Social services


World Bank’s IFC ends funding for fee-paying primary and secondary schools

21 July 2022

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector arm, announced on 8 June that it would not resume its investments in for-profit fee-paying private primary and secondary schools, following a critical report by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) published in January.

This means the IFC’s temporary suspension of all direct and indirect investments in for-profit schools announced in 2020 is now permanent (see Observer Summer 2020). The suspension followed a campaign mounted by civil society organisations (CSOs), in particular in Africa, and a March announcement that the IFC was divesting from for-profit education provider New Global Schools, previously known as Bridge International Academies (BIA; see Observer Spring 2022).

The IFC noted in a June 8 statement responding to the IEG evaluation that “there is potential” for investment in private schools to exacerbate inequality and have unintended consequences for the public sector school system.

The move was widely welcomed by CSOs, which have long criticised IFC’s funding of for-profit education (see Observer Spring 2018). In a CSO statement, Magdalena Sepúlveda of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights called for the World Bank Group to provide “increased support to governments to build stronger and more equitable public education systems, through its public sector support.”

The negative impacts of private capital investing in for-profit education providers, such as BIA, are now widely recognised. The right to inclusive and equitable quality education is enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG), and last year, UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2021/2 stated that “profit making is inconsistent with the commitment to guarantee free pre-primary, primary and secondary education.”