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Trade in education is debated between market liberalizers and protectionists and is played out within countries and their different stakeholders, for example between government ministries (e.g. ministry of trade versus ministry of education) and between government and the private sector (privately owned schools versus publically run schools). A balance needs to be struck between consumer protection and the rights of governments to pursue high quality education without falling into the trap of closing market access to foreign education service providers.

Education plays a crucial role in fostering personal and social development, as well as economic growth. Government policies play a dominant role in this sector. Over time, trade in education services, particularly at the tertiary level, have been growing in importance. Driving factors include a combination of demographic changes, technological developments, national development goals, and governmental reforms to the funding and provision of higher education. The educational market has grown in size with more exporters entering the field to satisfy growing demand worldwide. The education sector today truly operates in a global context with institutions, programmes, and people supplying services across borders at an unprecedented scale.

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