Civil society groups are celebrating the Global Partnership for Education’s decision to prohibit its funds from being used to support commercial education actors unless under “exceptional circumstances.”

The decision was reached last Thursday when GPE’s 40-strong board of directors met in Sweden and unanimously adopted a draft private sector strategy that included agreeing that “no GPE funds can be used to support for-profit provision of core education services,” according to a summary document.

“It’s a groundbreaking result where the largest education fund in the world, in complete consensus, has said no to funding any for-profit providers of core education services.”

The decision marks the end of a two-year battle over how GPE engages with the private sector. Members of the $2.3 billion multidonor education fund, which supports education reform through governments in low-income countries, have clashed over the strategy, especially when it comes to engaging with for-profit education providers.

However, Luis Benveniste, director of the World Bank’s education global practice and member of the GPE board, said the board’s discussion was “rich and amicable,” and that the decision reflected the “maturity of the partnership.”

Advocacy groups campaigning against the “commercialization of education,” in particular by for-profit school chains, consider the board decision a victory. They had feared some GPE board members would try to weaken, or even remove the for-profit ban from the strategy — a worry reflected by the fact that United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Koumbou Boly Barry, intervened and wrote to the GPE board ahead of the meeting urging them to make for-profit actors ineligible for GPE funding.

“It’s a groundbreaking result where the largest education fund in the world, in complete consensus, has said no to funding any for-profit providers of core education services,” Kira Boe, education policy lead at Oxfam International and a GPE board member, told Devex.