The Global Demotion of Education from Public Good to Commodity – Extraterritorial Human Rights Obligations to Protect and the Legitimate Role of “the Private”

In the past 20 years, a gigantic global education industry has emerged. “Low-cost” private schools are mushrooming in developing countries, universities are run like businesses, and PPPs in education are seen as a “magic bullet.” Liberalisation, globalisation, and digitisation enhance the involvement of foreign private actors in these phenomena. Yet, the enhanced quality, efficiency, and access promised by privatisation does not ensue or comes at a price for human rights. Extraterritorial human rights obligations to protect require states to regulate education providers operating abroad and to make available (human rights-vindicating) private law remedies to foreign victims. Referring to the 2019 Abidjan Principles on private education providers, private international law, “public service” and HRDD obligations, and the SDGs, this paper explains how the business and human rights discourse should be extended to the sphere of transnational education.