★ ISM - UK
Global Wave of Action for Free Education
Nov.17th - 23rd 2013
We are calling for a Global Wave of Action for Free Education. The International Student Movement (ISM) is a platform consisting of many individuals and groups from different parts of the world. A group of students associated with the ISM came together during a series of chat meetings and decided to call for a coordinated action worldwide. We will UNITE in solidarity, because no matter where we live, we face the same struggle against the state and profit-driven interests, and their hold on education. Increasing tuition fees, budget cuts, outsourcing, school closures, as well as other phenomena are linked to an increasing commercialization and privatization of education. Only by uniting globally will we be able to overcome these obstacles and enable free emancipatory education for all.
August 2013 - Chicago:
Protests against Privatization of Schools
Since Monday, August 5th, hundreds of people turned up at Palmer House in Chicago to protest against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which held its annual meeting there between August 7th and 9th.
ALEC might sound to some like a governmental institution, but it is actually more like a lobbying organisation.
Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations.
Among others ALEC propagates various policies aimed at an increased commercialization of education. It also regularly generates rankings of school performances. As many of you probably know rankings are popular instruments to encourage a competition for resources among educational institutions.
According to The Guardian "139 Alec bills [were] introduced and 31 enacted this year. The legislation focused on redirecting taxpayer money from public schools to for-profit private schools.".
This video gives a pretty good overview of the current state of the ongoing struggle against the increasing privatization of schools in Chicago:
The focus of ALEC's annual meeting was not only on education. Also the drafting of new bills with its Environmental Agriculture Task Force on behalf of its members were discussed.
During the rally on August 8th police rushed into the crowd and arrested a few people while throwing them to the ground for no apparent reason:
Also at protest actions during the previous days many protesters were arrested.
Last but not least it is vital to point out that the root of the problem is not ALEC or "corporate greed" (as proclaimed by some of the protesters), but the capitalist system, which inevitably is based on competition and the drive to generate profits. The circumstance that capital gets organized in institutions like ALEC is a logical consequence of the predominant economic system.
Also in other parts of the world similar institutions already exist or take shape. In Germany for example there is the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE), which presents itself as a non-partisan body of experts made up of the Bertelmann Foundation (Bertelsmann being a mass media corporation) as well as the German Rectors' Conference. One of the favorite activities of the CHE is - just like ALEC - to annually publish rankings of faculties and universities and from time to time propagate the re-introduction of tuition fees. Not surprisingly institutions like the CHE and ALEC also have a significant impact on how the purposes of an "education" system are perceived.
Reclaim Education - July 2013
an ISM newsletter
Reclaim Education is a newsletter done by some individuals on the ISM platform. The content and positions expressed do not represent any particular groups or the ISM as a whole.
It consists of two A4 pages and can therefore be conveniently printed onto one sheet of paper. Download the .pdf here (~ 8mb).
In case you are interested to work on future issues of Reclaim Education, then subscribe to this mailing list.
Transnational Student Congress 2013
I. About the TSC
II. Register as soon as possible!
III. Call for Support
IV. Newsletter / Contact
The following is a report submitted by students on the ground in Ljubljana in July 2013.
Free University Week
Slovenia - April 2013
Following a series of budget cuts and other forms of pressure placed by the Slovenian government on higher education institutions, a coalition between professors and students of the University of Ljubljana prepared the Free University Week, a series of events that took place between April 15th and 20th, 2013. The intention was to use various lectures, workshops, round table discussions and artistic events to draw public attention to the dangerous and uncertain situation that public higher education had found itself in due to negligence of its importance by the government’s – and, more generally, European – fiscal policies and austerity measures. The current study regime imposed on higher education systems across Europe – based on the Bologna Declaration of 1999 – was called into question, particularly due to its prioritizing the market value of systematic knowledge, rather than the actual quality and depth of the learning process. In a situation where the government was selectively recruiting executives who favored the development of private education over the survival of public universities and the constitutional right of public universities to institutional autonomy was being transgressed by the Ministry for Education under minister Žiga Turk, such an intervention into daily life became inevitable.
The student association Iskra played a large part in forming and developing the 121 events that took place during the Free University Week. As cooperation between various faculties was difficult to achieve at the management level (and in many cases impossible), the simultaneous presence of Iskra in many different and diverse parts of the university, along with its political homogeneity, put us in a good position to create a coherent program with a clear message. Thus Iskra itself directly organized events at six different faculties.
The political foundations of the Free University Week are summarized in the Memorandum for a Public University, a document created prior to the beginning of the events and launched as a petition addressed at the Slovenian government and National Assembly. The Memorandum demands from them, among other things:
The entire Memorandum is available online (www.ipetitions.com/petition/su/) in Slovene.
Apart from the aforementioned political dimensions of the Free University Week, we raised awareness of a deeper, more fundamental problem, one connected to the fate of public education as a concept in the wake of neoliberal capitalism: the problem of the relationship between students and their teachers (or, more precisely, academic workers). In the famous uprisings of 1968, this relationship was unquestionable; if one went on strike, the other followed.
Now we are facing a deadly situation in which the students are no longer aware of their inferior position on the social ladder, nor of their potential in forming a sovereign body, capable of political influence. The lack of unity among those employed in Slovenia’s higher education is equally apparent. Most importantly, the relationship between the two groups has become entirely ambivalent. There are signs suggesting that, if the question of tuition fees was to arise in public debates, many professors and academic workers would agree to allow the pressure of neoliberal policies advocated by the European Union and global financial institutions, such as the IMF, to sink onto the shoulders of students.
As approximately one third of students in Slovenia working part-time jobs are forced to do so to survive (thus losing precious time and energy that should be devoted to their education), even a small tuition fee would potentially create a massive wealth gap, cutting off a portion of the population from higher education. For Iskra, the most important aspect of the Free University Week was that it gave birth to a kind of cooperation between students and academic workers, that has been new to the Slovenian academic sphere for decades. With the coming of the new academic year, the students of Iskra hope to create a continuation of similar events, as the government (now headed by a new, “left” coalition) has shown no intention of reducing the pressure on our public university system.