Research Output
Blurring boundaries: towards a reconceptualisation of the private sector in education.
  This Special Issue of Compare stems from papers presented to the eighth United Kingdom Forum for International Education and Training (UKFIET) Oxford International Conference on Education and Development in 2005. It draws, in particular, on a set of panels focused on moving towards ‘Reconceptualising private sector contributions to learning and livelihood’ which explored, from diverse perspectives, how private education provision is understood and how livelihood both shapes and results from private sector investment in learning. Emerging from the conference discussions was a series of conceptual, methodological and practical challenges concerning how the private sector's changing role in education is understood. The papers collected here reflect on and extend those debates and consider the implications for policy, practice and academic research. Offering new insights into these themes is particularly timely, firstly, given the increasing emphasis on an enhanced role for the private sector in policy and programme development as a partner in reaching Education for All; and secondly, given the related growth of research into this area over recent years.

This collection extends the debate initiated in an earlier edition of Compare which focused on decentralisation of education and the implications of such policy and practice on the range of actors involved and provision on offer (Dyer & Rose, 2005 Dyer, C. and Rose, P. 2005. Decentralisation for educational development: an editorial introduction. Compare, 35(2): 105–114.
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). The Decentralisation issue highlighted the marginal position of private sector debates in contemporary policy, how it is often by ‘default rather than design’ that it has become an important player at all levels of education provision (Rose, 2005 Rose, P. 2005. Privatisation and decentralisation of schooling in Malawi: default or design?. Compare, 35(2): 153–165.
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, see also Bangay, 2005 Bangay, C. 2005. Private education: relevant or redundant? Private education, decentralisation and national provision in Indonesia. Compare, 35(2): 167–180.
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; Little & Evans, 2005 Little, A. W. and Evans, J. 2005. The growth of foreign qualification suppliers in Sri Lanka: de facto decentralisation?’. Compare, 35(2): 181–192.
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). However, while much can be gained by considering privatisation as a form of decentralisation (e.g. Patrinos & Ariasingam, 1997 Patrinos, H. A. and Ariasingam, D. L. 1997. Decentralisation of education: demand‐side financing, Washington, DC: The World Bank.
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; Bray & Mukundan, 2003 Bray M, Mukundan MV. 2003. Management and governance for EFA: is decentralisation really the answer? Global Monitoring Report Background Paper, UNESCO. Available online at‐URL_ID = 25755&URL_DO = DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION = 201.html ( = 25755&URL_DO = DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION = 201.html)
(accessed 7 November 2006)

), there are distinct practical, political and conceptual concerns related to the private sector that require exploration. Consequently, this Special Issue, devoted specifically to exploring the private sector's contribution to the education sector, has been developed. The papers presented here extend discussion of the diversity of the ‘private sector’, those schools and education enterprises that are commercially oriented and subject to market‐forces, and focus attention on the dynamics of the multi‐faceted relationship between state and private education providers. Specifically, the collection develops understanding of this arena by extending debates from definition of the types of provision to exploring the contribution of the private sector in the context of the political dynamics of educational decision‐making and schooling choice.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    31 December 2006

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Informa UK Limited

  • DOI:


  • Cross Ref:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    LB2300 Higher Education

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Caddell, M., & Ashley, L. D. (2006). Blurring boundaries: towards a reconceptualisation of the private sector in education. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 36(4), 411-419.



Education, private sector,

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