The IFC Helps Private Equity Expand Into Global HigherEd “Markets”

Today’s interesting tidbit comes from University World News:

“Today’s globalised world requires high quality and relevance of post-secondary education…to ensure that youth have the necessary soft and hard skills and tools to meet the dynamic needs of the private sector and market-driven economies in most countries,” Tsitsiragos said.

“But it is a ‘chicken and egg’ situation – while the private sector needs to grow to be able to create jobs, the private sector cannot in fact expand sufficiently without workers with the right skills.”

The IFC, which is the private sector funding arm of the World Bank, is supporting a number of education providers and private firms that can provide skills training. It is also providing loans to private higher education institutions that can meet the demand for higher skills.

A number of private education providers, private equity firms and financial institutions have been invited to the conference with the IFC, hoping to link education and skills providers with funders.

“The IFC is the lead player and is uniquely placed to make connections, drawing together all sectors,” said Svava Bjarnason, IFC’s principal education specialist.

Many financial institutions cannot invest long term in emerging economies because they do not understand the nature of the risks. “We try to help local finance providers to understand the education sector,” Bjarnason told University World News.

With many thanks to a class on comparative international education taught by the indomitable Carolyn Hahn I am somewhat versed in the role of the World Bank in the spread of global education. However, I do not recall an instance of them fostering the expansion of higher education. As important as post-secondary education is to the development of human capital and self-actualization, many nations face far more urgent immediate needs. As a result the World Bank’s education focus has overwhelmingly focused on primary and secondary schooling.

It is hard for me to not read this article in light of the colonial histories of the countries named. It is also difficult for me to separate this attention to expanding higher education in developing nations from the ever-present urge of industrialized nations to find cheaper, smarter labor supplies AND bigger markets.

Commodified global higher education using an NGO to colonize the knowledge production of developing nations for the financial benefit of privately held foreign entities…it has a sad, familiar ring to it, n’est pas?

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