Protect the right to education in public-private partnership, UN expert urges

NEW YORK – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, has called on all UN Member States to focus on strengthening the right to education when seeking partnerships for education.

“The importance of respecting human rights in commercial dealings is even more important when contracting out the delivery of a right, such as education,” the human rights expert stressed.  

The UN Expert placed a strong emphasis on the role of Governments to protect the public interest when entering into partnerships with other stakeholders. He noted with concern the many risks which emerge from partnerships with for-profit providers, and outlined the obligations of States to establish proper laws and regulations, as well as monitoring and oversight requirements to mitigate against the risk of abuse in any partnership.

Mr. Singh urged States to seek out partners committed to the social interest in education, and those with a philanthropic spirit. “Governments must reject arguments that without profit, no private provider will wish to open a school. Most of the finest, most famous private universities in the world are not-for-profit organizations. Partnerships must be based on meeting social responsibility in education, not the commercial interest of the private partner,” the Special Rapporteur emphasized.

“Care must be taken to ensure negotiations for public-private partnerships are fully transparent and are not kept confidential. Transparency must be the cornerstone of any dealings with private providers of education,” he added.  

“While acknowledging the need for innovation in education, I urge Governments to refrain from privatizing education to meet these new goals. If education is not free, social inequality will increase,” Mr. Singh warned. “While we witness a rapid rise of private providers, often unregulated and privileging the wealthiest sections of the population, renewed efforts are needed to reduce inequality and expand opportunities of good quality public education without exclusion.”

“Before considering any partnership with the private sector, Governments should carefully review its potential impact on the effective enjoyment of the right to education,” the expert concluded as he presented his report* to the General Assembly on Thursday.

See the report:


Kishore Singh (India), the Special Rapporteur on the right to education since August 2010, is a professor specialized in international law who has worked for many years with UNESCO for the promotion of the right to education, and advised a number of international, regional and national bodies on right to education issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh has supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked to promote better understanding of this right as an internationally recognized right. Learn more, log on to:

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.