The inaptly named WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) recently held a congress in Quatar. (Quatar is the place which is currently being exposed by Amnesty International and others for the use of slave labour to build the infrastructure for the World Cup). On its panel of education 'experts' were the US education director for the Gates Foundation, the CEO of Pratham - an Indian based NGO which specialises in collecting minimalist data from public schools and using it to attack them in the media, and the CEO of Pearson – the UK mega-corporation which makes more profits from education than any other.

It is difficult to follow what such people say – they invariably talk in the language of social justice and claim to want equity and opportunity for all. However even the presumably invited audience did not seem uniformly convinced. One Quatari delegate – an education technology entrpreneur – rather unexpectedly asked, “Isn't the education agenda tailored around the demands of the corporate culture rather than unleashing human potential? Isn't capitalism causing the bottleneck?” A woman from Liberia said that what the panel seemed to be missing was that children were coming to school malnourished and ill – how were they supposed to learn under those circumstances? Needless to say the panel ignored the first question and waffled on the second. But at the end, asked to sum up, the CEO of Pearson said obliquely, “We need horizontal rather than vertical, open rather than closed, learning and not education and outcomes not inputs.”

I think the last set of opposites is the key – outcomes not inputs. There is currently outrage in parts of the social media over the US education secretary Arne Duncan's statement when he visited the devastated country of Haiti,

One of the many needs here are clear data systems, having transparency, knowing basic things, like how many children we have, how many schools there are, how many teachers we have.  I think it’s so important that everybody be transparent and honest on the good, the bad and the ugly.

This was after visiting schools which like the majority in that country had no toilets and where pupils sleep on the streets. He commented, “far from ideal conditions”, according to the Washington Post. The journalist ended with the dry comment 'Nothing a good data system can't help.'

This is the elephant in the room as the masters of the universe sit round and share with us their passionate commitment to equality - the inequality which they embody. The CEO of Pearson, John Fallon, who incidentally started his tenure at the beginning of this year by closing down the company's apprenticeship scheme in the UK with the loss of 560 jobs, will likely take home just shy of four million dollars this year, if his predecessor's salary is anything to go by. As has been reported over and over again on this website, schools in the global South are often without toilets, without books, sometimes without buildings at all. Class sizes are often huge and every day a new story appears about the fact that teachers are unable to exist on their salaries. Today it was Cambodia, where the major NGO in the country, Education Partnership is paying its teachers $50 a month, an amount which makes it impossible for them to exist.

One more example from the Global South, which appeared on twitter (thanks to @nancyflanagan). A 'low fee' private school chain operating amongst other place in Kenya. As its website states: “Our three cofounders wondered why no one was thinking about schools in developing countries the way Starbucks® thought about coffee.” It provides pre-scripted lessons to unqualified teachers to teach large classes (part of their business model) in shacks with no electricity. It is a for profit corporation, funded largely by venture capital and surprise surprise – Pearson also has a stake in it.

Approximately 15 times more money flows out of the global South through, 'debt' servicing, through trade rules which privilege rich corporations and countries and through tax evasion, than goes in through aid. If schools in the North were working in conditions remotely similar to most of the public schools in the South, no union would be wasting its time and its leadership resources on a committee which is discussing how to improve data collection. Yet the global federation of teaching unions, Education International, is just one of the participants in meetings, co-chaired by Sir Michael Barber of Pearson, of the Learning Metrics Taskforce whose recommendations include:

That countries lead, with the support of regional and international actors, a process to: diagnose the quality of their assessment systems; convene stakeholders; and assess the necessary technical and financial resources required to improve learning measurement and outcomes.

This is of course of a piece with World Bank documents such as Making School Work, which specifically rule out increasing 'inputs' On its first page it states: This book is about the threats to education quality which cannot be explained by lack of resources. It focuses on publicly financed school systems and the phenomenon of service delivery failures: cases where policies and programmes that increase the inputs to education fail to produce effective delivery of services where it counts – in schools and classrooms.

Just as in the North, the vast majority of teachers are struggling , in their case against almost impossible odds to provide education (although of course according to John Fallon, that's perhaps not necessary – 'learning not education.') Yet they are consistently demonised in documents like Making Schools Work – which notoriously has a picture of a teacher asleep in a shabby classroom on the front cover – something which is supposed to encapsulate the problem with education. And not only are they demonised, they are bullied by the same so-called 'reform' measures that their colleagues in the North are suffering and fighting more and more determinedly against.

It is time for our unions and for teachers globally to realise that we are all in the same struggle – for democratic, creative and critical education, which is properly funded by the state and free for all children. Education International tweeted today: 'Private schools on their own won’t lead to achievement of quality education for all' – on the contrary private schools are one of the key ways of attacking free public education, denaturing education for low income children, as in the case of the Bridge Academy chain above and making profits from the poorest. Teachers and their unions must draw a line in the sand, stop co-operating with the fat cats from Pearson and the Gates Foundation and stand up for teachers and education (which, just in case anyone was confused by the Pearson CEO, also includes learning.)