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Policy and Advocacy
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Photo courtesy of Common Good, South Africa

Policy and Advocacy at GSF


GSF is the only membership organisation supporting the non-state schooling sector at a global level and is in a unique position to amplify its members’ successes and advocate on their behalf. Our policy and advocacy work over the last two years has focused on protecting the policy, funding, and operational space for non-state actors in education. We work through targeted policy advocacy towards key processes affecting the environment for non-state schools, coalition building to influence support for the sector, and seeking to build the capacity of local actors to advocate in their contexts. Our work has included engaging with the larger international organisations involved in education that provide either normative guidance or combinations of financing and technical support (e.g. UN agencies, donor agencies, the World Bank).

We do not believe that non-state education is better than education provided by governments; only that the non-state sector can complement and support government provision of basic education — when invited by governments to do so — and also bring new ideas, funding and energy to the sector.

We want to be transparent about the work we are doing in this area, and we seek constructive dialogue to understand how non-state schools and PPPs can support government goals. This page shares some of our recent inputs into education policy processes at the global level.

  • The issue: School operators in the non-state sector – particularly small informal community schools – risk closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With no income from school fees and likely ineligibility for any government subsidies to small businesses, millions of children risk being affected.

  • GSF response & outcome: On 24th April 2020, GSF wrote to DFID Ministers outlining the impact of COVID-19 on the non-state education sector; making the case for support from DFID and the international community; and highlighting the extraordinary support the non-state education sector (including GSF members) is providing to national responses to the pandemic. Baroness Sugg sent a thoughtful response, reinforcing the government’s commitment to working pragmatically with the non-state sector and appreciating the work done by GSF and our members. (Posted on our website with their consent.)

  • The issue: In January 2020, the UNESCO GEMR held an online consultation to inform the development of the 2021 GEMR on non-state actors. The consultation was supported by a concept note posted online.

  • GSF response & outcome: GSF submitted a detailed response covering: (i) the scale of private financing and provision, (ii) legal, regulatory and policy issues, (iii) evidence on the effectiveness of non-state provision and implications for policy, (iv) GSF recommendations. We do not want to imply GEMR endorsement of our points, but we were pleased to see several of them reflected in the online response to the consultation, such as:

“You called for the Report to look at the way that governments…are balancing the need for public oversight with the need to enable markets to function effectively and to work for the poor.”

“One comment cautioned about pursuing a narrative that offers a choice between either private or public, and said the Report should be open to the idea that the non-state sector can complement and support government provision of basic education — when invited to do so.”

“…the investment from governments and aid agencies in low fee private schools is tiny relative to their share of total education provision.”

  • The issue: In the context of the December 2019 replenishment of the World Bank’s concessional lending arm IDA, campaign organisations wrote a letter calling on the World Bank to stop funding for-profit providers of education.

  • GSF response & outcome: GSF worked with shareholders of the World Bank to advise that such a prohibition had no basis in international law nor agreements, and that these decisions should be left to IDA borrowers (governments) to decide. The campaign was unsuccessful, and the World Bank did not apply such a prohibition within the IDA replenishment. We cannot say that our interventions influenced the final decision, but we endeavoured to make our voice heard and we were encouraged by the outcome. However, under further pressure from campaign organisations, the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank Group) has subsequently frozen investments in K-12 private fee-charging schools, pending a Consultation (which GSF will feed into).

  • The issue: In August 2019, the GPE launched an online consultation to support the development of their forthcoming strategy. The GPE is important because it ‘endorses’ governments’ national education sector plans and provides more than $0.5bn per year of funding towards those plans.

  • GSF response & outcome: We provided input into the strategy consultation, making the case for GPE to support governments to strengthen enabling environments for the non-state education sector where this is a government priority. We have not seen the non-state sector reflected in any subsequent GPE strategy documents. The GPE’s strategy process came soon after the new GPE Private Sector Engagement Strategy adopted a policy of GPE not funding for-profit providers of core education services. We believe this is a position that has no basis in international human rights law and agreements, and is directly contrary to GPE’s stated principle of respecting the choices of sovereign governments, two thirds of whom (by GPE’s own analysis) support private provision of education, including through PPPs.

  • The issue: In February 2019, UNICEF launched a consultation to inform the development of a new UNICEF Education Strategy (2019-2030).

  • GSF response & outcome: GSF inputted into the consultation and, though we do not know if it influenced the outcome of the strategy, we were pleased with how the final draft framed the non-state education sector. For example:

“UNICEF will work with governments, and particularly ministries of education, to help them engage with private financing and provision of education services, including supporting regulatory frameworks and enabling environments that prioritize learning and equity in both state and non-state provision, including faith-based schools. This is consistent with human rights law which states that governments must be the guarantor but not necessarily the sole provider of education services.”

  • The issue: In October 2018, following the publication of the US Government Strategy on International Basic Education (2019-2023), USAID launched a consultation to inform the development of a new USAID Education Policy.

  • GSF response & outcome: GSF inputted into the consultation. We do not know if it influenced the outcome of the policy, but we were pleased with how the final draft framed the non-state sector, for example:
“Non-state actors – ranging from community and faith-based schools to affordable private schools – often fill a critical space to address the education needs of the marginalized and vulnerable.”

“Governments…should enable the entire education system, whether state and non-state, to improve the quality of education for all.”

“USAID investments can help governments experiment with and evaluate different financing and provision models.”



We have subsequently worked with USAID on the new education component of their ‘blended finance’ initiative Catalyze. USAID has privately credited GSF with helping to create the conditions for the genesis of this initiative.

The issue: School operators in the non-state sector – particularly small informal community schools – risk closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With no income from school fees and likely ineligibility for subsidies to small businesses in the broader economy, millions of children risk being affected.

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