Presentation: Children’s Online Privacy and Rights

Petten MaRS presentation 2014

On March 19th, 2014 at the MaRS Discover District in Toronto, Ontario, I presented to a group of educators, technologists, entrepreneurs and nonprofits on the topic of Children’s Online Privacy and Rights. In light of a rapidly changing legislative environment in which child-oriented businesses operate, the presentation focused on how businesses and the private economic sector affect children and childhood. Discussions focused on ethical and pedagogical issues that businesses faced, which were highlighted through various case studies (included below in the links). The topic of vulnerabilitiesand, specifically, children’s vulnerabilities to the marketplace–was discussed and highlighted through examples. The presentation ended with providing multiple, practical ways of becoming more child-friendly through the adoption of specific policies and processes that respect, protect and remedy children’s online privacy and rights.

Main Takeaways:

  • Trends and Legislation
    • There is a big difference between ages. Children are not a homogenous group and are as diverse as adults
    • There is a growing market with younger children going online and using apps
    • Considering the upward trends in children’s media use, a number of advocacy groups and law makers have introduced legislation aimed to regulate how commercial enterprises collect, distribute and use personal information of children.
    • While COPPA is a much welcomed piece of legislation in the wild west of the app marketplace, there is a large emphasis on parental rights, rather than children’s rights. I would be very excited to see some legislation around children’s informed consent. For example, requiring that companies develop policies that are directly accessible to children.
    • I’ve only presented three different pieces of legislation that apply to children’s online privacy. If you want to access the broad North American market, you’ll have to look at individual state and provincial legislation. If that seems like a massive undertaking for a small start-up, then a simple solution is just not to collect children’s personal information and/or advertise to them.
  • Ethical and Pedagogical Issues
    • The children’s market (whether it includes food, clothing, toys, video games, and education technology) is a massive industry with a growing base of consumers. This makes it a very appealing and exciting market for new ventures.
    • There are many strong voices that criticize the role of commercial activity in childhood. They are worried, and rightfully so, that this commercial activity threatens to harm children’s healthy development and socialization.
    • Businesses are increasingly creating and influencing the experiences of childhood. This is problematic if the sole purpose of a business is to maximize profit without ethical regard for children’s well-being and learning objectives.
    • Children represent a vulnerable group in society. Therefore, as a business you have an ethical responsibility to respect their unique vulnerabilities and design a business that does not exploit them.
    • In general, for all the ethical issues that I talked about, you should always ask yourself: Does it truly benefit children or is it about the bottom line of the company?
    • Creating a pedagogically sound product or service for children means to respect them as learners and individuals. If your company is solely focused on making untested claims, using information for marketing and advertising, and profit maximization, you run a great risk of alienating your customers.


 Download the PDF.

* Disclaimer: I do not necessarily endorse these organizations. I am attempting to represent the broad perspectives on the issue.

People and organizations to follow:

Children’s Rights and Business:

US Gov’t websites:

News Stories referenced in presentation:


Critical Literature Review on Education for All (EFA) and Private Sector Influence


The Education for All (EFA) movement is global in scope and involves a wide set of actors in various levels of its implementation. The EFA movement has become instrumental in progressing the 2nd Millennium Development Goal (MDG): Universal Primary Education (UPE) for all children in the world. EFA has been articulated through various international agreements and frameworks that serve to guide various actors including public institutions such as national governments, and bilateral and multilateral agencies, as well as private sector organizations such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundations, and corporations. The multiple agreements and frameworks that were developed at global gatherings at Jomtien, Thailand and Dakar, Senegal highlight the importance of working collaboratively with various partners in order to successfully integrate UPE into national policy and ensure basic education is provided at the local level. For many developing and fragile states, including countries in Sub-Sahara Africa, international aid has become an instrument through which UPE can be delivered effectively to all children (Bhatta, 2010; Steer & Wathne, 2010). Providing aid for universal primary education further involves many public and private partners with multiple agendas creating dynamic power relations in the sphere of education provision (Rose, 2011). Much of the literature indicates a lack of understanding of the role and influence of the private sector in aid delivery and education provision. Therefore, a critical literature review was undertaken by this author in order to develop an informed research question on this topic. Careful analysis of the selected literature indicates that a worthwhile inquiry would be investigating the power dynamics involved in private sector funding in national education policy-making when implementing universal primary education in Sub-Sahara Africa.



The research process for this critical literature review involved searching various databases (ERIC, Academic Search Premier and Google Scholar) using multiple keywords and the use of booleans to include and exclude certain keywords and phrases from the search results. Keywords included: ‘foundations’, ‘private’, ‘policy’, ‘education for all’, ‘universal primary education’, ‘international aid’, ‘power’, ‘public-private partnerships’, and slight variations of these terms. The second step of the research process involved collecting and screening articles that were referenced in the articles found during the first step. The articles that were found to be most relevant to the topic of inquiry are represented below in Table 1. The range of topics present in the selected articles are intended to represent the broad influence of the private sector on aid, education provision and policy-making at the international and national levels. The third step involved analyzing the articles to extract common themes and critique their work.

Table 1. Basic Article Information

Author (Year) Topic Methodology
Bhatta (2011) Aid agency influence in national education policy-making literature review, case study
Hayman (2007) Donor perspectives and recipient visions of education and poverty reduction in Rwanda literature review, case study
Srivastava and Oh (2011) Private foundations, philanthropy, and partnerships in education and development literature review
Steer and Wathne (2010) Opportunities and constraints in donor financing of basic education literature review, semi-structured interviews, and case studies
Rose (2011) Achieving EFA through public-private partnerships literature review



The critical review revealed that there are multiple definitions for the agencies involved in international funding. For example, the terms, ‘aid agency’, ‘donor agency’ and ‘funding agency’ were used interchangeably between articles to mean the same thing. Furthermore, some articles expand and describe the broad categories of public and private agencies to include the various sub-levels including bilateral and multilateral public agencies, and NGO, foundation and corporate private agencies. Analysis of the selected literature indicates a strong need to clearly articulate and harmonize the definitions across the literature to progress the research agenda in this field.



Through a critical analysis of the selected articles, three major themes emerged in the literature that provide a strong rationale for this author’s research inquiry. The themes are: a growing influence of the private sector in international discourse on aid for education; the uncritical acceptance of international agreements and frameworks on education by national policy-makers in developing countries; and the need for a critical investigation into the influence of private sector partners within PPPs with national education policy-makers. The three themes relate generally to the under-researched and disorganized arrangement of private sector involvement in international aid for education provision. As such, consequences of this arrangement are further discussed in this paper including limitations of the selected papers.


A growing influence of the private sector on discourse 

Official Development Assistance (ODA) from bilateral and multilateral aid agencies has been stagnating over the last few years (UNESCO, 2008) while demand for aid in developing and fragile states have steadily increased (Srivastava & Oh, 2010; Steer & Wathne, 2010). According to Srivastava and Oh (2010), this resulted in an increase in the prominence of private sector funding in hopes of closing the gap between the supply and demand of aid. As a result, international policy circles have discussed including private partners through PPPs for delivery and have subsequently integrated it into the international policy frameworks, such as the EFA framework. However, Srivastava and Oh (2010) did not identify the proportion of education in the overall aid demand and whether PPPs and associated private partners specifically prioritized aid over other aid categories such as health.

Analyzing the response of 70 interviews with public and private aid agencies, Steer and Wathne (2010) identify that education does not have a secure position in international discourse and the prioritization of aid may lose ground relative to other issues in a rapidly changing global context. However, they also found that private involvement is a widely debated topic within international circles and respondents identified the need to understand more on the topic considering that international frameworks and national policies are increasingly including the private sector in education policy and provision.

Despite the insecure position of education aid in international discourse, the role and influence of the private sector is being felt on national policies that mirror the international policy frameworks. In a case study of donor and recipient perspectives in Rwanda, Hayman (2007) identified that the national education policy of the Government of Rwanda closely resembled international policy frameworks. In Nepal, Bhatta (2011) identified a similar trend where national policies mirrored international policy frameworks which resulted in the provision of private education by non-state actors, such as NGOs, teacher cooperatives and private operators. Some of these policies resulted in dynamic power relations between private providers and national policy-makers because of conflicting policies that did not match the needs of the local population. These conflicts are discussed in subsequent sections of this paper. While Hayman (2007) and Bhatta (2011) identified identical international and national policies in different countries, neither elaborated on the role of private influence on national and international policy, rather, they simply identified a growing prominence of non-state actors in education provision.

In an analysis of the role of PPPs in national education provision, Rose (2011) identified the growing prominence of private sector partners in education provision that may be a response to the inaccessibility and poor quality of state education provision. Rose identifies various challenges and benefits of such private involvement through PPPs using many case studies and examples in developing and fragile states. Unfortunately, according to Rose (2011), despite an active policy debate there is limited documentation of the experiences of PPPs in practice.

ODA from bilateral and multilateral agencies is a structured system of aid, supported by international agreements and frameworks, whereas contributions from the private sector are relatively unconstrained from any international agreements and frameworks. As evidenced in Nepal and Rwanda, the relative freedom of the private sector may cause disruptions and unequal power relations between partners. Therefore, a more critical understanding of the private sectors involvement in international and national discourse is urgently needed.


Uncritical acceptance of international agreements and frameworks

Various international agreements and policy frameworks on education, most notably the EFA framework, have guided national education policy-makers in developing countries to adopt and implement education policy without a critical investigation into whether those policies would function properly in the public and private provision of primary education in specific country contexts.

Bhatta (2011), Hayman (2007), and Steer and Wathne (2010) reveal that many aid agencies construct their own funding policies based on the EFA framework. Consequently, recipient countries are pressured to mirror aid policies in their own national policies in order to be eligible for external funding from aid agencies. Bhatta (2011) conducted a literature review and descriptive analysis of the influence of the EFA framework in Nepal and found that the Ministry of Education (MoE) was relegated to managing aid agencies and aid delivery instead of developing and maintaining its own distinct education system based on national priorities and needs. The decreased role and importance of the MoE resulted in the narrowing of opportunities for local ownership and provision of education, which were identified to be crucial in a sustainable national education system (Bhatta, 2011).

Drawing on the example of the education sector in Rwanda and its integration of international education policy frameworks, Hayman (2007) reported on the considerable influence of donor agencies’ policy priorities–which reflected international frameworks– and how they conflicted with the increasing need for autonomy of the Government of Rwanda. The tensions created between the conflicting policies of the international frameworks, aid agencies and the Government of Rwanda resulted in an unbalanced allocation of funding to various education sectors. For example, some education sectors such as lower secondary, vocational training, and early childhood care and development were neglected because of pressure to prioritize basic education with a limited national budget that was dependent on external aid. In both of the countries of Nepal and Rwanda, conflicting policies and priorities between international frameworks, aid agencies and national governments created tensions that resulted in an uncritically examined and vulnerable education sector.

When Steer and Wathne (2010) analyzed data from semi-structured interviews with various aid agencies, they discovered that international frameworks had a strong effect on the priorities of aid agencies and their funding. These priorities created unique funding constraints when working with recipient national governments whose own priorities based on the unique needs of their population did not necessarily reflect the policies of the aid agencies. The conflicting priorities resulted in unsustainable funding practices and even the withdrawal of funds that did not fit the priorities of both the aid agency and national government. This supports the analysis of Bhatta (2011) and Hayman (2007) in the countries of Nepal and Rwanda, respectively.


The need for a critical investigation into PPPs in practice and in research

A major theme that ran through the selected literature is the need for a critical investigation into the influence of private sector partners that are in partnerships with national education policy-making partners. Furthermore, Srivastava and Oh (2010), Steer and Wathne (2010), and Rose (2011) identify a general lack of research and data on the role of the private sector in the EFA movement at national and international levels considering its elevated prominence in the discourse and frameworks.

Srivastava and Oh (2010) specifically identify an uncritical ideological acceptance of partnerships and philanthropy that have been popularized and prioritized in international agreements and frameworks on education. They continue to analyze the historical context in which the role of private foundations have risen in prominence based on contested claims of the neutrality, efficiency and effectiveness of private funding over public bilateral and multilateral funding. However, none of the articles specifically identify instances of wrongdoing on part of the private sector partners. Srivastava and Oh (2010) only mention the historical context of colonialism and imperialism that continue to effect national policy-making and relationships with bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. Using specific examples and case studies would have strengthened their argument.

Steer and Wathne (2010) emphasize the role of leadership in public and private aid agencies. Leadership was identified in its ability to set organizational priorities of aid agencies and their aid allocation. Interestingly, Steer and Wathne (2010) report on an instance where one leader had considerable influence over another leader that resulted in a pledge of US$ 500 million in support of basic education. This instance presents a rare opportunity to analyze leadership relations that results in major monetary transfers. Unfortunately, despite the major consequences of leadership in aid allocations, there is a major gap in research into the personal motivations of leaders. Steer and Wathne’s (2010) semi-structured interviews with public and private aid agencies presented a good opportunity to collect more data on leadership within aid agencies. Unfortunately, there is a lack of critical engagement on the topic in their paper.

Much of the data used in the selected literature on the private contributions to aid are mostly based on reporting of US-based private NGOs, foundations and corporations where there are more rigid policy instruments to judge effective aid (Srivastava & Oh, 2010). Srivastava and Oh speculate on the growing number of private sector contributions to aid for education from organizations outside of the US, including from the emerging economies and China and India, and other ‘Southern’ countries. Furthermore, there is a lack of tracking of monetary transfers between organizations for the purpose of education aid and provision. For example, Switzerland was reported to be the largest recipient of aid from private American foundations. Considering that Switzerland contains many UN agencies, it may be that these funds are further transferred to other countries. An increase in data and tracking of monetary transfers would contribute greatly to the burgeoning private sector influence on international aid for education.


Relevance to research question and conclusion

Through an analysis of the selected literature, this author discovered an urgent need to expand and articulate the research agenda in the role and influence of private sector funding in national education policy-making when implementing universal primary education in Sub-Sahara Africa. Srivastava and Oh (2011) specifically identify Africa as region where there are potentially significant opportunities for contributions in education because of their adoption of international agreements and frameworks–indicating a willingness to work with external partners– and opportunities for improvement to current educational conditions. Unfortunately, there is a current lack of data on the involvement of private sector aid in developing nations in which to guide research analysis. On the other hand, this presents an opportunity to conduct primary research and data collection on an urgent and contemporary topic.

Furthermore, based on reports from UNESCO (2008), aid allocations from ODA has been stagnating over the last few years. Srivastava and Oh (2011) speculate that the private sector may increase their contributions to international aid in order to fill the gaps left behind by ODA contributions. If indeed this occurs in the near future, there needs to be a wider and more informed research literature to guide these developments in international aid and education provision to ensure a basic education for all children.



Bhatta, P. (2011). Aid agency influence in national education policy-making: A case from Nepal’s “Education for All” movement. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 9(1), 11-26.

Hayman, R. (2007). Are the MDGs enough? Donor perspectives and recipient visions of education and poverty reduction in Rwanda. International Journal of Educational Development, 27(4), 371-382.

Rose, P. (2010). Achieving Education for All through public–private partnerships? Development in Practice, 20(4-5), 473-483.

Steer, L., & Wathne, C. (2010). Donor financing of basic education: Opportunities and constraints. International Journal of Educational Development, 30(5), 472-480.

Srivastava, P., & Oh, S.-A. (2010). Private foundations, philanthropy, and partnership in education and development: Mapping the terrain. International Journal of Educational Development, 30(5), 460-471.

UNESCO. (2008). Overcoming inequality: Why governance matters. 2009 Education for All Global Monitoring Report. UNESCO, Paris.

Private Sector Financing in International Aid for Education


Abstract: This paper presents a critical literature review on the subject of international aid for education and the associated global education discourse that is marked by various international frameworks on Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Education for All (EFA). Through analysis of selected journal articles and agency reports, this author discusses three broad themes as they pertain to the global education discourse: the growing prominence of the private sector in international aid, foundations as unique private sector development partners, and the role of the private sector donors in fragile states.


Results of Literature Search
Private Sector Financing
Foundations as Unique Development Partners
Including the Unique Socio-Political Context of Fragile States


In the year 2000, the global education discourse was marked by the official adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the UN and all of its 193 member states (United Nations, 2011). The 2nd MDG, achieving universal primary education (UPE), signaled progress towards a global consensus on education efforts that began in 1990 at a summit in Jomtien, Thailand. At the summit, global leaders, “collectively committed the world community to achieving education for ‘every citizen in every society” (Dakar Framework for Action, 2000, p. 3). Between those years, various bilateral and multilateral agencies have incorporated this global consensus into their mandate, most notable being UNESCO’s Education for All framework (EFA) and its inclusion of private sector partners in order to achieve the goal of UPE. Considering the global education discourse more broadly, trends have indicated that the private sector is increasingly being relied upon to supplement financial support from bilateral and multilateral agencies (Edwards, 2009; Marten and Martin, 2008; Srivastava and Oh, 2010; Steer and Wathne, 2010).

In consideration of the global education discourse and its inclusion of the private sector as development partners, this author conducted a critical literature review in order to better understand the role of the private sector in international development for primary education in fragile states. Results of the literature search indicated the need for critical discussions on the topics of private sector financing, foundations as unique development partners, and the inclusion of fragile states within the global movement for UPE.

Results of Literature Search

This author conducted a systematic literature search for any journal articles and institutional/agency reports that included both a discussion on international development in education and private sector influences. Results of the search indicated the literature’s focus on issues pertaining to financing UPE and the role of private sector financial contributions. Much of the literature on private sector financial contributions focused on the role of foundations as the major financial contributor, which this paper will provide an overview of.

Many studies and authors cite the growing prominence of the private sector in the global education discourse (Srivastava and Oh, 2010; Steer and Wathne, 2010; Marten and Martin, 2008) independently from the influence of the global education discourse in fragile states (Turrent, 2009, 2011; Turrent and Oketch, 2009; Winthrop, Ndaruhutse and Dolan, 2010). Very few critically consider the influence and opportunities of the private sector in fragile states. Furthermore, the literature indicates that educational development priorities should be placed on improving funding mechanisms for fragile states. Considering the increasing prominence of private sector financial contributions overall, it would be worthwhile to begin a critical discussion of its role in fragile states.

Private Sector Financing

Several studies cite the current trend of decreasing Official Development Assistance (ODA) from bilateral and multilateral agencies (Srivastava and Oh, 2010; Steer and Wathne, 2010). Whilst international aid to primary education rose from $2.8 billion to $5.1 billion between 1999 and 2006 (UNESCO, 2008), this still falls short of the estimated $11 billion needed annually in order to achieve UPE (UNESCO, 2007). Steer and Wathne (2010) provide an analysis for the reasons of constraints in donor financing and make some recommendations in order to attract future financing, including contributions from the private sector. Additionally, through interviews with participants from multilateral and bilateral agencies, foundations and corporations, Steer and Wathne (2010) conclude that many remained critical of the private sector’s involvement in a typically public education system.

Despite the critical acceptance of private sector partners, there is an increasing reliance on private contributions to international aid for education in order to fill the gap left by ODA (Srivastava and Oh, 2010; Marten and Martin, 2008). During this author’s literature search for mentions of the private sector in multilateral agency’s official documentation, it was found that many mention the involvement of the private sector (UNESCO, 2006; UNESCO, 2007; UNESCO, 2008). Unfortunately, there is a lack of research and data on specific private sector contributions (Srivastaba and Oh, 2010; Steer and Wathne, 2010; Marten and Martin, 2008).

In order to better understand the effects of international aid for education on national education policy-making, Bhatta (2011) and Hayman (2007) conducted studies in Nepal and Rwanda, respectively. Both countries presented a good case study to analyze the effects of funding for UPE because of their comprehensive adoption of international frameworks on primary education into their national education policy. Bhatta (2011) discovered that dynamic power relations were occurring between donors and national education policy-makers. These power dynamics resulted in national education policies that mirrored international frameworks at the expense of being responsive to local educational needs. Hayman (2007) discovered similar trends in Rwanda where the national government implemented education policies that more closely mirrored international frameworks at the expense of local educational needs. While both studies did not go into depth about the role and influence of the private sector, both acknowledge trends in international aid for education that need to be further explored in light of the growing prominence of the private sector.

In order to progress the UPE movement and provide more opportunities at reduced risks for private sector involvement, several studies and reports put forth recommendations (Winthrop, Ndaruhutse and Dolan, 2010; Burnett, 2010; Marten and Martin, 2008). Winthrop, Ndaruhutse and Dolan (2010) encourage attracting private sector donors, including foundations, to contribute significantly to the Fast-Track Initiative (FTI) which seeks to address primary education efforts in fragile and conflict-affected states. Burnett (2010) emphasizes the pragmatic importance of involving private sector funding over the ideological criticisms because of an urgent need to attract new donors. Marten and Martin (2008) consider the rise of the philanthrocapitalism that characterizes the international efforts of private foundations. They emphasize the opportunities for a business-like approach to development that is less bureaucratic than traditional bilateral and multilateral donor approaches.

Foundations as Unique Development Partners

Within the literature on private sector contributions to international development, the role of the foundation was often used to further examine the overall influence of private sector interests (Srivastava and Oh, 2010; Marten and Martin, 2008; Edwards, 2009; Arnove and Pinede, 2007). Marten and Martin (2008) provide a useful definition for foundations: foundations are, “not profit oriented, are not of the public sector, use their financial resources (unlike NGOs), are led by an independent Board of Trustees or CEO, and aim to face issues for the common good” (p. 5). Furthermore, foundations’ efforts in international development work can be characterized as either providing financing for other actors and/or implementing their own initiatives with or without other actors (Srivastava and Oh, 2010).

Marten and Martin (2008), and Edwards (2009) discuss the unique opportunities of involving foundations in international development efforts and discuss the trend of philanthrocapitalism. Philanthrocapitalism–the use of business and the market to transform philanthropy and foreign aid (Edwards, 2009)–is a relatively new concept to international development which seeks to conceptualize and explain the role of private foundations’ efforts. Popularized at various international gatherings including the World Economic Forum and the Clinton Global Initiative, philanthrocapitalism attempts to legitimize various claims that the private business sector is capable of addressing deeply entrenched social issues at a global scale. Additionally, a central tenet of philanthrocapitalism is the practice of venture-capital investing which assumes greater control for donors in development efforts (Edwards, 2009). This is of interest to this author in examining the role of private sector financial contributions of foundations. If foundations seek more control over development efforts, what control is left for public sector partners, including bilateral and multilateral agencies, and national education policy-makers? As identified in Bhatta’s (2011) and Hayman’s (2007) study in Nepal and Rwanda, control, as an element of power, created tensions between donors and national education policy-makers resulting in conflicting education policies that did not meet local needs.

Marten and Martin (2008) highlight various benefits to philanthrocapitalism including the private sector’s ability to innovate, manage large and complex organizational structures, mobilize media attention to set agendas, and to measure impact on investments. These benefits are practices of capitalism that have proven themselves successful as indicated by the amount of financial assets that private businesses have accumulated over the years. With the advent of philanthrocapitalism, these practices are hoped to be translatable to international development work.

Srivastava and Oh (2010) criticize the role of foundations in international development work because of their lack of neutrality. They identified in the literature that foundations are highly personally-driven with diverse intentions and motivations. A large part of the Gates Foundations’ assets that are marked for development work come from a single private contributor, Warren Buffet, who donated $30 billion in 2006 (Marten and Martin, 2008). Supposing that Buffet operates under the banner philanthrocapitalism and venture-capital investing, it would be a worthwhile investigation into his intentions and motivations considering that this ‘donation’ rivals the amount given by most bilateral and multilateral funding agencies.

Arnove and Pinede (2007) are more critical of foundations’ role in international development work. They liken the practice of foundations as, “ameliorative practices to maintain social and economic systems that generate the very inequalities and injustices they wish to correct” (p. 329). As identified by Marten and Martin (2008), one of the benefits of foundations and their philanthrocapitalists is their apolitical nature and ability to prioritize development projects based on their need rather than any foreign policy or foreign economic concerns. However, Arnove and Pinede (2007) point to historical developments of American foundations over the past 60 years and their heavy involvement in political issues of the time. At the onset of the Cold War, the Henry Ford Foundation’s 1949 report called for using its vast resources, “to assist democracy to meet [the] challenge” of communism (Roelofs, 2003, p. 30). Arnove and Pinede (2007) also consider a more current topic, “post-September 11, 2001”, and the possible involvement of foundations in funding initiatives that may be diverting funds to support terrorism. While no conclusive evidence was found, it is worthwhile to note how foundations were drawn into a heavily debated topic in the American political discourse, thus refuting claims of their apolitical nature.

Including the Unique Socio-Political Context of Fragile States

Fragile states represent a unique socio-political context in which international development occurs. Fragile states are characterized by weak institutional capacity, poor governance, political instability, and/or the effects of current or past conflicts (Turrent, 2009). Education is a fundamental human right which places the responsibility on public institutions (governments) to provide an adequate basic education. However, fragile states are characterized by weak public institutions which are not able to meet the educational needs of the population. Consequently, due to weak institutional governance, funding education initiatives in fragile states remain a high-risk proposition for donor investment (Rose and Greenley, 2006; Turrent, 2011; Winthrop, Ndarahutse and Dolan, 2010).

UNESCO’s Education for All framework launched the Fast-Track Initiative (FTI) in order to ensure systematic progress towards UPE in states that are severely at-risk of not meeting the MDGs 2015 deadline. It is meant to form a global partnership between donor and developing countries to catalyze funding mechanisms that take into account the unique socio-political nature of fragile states. However, Turrent (2009, 2011) and Winthrop, Ndaruhutse and Dolan (2010) are critical of the FTI’s ability to ensure UPE by 2015. Turrent (2011) highlights the lack of measurements and data on how well a fragile state is progressing towards UPE which the FTI requires in order to ensure the proper disbursement of aid. Winthrop, Ndaruhutse and Dolan (2010) highlight an accountability issue where there exists a risk of funds being diverted towards corrupted governmental institutions. In order for proper aid delivery to UPE initiatives, donors are increasingly demanding mechanisms to reduce the investment risks, including metrics on progress and accountability, which are both dependent on a stronger state.

These donor demands presents confounding issues when considering private sector financial contributions to fragile states. Batley and McLoughlin (2010) discuss the role of private sector partners in education provision in fragile states which involves the allocation of funds. They found that weak public institutions and governance resulted in the private sector to operate without the full knowledge and cooperation of the state, which serves to further delegitimize an already weak state government. Rose and Greenley (2006) found similar issues in another fragile state, Pakistan. They found that public-private partnerships that provide private schools are being advocated by donors because of the inability of the state to provide adequate basic education (Rose and Greenley, 2006). A major provider of private schools in Pakistan is the Aga Khan Foundation, which operates on a contractual basis, case by case (Rose and Greenley, 2006). The absence of political commitment creates high-risk investments for private sector providers and donors resulting in unsystematic partial measures over time. These piecemeal measures stand in opposition to the global consensus to coordinate a systematic response to achieving UPE.


In conclusion, the results of the critical literature review indicate the need for critical discussions on the topics of private sector financing, foundations as unique development partners, and the inclusion of fragile states within the global movement for UPE. It is this author’s analysis, based on the literature, that each discussion is dependent on the other. In order to progress UPE and ultimately EFA, partnerships must be continually explored as the global education discourse continues to evolve to include more development partners. Indeed, the 8th goal of the MDGs, ‘Global Partnerships’, reflects the need for diverse and multiple partners along with traditional bilateral and multilateral development agencies in order to achieve all the preceding goals, including achieving universal primary education (United Nations, 2011).


Arnove, R., & Pinede, N. (2007). Revisiting the “big three” foundations. Critical Sociology, 33(3), 389-425.

Batley, R., & Mcloughlin, C. (2010). Engagement with non-state service providers in fragile states : Reconciling state-building and service delivery. Development Policy Review, 28(2), 131-154.

Bhatta, P. (2011). Aid agency influence in national education policy-making: A case from Nepal’s “Education for All” movement. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 9(1), 11-26.

Burnett, N. (2010). Financing education : Thoughts on priorities for the next decade. Journal of Educational Planning and Administration, 24(3), 285-301.

Edwards, M. (2009). Gates , Google , and the ending of global poverty : Philanthrocapitalism and International Development. Brown Journal of World Affairs, 15(2), 35-42.

Hayman, R. (2007). Are the MDGs enough? Donor perspectives and recipient visions of education and poverty reduction in Rwanda. International Journal of Educational Development, 27(4), 371-382.

Marten, R., & Martin, J. (2008). Transforming development? The role of philanthropic foundations in international development cooperation. Global Public Policy Institute Research Paper Series No. 10 (Vol. 10). Retrieved from

Roelofs, J. (2003). Foundations and public policy: The mask of pluralism. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Rose, P. & Greeley, M. (2006). Education in fragile states: Capturing lessons and identifying good practice. Centre for International Education. Prepared for the DAC Fragile States Group Service Delivery Workstream Sub-Team for Education Services. Retrieved from

Srivastava, P., & Oh, S.-A. (2010). Private foundations, philanthropy, and partnership in education and development: Mapping the terrain. International Journal of Educational Development, 30(5), 460-471.

Steer, L., & Wathne, C. (2010). Donor financing of basic education: Opportunities and constraints. International Journal of Educational Development, 30(5), 472-480. Elsevier Ltd.

Turrent, V. (2011). Financing access and participation in primary education : Is there a “fast-track” for fragile states? International Journal of Educational Development, 31(4), 409-416.

Turrent, V., & Oketch, M. (2009). Financing universal primary education : An analysis of official development assistance in fragile states. International Journal of Educational Development, 29, 357-365.

UNESCO. (2000). Dakar Framework for Action: Education for All. UNESCO, Paris.

UNESCO. (2006). UNESCO-Private Sector Partnerships: Making a Difference. UNESCO, Paris.

UNESCO. (2007). EFA Global Monitoring Report 2008: Education for All by 2015 Will we make it? UNESCO, Paris.

UNESCO. (2008). EFA Global Monitoring Report 2009: Overcoming Inequality: Why Governance Matters. UNESCO, Paris.

United Nations. (2011). Millennium Development Goals Report 2011. United Nations, New York.

Winthrop, R., Ndaruhutse, S., Dolan, J., & Adams, A. (2010). Financing for all : How to include fragile and conflict-affected states in the FTI. The Centre for Universal Education at Brookings. Retrieved from

Arts Curriculum in Ontario: Epistemology and Pedagogy in Inclusive Education Practice

The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: The Arts, 2009 presents a rare opportunity in the education discourse to analyze the often polarized roles of epistemology and pedagogy in inclusive education practice.

In this paper, we will explore educators’ epistemological beliefs in the arts and how these beliefs inform their inclusive pedagogy and whether the language in The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: The Arts, 2009 reflects this pedagogical approach.

More specifically, through the writings of Brophy (2006) and Kirschner (2009) we come to understand the polarized debate around epistemology and pedagogy and how they often get mixed up and confused in constructivist pedagogy. Then, we explore the writings of Eisner (2001, 2002) who exemplifies a unique constructivist epistemology and pedagogy of arts teachers and how standards-based reforms threaten their unique pedagogical approaches. Lastly, we explore how educators’ epistemology and pedagogy inform their teaching practice in an inclusive classroom.

To begin, a broad overview of The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: The Arts, 2009 document, wherein referred to as the curriculum document, will be explored in order to understand the context in which it was developed and how it is meant to be used. Special attention will be given to the sections on Instructional Approaches and Teaching Strategies and Planning Arts Programs for Students with Special Education Needs and how these sections exemplify the discourse on inclusive education policy.


The current and historical context of the Ontario Arts Curriculum

The most recent version of the Ontario arts curriculum document is a revised edition from 2009 which replacesThe Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: The Arts, 1998. In Ontario, Canada, the provincial Ministry of Education (MOE) administers a system of publicly funded education institutions, issues and oversees curricula, sets diploma requirements, and sets policy for student assessments, evaluation and reporting (Ontario Ministry of Education Website). The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: The Arts, 2009, is a curriculum policy document that outlines what the public can expect children in the grades 1-8 to learn in Ontario’s public elementary schools within the arts.

The current document is labeled as a revision. Beginning in 2003, the MOE established a schedule to revise curriculum documents on an ongoing basis, to ensure that the curriculum is kept current and relevant (Ontario Ministry of Education Website). According to the MOE website, the revision process involves multiple stakeholders from various levels of education. While the list of stakeholders is exhaustive, there is no specific information on how they are involved. Also on the MOE website, is mention of a Curriculum Council, a collection of, “knowledgeable and committed community leaders” (Ontario Ministry of Education Website) who provide advice on issues relating to elementary and secondary school curriculum. However, there is no specific information on how the Curriculum Council is involved in the process.

Beginning in 1995, the MOE of Ontario began implementing standards-based reforms which included a prescribed curriculum and standards-based testing. According to Jordan (2001), these policy reforms indicated a move towards market-driven controls that emphasized centralization and accountability of individual schools. These market-driven reforms resulted in more narrow definitions of student achievement throughout the school subjects which is reflected in the current arts curriculum document in the section on Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement and its associated criteria and expectations for student achievement.


Intended Audience

It is this author’s interpretation that the document is meant for the classroom teacher. While this author could not identify any specific mention of who the intended audience is, a large proportion of the document is dedicated to instructional approaches, teaching strategies, and assessment and evaluation of student achievement, which this paper focuses on.

In addition to the emphasis placed on teacher’s roles and responsibilities, the document outlines the roles and responsibilities of other stakeholders in a student’s academic achievement in the arts including the student themselves, parents, principals and community partners. The roles and responsibilities of the principal are more specific to institutional practices in Ontario education including ensuring that the arts curriculum is being properly implemented according to the document and that every student who has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is receiving the modifications and/or accommodations described in his or her plan.


Special Education Needs in the arts curriculum

The document includes a section on planning arts programs for children with special education needs. The document refers readers to several supplementary education documents, namely, Education for All: The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students With Special Education Needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6, 2005 (EFA) and The Individual Education Plan (IEP): A Resource Guide, 2004.

According to the curriculum document, and confirmed by this author, the EFA outlines a set of beliefs that should guide program planning for students with special education needs. However, the EFA document places emphasis on literacy and numeracy with no mention of the arts curriculum.

The rest of the section on including children with special education needs outlines several instructional practices including universal design and differentiated instruction, accommodations and modifications, and IEP considerations. However, there is no mention of how these instructional practices relate to the arts. The document simply mirrors the language and text in the EFA document, including mentioning that teachers are the key to student’s literacy and numeracy development.


Constructivist epistemology and pedagogy in an inclusive classroom

In order to deepen our understanding of instructional practices within arts education we turn to a discussion and exploration about educators’ epistemological beliefs in the arts and how these beliefs inform their inclusive pedagogy and whether the language in the curriculum document reflects this pedagogical approach.

Epistemology is concerned with the nature of knowledge and how it is constructed and validated (Brophy, 2006; Kirschner, 2009). Pedagogy is concerned with how an educator approaches their teaching practice in order to optimize the student’s construction of knowledge that reflects the intended purposes of a unit of study in the classroom (Brophy, 2006; Kirschener, 2009).

Using an epistemological approach to education (where the teacher transmits whole units of knowledge) is not an appropriate pedagogy for children, who have a ‘qualitatively’ (Vygotsky & Luria, 1930/1992) different frame of mind when developing and creating units of knowledge (Brophy, 2006; Kirschner, 2009; Nuthall, 1999, 2002, 2004).

Kirschner (2009) uses the analogy of the expert and novice to illustrate the fundamental differences between adults and children. An expert’s approach to knowledge acquisition and retrieval, differ radically from a novice’s approach to acquisition and retrieval. An expert uses his/her, “theoretical sophistication and wealth of experience” (Kirschner, 2009, p. 149) to the acquisition and retrieval of new knowledge. Whereas a novice, still in their formative stages of their conceptual development, represents knowledge very differently from an expert.

Therefore, if a teacher or expert adopts their own epistemology and uses it in their pedagogy to transmit knowledge to a child or novice, that knowledge, which rests on an experienced and complex organization of accessible content knowledge (Kirschner, 2009), will not be easily acquired and retrievable by the child or novice.

Kirschner (2009) continues to elaborate this distinction between epistemology and pedagogy through more recent curriculum reforms in the sciences. The curriculum in the natural sciences have moved towards teaching science as a process and procedure rather than teaching science as a body of knowledge that can be transmitted to the learner.

Kirschner (2009) identifies one major problem in most curriculum approaches that seem to confuse the epistemological practice of expert scientists for the pedagogical practice of science teachers. In other words, the confusion arises when learning through discovery and inquiry (constructivism) is based upon teaching science as inquiry (emphasis on the process of science in curriculum) rather than teaching science by inquiry (using the process of science to learn science). The problem is that no distinction is made between an expert scientist, with a developed epistemology to knowledge acquisition and retrieval, and a novice student, who does not have the same developed epistemology (through discovery and inquiry) to acquire new knowledge.

Instead, according to Kirschner (2009), teachers should focus on teaching science by inquiry (using the process of science to learn science). This method of instruction fits well with the constructivist approach to teaching where the student is recognized as not having an deficient epistemological approach to knowledge acquisition and retrieval, but a radically different and unique epistemological approach which can be developed through a teacher’s constructivist pedagogical approach.

The Ontario arts curriculum document often identifies the student learner as having a developing epistemology in the arts. According to the curriculum document, a student’s epistemology is based on their own personal and cultural experiences, “…all of which have an impact on their prior knowledge about the arts and about the world in which they live” (p. 36) which needs to be guided and nurtured by the teacher.

Furthermore, considerable attention and detail are given to the development of a student’s epistemology in the arts in the sections on The Creative Process and The Critical Analysis Process. The document explains that creativity, “…involves the intervention and the assimilation of new thinking and its integration with existing knowledge” (p. 19). In defining the role of the teacher in the student’s creative process, the document emphasizes instructional practices such as guiding, prompting, and modeling, all of which suggest a highly constructivist pedagogy.


Considering Assessments and Evaluations

Eisner, who wrote much on the subject of curriculum development and arts education (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009), makes a distinction between learning the arts through a standards-based approach to curriculum where units are individually taught to students and teaching a pluralistic approach to arts education where there are various ways to construct meaning in the world (Eisner, 2001). Eisner (2001) advocates that teachers should co-construct knowledge with their students based on the student’s previous experience and knowledge of the arts.

Considering the distinction that Kirschner (2009) and Brophy (2006) make between epistemology and pedagogy, Eisner (2001) is erroneously creating a distinction between standards and pluralism. Eisner’s (2001) first distinction, the standards-based approach, is a pedagogical approach in arts education whereas the second distinction, the pluralistic approach, is an epistemological approach in arts education as understood by the expert teacher. Brophy (2006) and Kirschner (2009) argue that these are fundamentally different approaches and care should be given when linking the two concepts to teaching practice.

Eisner (2001) seems to be characterizing the arts educator as social constructivist educator who, according to Brophy (2006), has much more to say about learning than about teaching. In other words, social constructivist educators are more concerned with the epistemology of the arts rather than pedagogical issues in the arts.

Brophy (2006) cautions that, “…it is unrealistic to expect to be able to educate teachers to implement social constructivist principles without systematizing them into operational models of teaching” (p. 530). Drawing from the work of Graham Nuthall (1999, 2002, 2004) on social constructivist teaching, Brophy (2006) highlights the ways in which purely social constructivist teaching methods are inappropriate in the classroom because they lack a strong method of assessment and evaluation on student performance. Other critics, such as Sewall (2000), cautions educators against over-emphasizing inquiry-based instruction at the expense of, “…carefully prepared lesson(s)…focused and guided…; interspersed with small group work when appropriate; and with a clear sense of direction at the beginning and summary at the end, leaving all participants with a feeling of completion and satisfaction” (p. 6).

Indeed, the majority of the curriculum document is dedicated towards assessment and evaluation of the student achievement while often mentioning constructivist learning theory. While the document emphasizes the student’s own initiative and that, “students learn best by doing” (p. 36) there is also a strong emphasis on direct instruction and modeling of knowledge by the teacher in order to nurture a life-long appreciation of the arts as an expert might understand and appreciate the arts. Direct instruction and modeling of knowledge as understood by the expert teacher creates the opportunities to weave standards-based assessment and evaluation criteria into the arts curriculum.

While the arts document often mentions constructivist learning theory (directly and indirectly), it is mostly from the perspectives of the student and their educational needs. The sections on Roles and Responsibilities of the teacher and Instructional Approaches and Teaching Strategies make no mention of teacher’s own beliefs and knowledge in the arts and how these may contribute and influence their teaching practice. According to Kirschner (2009), it may be wise for curriculum documents to acknowledge the unique perspectives and beliefs of the teacher and how this may influence their practice. An over-emphasis on constructivist teaching practices in the arts document may lessen the importance for assessment and evaluation of student achievement.


Considering educator beliefs and inclusive classrooms

Jordan, Glenn, and McGhie-Richmond (2010) conducted a study to examine the relationship between elementary general education teachers’ beliefs about disability and ability, their roles in the inclusive classroom, and how these relate to teaching practices. They identified several different epistemological beliefs of teachers which influenced their teaching practices with children with disabilities (Jordan, Glenn, & McGhie-Richmond, 2010).

Using a survey called, Beliefs about Learning and Teaching Questionnaire (BLTQ)(Glenn, 2007; Glenn, Schwartz, & Jordan, 2007) Glenn (2007) discovered that teachers that hold an ‘Entity’ belief (Dweck, 2000; Stipek et al., 2001), where ability is seen as a fixed trait, often present at birth, believe that children with less ability have a limited responsiveness to learning. Teachers that hold an ‘Incremental’ belief view ability as malleable and responsive to learning under the right conditions. Based on this survey and another study on teacher beliefs (Stanovich & Jordan,1998) Jordan, Glenn, and McGhie-Richmond (2010) summarized that there is a relationship between teachers’ underlying beliefs about the nature of knowledge and learning, and their beliefs about ability and disability.

Furthermore, these underlying beliefs of teachers strongly influenced their teaching practices with children with disabilities in an inclusive classroom. Teachers that held an ‘Entity’ belief of disabilities preferred that students with disabilities should be taught by specialist teachers in separate settings (Jordan, 2001). Teachers that held an ‘Incremental’ belief included children with disabilities in the main work of the classroom and adapted their instructional practice according to the unique needs of every child (Jordan et al., 1997; Roach, 1998).

In the curriculum document, in the section on children with special education needs, there is almost no mention of disabilities and educators’ beliefs about disabilities other than stating, in point form, that, “all students can succeed” (p. 43). The text in this section focuses on specific instructional practices, including working collaboratively with the special education resource teacher, and developing instructions based on individual student’s IEP and whether the student needs accommodations or modifications.



In this paper, we explored educators’ epistemological beliefs in the arts and how these beliefs inform their inclusive pedagogy and whether the language in The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: The Arts, 2009 reflects this pedagogical approach. Through an analysis of the language in the curriculum document including the relative weight given to different issues and topics in arts education, we discovered a strong emphasis on constructivist pedagogy as Eisner (2001) would characterize many arts teachers. However, taking note of Brophy (2006) and Kirschner’s (2009) distinction between epistemology and pedagogy, we discover that the curriculum document attempts to reconcile a constructivist pedagogy in the arts with the importance of standards-based assessments and evaluations in Ontario’s public education system.


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Applying a Critical Theory Framework to Public-Private Partnerships

Our society is undergoing a profound change which is revolutionizing the way we live, learn, earn and consume. We are exiting the Information Age and into an age where knowledge is highly valued and considered a primary economic output. The question of our time is whether our education systems are adequately prepared to bring our young into a radically different working world in which they can produce knowledge and content in a highly competitive economic marketplace.

In this paper, I use a critical theory framework to examine conditions that create social injustice in public-private partnerships. Of specific interest to this paper are partnerships between private corporations and schools in the provision of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for use in the classroom by students. I begin by making the case that ICT use in schools is a necessary prerequisite of a knowledge society (Hargreaves, 2003) and, furthermore, that public-private partnerships (PPPs) are a compelling method in which ICT can be implemented into the classroom to ensure digital equity. Then, using a critical theory framework I examine two conditions of social injustice in PPPs: neoliberal forces that threaten the democratic public education system and power dynamics that oppress particular partners.

Table of contents:

A necessary prerequisite
Applying a critical theory framework to explore PPPs
Neoliberalism and democracy
Consider power

A Necessary Prerequisite

Many educational theorists from Dewey (1902) to Hargreaves (2003) have situated the public education system within the broader social-political-economic context. A common thread through the various theories of education is that an education system is meant to prepare young people for the challenges and opportunities of an economically productive adult life.

Hargreaves (2003), a contemporary education theorist, has written much on the burgeoning knowledge society that is defining our contemporary world–a world in which economic growth and prosperity are increasingly influenced by the creation of knowledge and the resulting economic output of services, ideas and communications.

Within this new society the education system is tasked with creating learning opportunities and environments for young people to develop multiple literacies to contribute to the creation of new knowledge (Kellner, 2003). These new literacies in media, computer, and information will, “empower students to participate in the expanding high-tech culture and network society” (Kellner, 2003, p.60). Furthermore, these multiple forms of literacies respond well to postmodern (Bourdieu, 1983) concepts of knowledge and learning that are defining young people as a ‘digital native’ (Crook, 2011). It is becoming increasingly important that classrooms have multiple and diverse sets of ICTs to meet the needs of the postmodern student who will interpret and produce knowledge through multiple literacies.

In light of this burgeoning new society, the influence of the private sector is increasingly being felt within the public education system (Jones & Bird, 2000). In contrast to the traditional classroom that utilized low-tech tools such as the pencil and paper, the postmodern classroom will increasingly rely on high-tech tools such as computers, tablets, mobile phones, and the Internet (Aviram, 2001), all of which fall under the umbrella of ICTs. The design, production and distribution of most ICTs exists within a highly competitive and profit-driven corporate industry. Therefore, in the provision of ICTs for the classroom, public-private partnerships are increasingly being formed to ensure a contemporary, digital classroom for the postmodern digital native.

Many studies have underscored the importance of distributing ICTs at a large-scale in order to ensure digital equity (Chen, 2006; Jones & Bird, 2000; Judge & Puckett, 2004). This large-scale implementation of ICTs in schools rests in part on the ability of private enterprises to supply a large amount of technology to many schools. Considering the importance of digital equity and responding to multiple literacies, private enterprises stand to profit immensely in the provision of proprietary products within a capitalist society.

Despite the high stakes for both partners, there are relatively few studies on how schools acquire ICTs for use in the classroom. This gap in research alludes to the misunderstood and unregulated nature of public-private partnerships which many studies have documented (Eyre, 2002; Jones & Bird, 2000; White, 2007; Miraftab, 2004).

In sum, recognizing the unique needs of a postmodern digital native and their ability to function in an emerging knowledge society, public-private partnerships have an increasing role in the provision of ICTs for use in the classroom. This paper uses the implementation of ICTs in the classroom as a backdrop to critique the role of private enterprises within the public-private partnership. The need for a critique is largely due to the recognition that private enterprises have increased roles and obligations in digital equity, while at the same time, stand to generate immense profit by selling proprietary products thus fulfilling a self-interest goal. This seeming contradiction between obligation and self-interest may create the conditions of social injustice which will be explored in the succeeding sections of this paper.

Applying a critical theory framework to explore PPPs

A critical theory framework will be used to deepen our understanding of PPPs, its role in the provision of ICTs, and the conditions that create social injustice. Building on the theories of Hegel and Marx, Kellner (2003) developed a critical theory framework that allows for, “more inclusive positions and to connect education directly to democratization and the changing of social relations in the direction of equality and social justice” (p. 13). This framework takes into consideration the changing nature of education in light of radically different social-political-economic conditions which characterize the emerging knowledge society. Furthermore, according to Kellner, this critical theory of education can assist in conceptualizing specific features of existing capitalist societies and the manner in which power dynamics create conditions of domination and subordination, as well as, openings for progressive social change in an inclusive education system.

Neoliberalism and Democracy

The traditional private sector is run by private individuals with minimal control by the state and for the purpose of generating profit. In contrast, the public sector is state controlled for the purpose of delivering social goods and services for the well-being of citizens. Within an increasingly globalized and complex world these two sectors are blending, whether intentional or not, in order to construct a functional social, political, and economic system. However, ideological chasms still remain which create the conditions of social injustice. The main ideological chasm is between neoliberalism and democracy.

Within our globalized and complex world, a social-political-economic condition on the rise is neoliberalism and its increasing influence on the public education system (Davidson-Harden & Majhanovich, 2004; Miraftab, 2004; Kellner, 2003; Eyre 2002; White, 2007; Whitty & Power, 2000). Davidson-Harden (2004) defines ‘neoliberalism’ as, “a set of social and economic policy imperatives which have stressed the increasing employment and shift toward the use of market mechanisms as modes of governance in capitalist societies” (p. 269). Furthermore, in states where neoliberalism has taken hold, state intervention has shifted from providing social programs to, “fostering the growth and viability of business interests in various sectors” (p. 269).

As I have outlined above, Hargreaves’ knowledge society is primarily concerned with the type of education that is needed in order to produce employable adults. These adults must be able to produce new knowledge through multiple literacies in the workplace to stay competitive. As such, aspects of neoliberalism are already embedded in a prominent ideologically conception of an appropriate contemporary education system that is based on the burgeoning knowledge society.

Davidson-Harden (2004) acknowledges another aspect of neoliberalism: the state’s reduced role in the governance and provision of education systems. A number of studies in Canada, England, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand have documented the manner in which the state reduced its direct intervention whether through budgetary cutbacks or decreased role in governance (Davidson-Harden, 2004; Jones & Bird, 2000; Whitty & Power, 2000). In each instance, when state intervention was absent or minimized, private enterprises assumed the governance and provision of education, thus fulfilling the neoliberal agenda.

Considering that neoliberalism has already taken hold in many public education systems in Western countries, Kellner’s critical theory framework is apt to explore specific features of existing capitalist societies and its effects on the public education system. Much of the literature on PPPs in education have defined these features as commercialization, commodification, privatization and marketization. Each of these features consider education to be a tradable commodity. This stands in opposition to education as a social right where every individual has a right to an education regardless of income and purchasing ability. This social right characterizes the democratic public education system.

Davidson-Harden (2004) notes the growing ideological tensions that arise between the perspectives of education as a tradable commodity and a social right. Using a critical theory framework, we see that tensions arise because of ideological differences between public education systems and private enterprises. The private enterprise functions within a capitalist society where profit can be generated by viewing education as a tradable commodity. Whereas the public education system is a democratic institution that is meant to provide equal access to education regardless of where the funding comes from. These tensions in ideology is what creates the conditions of social injustice where each partner has differing interests in the provision of education.

In a broad study of neoliberalist reforms in two areas of England, Ken Jones and Kate Bird (2000) described in detail the patterns of governance and the relationship between public and private partners in the establishment of Education Action Zones (EAZ) that were meant to raise the standards in disadvantaged areas. The EAZs were meant to unite public and private governance structures to create a system that was more flexible, decentralized, innovative, and capable of dynamic responses to social exclusion.

The results of Jones and Bird’s analysis indicated that the partners involved in the new form of governance were not attentive enough to the inequalities of power and resources, and the subsequent conflict of interests. The private partners had radically different ideologies in the provision of education and subsequently developed policies that applied market and business mechanisms to the governance of the the EAZs. Tensions arose because the business-oriented policies stood in contrast to the traditional model of public governance that characterized the education system in the past.

Considering power

In the literature on PPPs, the most prominent condition that creates social injustices are the power imbalances that occur between partners with conflicting interests. Various concepts of power have been articulated by theorists and applied to partnerships in education. The dynamics of power can be conceptualized along a spectrum ranging from Anthony Giddens’ (as cited in Stewart, 2001) concept of power as the transformative capacity of an individual to Stephen Lukes’ (as cited in Burbules, 1986) concept of power which involves inevitable conflicts of interest that result in instances of oppression.

For the purpose of this paper, Lukes’ concept of power is used to examine instances of PPPs where conflicts of interest arise because of power imbalances between private enterprises and public education institutions. In these instances of power imbalances, it is typical to observe the subsequent oppression of at least one partner which erodes the possibility of a successful partnership with mutual benefits.

Robert White (2007) conducted a study of corporate involvement in two Canadian school districts and illustrated the powerful influences of private corporations on a public education system. The purpose of the corporate involvement was to implement computers in various schools in response to public pressures to modernize the classrooms. Similar to this paper, White found a lack of critical perspectives on corporate involvement and designed a study to examine the intentions, processes, and attitudes and perceptions of a PPP between an ICT corporation and two school districts.

The results of White’s analysis found that all partners lacked clarity on the process of developing partnerships, especially within the public sector partners. In situations such as this, power relations become ambiguous and create instances of social injustice as one partner strives to meet their interests at the conflict of another’s interests. Furthermore, the absence of policies and laws perpetuates instances of power imbalances as there are no protections for the oppressed partners.

In both cases of the EAZs and the implementation of computers in Canadian schools, power dynamics were ambiguous to one or more of the partners involved in the PPP. This leaves the opportunity for one partner to take advantage of another partner and oppress their interests in order to fulfill their self-interest, thus creating instances of social injustice.

Additionally, both cases recognized the mounting pressures to modernize the classroom in light of a rapidly changing social climate. Amidst the rapid adoption of new technologies and modes of governance with private enterprises as partners, conditions are created for social injustice because there is no critical awareness of the processes of partnerships. A critical theory framework helps to conceptualize the power dynamics occurring so that different policies and partnership arrangements can be developed.

In consideration of the knowledge society, careful attention must be given to conditions of social injustice in order to ensure a more balanced, collaborative and mutually beneficial partnership between private enterprises and public education systems. A central tenet to each and every partnership should be the consideration of the postmodern digital native and their access to a high-quality, contemporary educational experience that will lead them into a fulfilling, yet unknown, society.


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Masters in Early Childhood Studies

I am proud to announce that I’ve been accepted into the Masters of Arts program in Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University. I am very excited about attending this program and learning from the amazing faculty that are involved in various levels of Early Childhood practice and study. I believe it will greatly advance my career aspirations in the education sector.

To get a better idea of my career aspirations and my intentions within the program, here is my Statement of Interest that accompanied my application to the program:

I am pursuing graduate education to gain more in-depth knowledge, acquire critical thinking skills and attain an understanding of different methodologies to prepare me to pursue a career in early childhood education policy making. I am particularly interested in a child’s right to a developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant, quality education. In the future I would like to work with national governments to build and strengthen an education system that ensures equity and inclusion in education. Furthermore, I believe that digital technology and the Internet could provide huge benefits to ensure inclusion and access in education and I would like to conduct research to shed light on the role of digital technology in education and how to properly develop school delivery models that meet the diverse needs of children.

During my studies at Ryerson, I would like to pursue research on the role of digital technology in early childhood education. Specifically, I would like to take a critical perspective of digital equity and the potential for digital technology and the Internet to support and strengthen education programs in marginalized and isolated communities. I have already begun this line of research through distance education courses at the University of British Columbia’s Masters of Education in Early Childhood Education program and through my current employment at a global education initiative at Microsoft.

I graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and an option in International Studies. Most of my courses focused on developmental psychology and during my years of study at the university I volunteered at the research-focused early childhood education centre that was part of the university. During my studies, I continually strived to match my academic experiences with real-world experiences including working on a UNESCO-sponsored global partnership between universities and peace-building NGOs. During my work on this initiative, I travelled to Bangkok, Thailand to organize a global forum and I also wrote many position papers and proposals, one of which secured $24,000 in funding. From that experience, I learned that there is a capacity for a global effort to accomplish major goals for the betterment of humanity. I also learned about some of the mechanisms for global cooperation and collaboration. This knowledge has inspired me to take on large-scale educational reforms.

Since graduating, I have continued working in relevant fields including working with youth and family communication workshops in marginalized and low-income communities. While working in these fields, I matched my front line work with broader policy work while sitting on the board of directors for a poverty reduction and prevention organization. My intent was to immerse myself into the issue of youth poverty and isolation through multiple vantage points and perspectives.

Currently, I am the communications coordinator for an academic department at the University of Waterloo that aims to generate new inter-disciplinary knowledge about social innovations and the social innovation process in Canada. Through this position, I am learning to view intractable problems through a systems and complexity lens. With a rapidly emerging field of digital technology and its implications in education, I believe it is of the utmost importance to understand the complexity of the field and deliver solutions that solve systemic problems and that are built from multiple perspectives.

My overarching career objective is to actively work on the second Millennium Development Goal set forth by the United Nations: universal primary education. I want to advocate that early childhood education is a right and can have massive long-term economic, social and individual benefits [click here to read a previous post on the subject of economic benefits]. I believe that digital technology can achieve huge gains in educational attainment and access, however, because it is an emerging and constantly evolving field, I would like to have the skills to sufficiently assess its effectiveness and coordinate proper delivery.

The program at Ryerson will offer me the critical skills and methodologies to properly understand the constantly emerging field of early childhood education and the potential for digital technology to make substantial gains in inclusion. Its focus on diversity and inclusion will give me a broader perspective of the educational needs of a global population.

Nick Petten

To read more about my ideas and thoughts around Early Childhood Education, please visit my ‘Education’ section on this website.

How to Educate a Planet

I was inspired to call this blog post, “How to Educate a Planet” based on a research study that was highlighted in the Harvard International Review. The purpose of the research was to investigate the connection between the personal computer and educational attainments in developed and developing countries. In the study, they highlight two major education initiatives: the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) goal of establishing universal primary education (UPE) and Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program. The programs are identified has representing two very different approaches to improving education on a global scale.

Continue reading “How to Educate a Planet”

The Multiple Disciplines of Early Childhood Education

In The Multiple Disciplines of Early Childhood Education I look at how various disciplines all contribute to the growing and evolving field of early childhood education. I reflect on the disciplines of my teammates and friends that are doing amazing work across the world and how what they learn can contribute to my own passions and aspirations.

Continue reading “The Multiple Disciplines of Early Childhood Education”

Economic Benefit of Early Childhood Education

Most national governments have ratified the various international agreements that recognize the importance and vulnerability of children. Most recognize that special attention most go towards developing an effective educational system to tackle the complexity involved in human development. However, for most national governments, often the benefits of early childhood education (ECE) is not viewed from the child’s perspective, but from the economic benefit that comes with a highly educated adult workforce.
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Learning Theories in the Early Childhood Classroom

Within the social constructivist theory, learning is explained as involving a complex interaction of interdependent social and individual processes that co-construct knowledge. The learner constructs his or her knowledge from a range of internal and external experiences where pre-existing schemas and knowledge are adapted to the newly acquired knowledge. Continue reading “Learning Theories in the Early Childhood Classroom”