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In recent years, privatisation and corporatisation of education have expanded on an unprecedented scale. Private-for-profit interests have come to dominate education systems around the world to an extent that undermines their purpose (Adamson, Astrand and Darling-Hammond, 2016). Privatisation adversely affects the right to education for all. As Tan (2014, p. 429) succinctly points out, with reference to the work of Nussbaum (2010) and Ball (2010):
Education is no longer conceived as an integrated strategy to promote freedom, self-enrichment, and human development, but rather it is a business activity driven by profit or a commodity in the market.
What should alert us about these developments is not only the open pursuit of profit interests in a sector that should be foremost a public responsibility and public good. It is a real matter of concern that we have entered a post-political era where the interests of lead actors (i.e. OECD, World Bank, and increasingly venture-philanthropy) go hand in hand with the interests of global education corporations. As the business magazine Forbes reminds us, ‘Education is a trillion dollar industry and it will take 2 decades to enable the industry to reach to major inflection point’ (Viswanathan, 2014).
In this paper I draw on recent and ongoing research collaborations in Colombia, Uruguay, Chile and Europe. I outline the implications of these globally driven developments for the ethos of taking public responsibility for young children (compromiso y responsibilidad de todos) that forms the foundation of early childhood policy frameworks in Latin American countries. I offer a critical reflection on the role of mainstream early childhood research as pawn (at best) or enabler (at worst) of corporatisation, and discuss the lessons European countries urgently need to learn from current experiences in Latin America.