Does educational privatisation promote social justice?

Henry M. Levin, Ilja Cornelisz, Barbara Hanisch-Cerda

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Social justice in education refers to the expectation that the education system provides fairness in its access to opportunities and results. Proponents of educational privatisation believe this would not only open up opportunities for those that otherwise are restricted from attending good schools, but that it would also improve overall efficiency in the education system through pressures of market competition. This article first provides a framework for analysing a quasi-market in education and for considering the potential effects of privatisation. It then applies this framework to the Netherlands, a school system premised completely on choice where two thirds of the schools are privately sponsored. We conclude that the Dutch system, thanks to a series of policies and regulations in place, performs relatively well on social justice, when looking at freedom of choice and overall productive efficiency. However, for equity and social cohesion, despite clear policy efforts, the privatised system seems to undermine social justice for certain groups in the population. The dilemma observed here is that some private benefits of education must be compromised to achieve greater equity and social cohesion. It is an open question whether policy makers are willing to make such tradeoffs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-532
Number of pages19
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • equity
  • privatisation
  • social justice
  • the Netherlands


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