Privatization of Education Services Provision and Implications for Quality Education in Tanzania: Are efficient Quality Assurance and mechanisms in Place?
Privatization of education service and delivery aimed to enhance access and improve quality of education. This shift emanated from global influence such as that of Washington Consensus and Structural Adjustment policies. Notwithstanding there have been quantifiable benefits from this privatization policy, nevertheless, privatization of education services is doomed to assume more commercial and market orientations which undermines quality of education across countries. Evidently, the private education providers, inter alia are largely influenced by profit-making realization in order to nurse their recurrent operational costs, the market dynamics and clientele satisfaction. With few and inefficient quality assurance and controls mechanism in place, as in case of developing countries, and Tanzania in particular, there is less to expect of any good for the quality of educational product at the end of the term in any educational life span. whilst the question whether privatization is or is not feasible approach to sustain emerges, and whose effects which may be presumably intolerable to other production endeavors in which there is room for remedy; educational services suffer total and irreversible defect. This paper confines to anecdote pertinent question, ‘are there efficient quality control assurance and quality control mechanisms for education services and delivery?’. This is fundamental question in order to analyze effectiveness of Privatization of Education Approach in Tanzania. Moreover, several aspects will be discussed including Effectiveness Inspectorate Boards, Examination and Accreditation boards.
Keywords: Privatization, Education Services, Quality, and Quality Assurance Mechanisms
Belfield and Levin (2002) define privatization as the ‘transfer of activities, assets and responsibilities from government/public institutions and organizations to private individuals and agencies’. He adds that privatization is often is considered to be liberalization process where agents are freed from public regulations, or as ‘marketization’ where new markets are created as alternatives to public services.
The concept Privatization in education is recently very common occupying a large part in educational debates. For many, it means a role of parents in financing education. While this imbibes lot of negative connotations of increasing inequalities to access of education (Mosha, 2006), to others the term has meant more resource to education and more flexibility in education delivery (Belfield and Levin, 2002). In general the term can be simply defined as process of initiating personal or private ownership of different educational services, specifically referring to more if not full authority of individual decision over operation of educational process.
On the other hand, the term quality has been defined variously encompassing different notions, from those of relativists, humanistic, behaviorist, critical, indigenous and adult education approaches. This makes the concept of quality controversial; such it may mean different things to different individuals. However, in case, the term quality will be defined as “fitness for purpose” meeting or conforming to generally accepted standards (Materu, 2007). Also, Mosha (2006) define quality as level of excellence in performance. It can be measured by establishing benchmarks or criteria and standards of good performance.
Quality Assurance is sometime used interchangeably to refer Quality Control. Quality assurance can be defined as a system of check and balance in the process of policy, plan, and programme implementation to ensure that the system is constantly aware of its expectations and there is a concerted effort towards their realization (Mosha, 2006: 245). Quality assurance institutions include inspectorates, examination and accreditation bodies, governing bodies, curriculum as well as community-based institutions, all of which discharge their mandates over predetermined set of quality standards in a given country (Mosha, 2006).
Commercialization and Marketization of Education
The two terms ‘commercialization’ and ‘marketization’ derive their literal meanings from two English words, ‘commerce’ and ‘market’. According to Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2003), ‘commerce’ is defined as the “activities involved in buying and selling things”, while ‘market’ refers to as “a place or event where people gather in order to buy or sell things”. In light of the above, the two terms can be used interchangeably to mean the same thing.
The impact of Privatization policy in many countries has been evidenced by an ideological shift of many educational stakeholders including parents and education service providers, that education being a right and need is a determinant factor of individual life standard (Carnoy, 2006). This view conceived education skills as commodity, which can be paid for, that is has a price (Galabawa, 2007, 2005; Green, 1980) which gives parents and their children freedom to choose type of education they wanted. This led to education services and products to assume both a ‘commercial’ and a ‘market’ value, and hence educational commercialization and marketization. Consequently, in recent times it is not uncommon to find the views of education as a commodity being auctioned in news media among others in the face of quality education, and customers, in this case parents and others, have been buying the services.
While the merits of a marketplace model for public education has been among the most prominent themes in education policy discussions over several decades. Advocates of market approaches to education reform contend that creating a market in educational services will foster competition among providers and thus spur delivery of better services at the same or lower cost than providing them through traditional public schools (Molnar and Garcia, 2007). In the same vein, Schrum (2002) has argued that while we currently in transitional life in a world of commercialization, everything has a price tag and conspicuous consumption appears to be the way of modernizing our education services. Also, it is a complement by the media and politicians that our educational system must prepare our students to be competitive in a global economy. Hence, the organization of schools and other educational institutions, as presently constructed, institutionalize consumer materialism. One result of such this perspective has been a growth in the number and types of partnerships between schools and corporations. Although, it may be disagreed whether to adopt such ideology, but it is the way education is today, and this presents a challenging conundrum for educators.
On the other hand, the commercialization and marketization of education, carried out by global corporations, individual owners and other private institutions, is the practice of altering or disrupting the teaching and learning process in schools from kindergarten through college, by introducing advertising and other commercial activities in order to increase profit. For instance corporations claim with great ordeal and are ‘community partners’ bringing needed resources to underfunded schools and helping students get the things that other stakeholders can’t or won’t provide (Butler-Wall, 1997).
The two views above posit potential interpretation which may either lead to more efficiency of education system by provisioning education service as per, largely, clienteles satisfaction or may also lead to disruption of universal pre-determined standards set by the respective education systems. The private education service providers are both led and influenced with principle of ‘profit maximization’; not only that, but also they are likely to produce services which will either cater for their customer ‘satisfaction’ or operational supply cost, which may lead to compromising quality standards to serve large population demand, or nurse the high operation costs due to inflation.
Therefore, in any given country, education policy makers and all stakeholders responsible should bear in mind that adoption of privatization policy is a challenging phenomenon, which unless efficient quality assurance systems are established, education will be in chaos. Connected to that, an individual institutional and organization liability of education service provision requires efficient quality assurance mechanism in place to monitor the whole process of recruitment, processing and production of educational goods and services. This paper provides a comprehensive review of these interlinking and interdependent observations.
Models for Privatization of Education
Models of privatization as propounded by Bray (2009) can be used to conceptualize privatization process in the education sector. Firstly, Transfer of ownership of public schools. In this deliberate transfer of ownership (and, by implication, control) of existing public schools to private hands is perhaps the most striking form of privatization. Such a move is especially radical when it involves a shift from not-for-profit to commercial operation, though this type of change is rare. Secondly, shifting sectoral balance without re-designation of existent institutions. This form of privatization occurs through a more evolutionary shift in the balance of types of institution. Thus, the number and size of government schools might be held constant, but the number and size of parallel private schools might be permitted or encouraged to increase. Alternatively, the government sector might expand, but the private sector might expand more. Or the government sector might contract, but the private sector might not contract so much, might remain constant, or might expand. Thirdly, Increased government funding and support for private schools . Governments may strengthen the private sector by giving financial and other support to private schools. Some governments are experimenting with systems of vouchers, in which families can choose to send children to private schools but meet some or all the costs from a financial allocation earmarked by the government. Fourthly, Increased private financing and/or control of government schools. In this form of privatization, schools remain nominally under government ownership but the proportion of finance and/or control by nongovernment sources is increased. Governments in some countries have experienced a severe fiscal crisis, and parents and communities have had to increase financial contributions to their schools in order to bridge gaps. In other countries, governments' financial health has remained strong but for ideological and other reasons the authorities have required school principals to be more responsive to the market place. These are forms of privatization within the government system.