Businesses are more committed than ever to undertaking global social enterprise activities and contributing to community improvement schemes around the globe. Rather than focusing solely on boosting profits for shareholders, firms are philanthropically using their business strategies and experience for the greater good. These corporate social responsibility efforts provide vital support for a number of humanitarian and environmental causes. Many social enterprises have focused on health issues, but is it time for a shift in priorities?
A new UNESCO-backed campaign is to be launched at the Global Education and Skills Forum. This scheme, Business Backs Education, is aimed at putting education at the forefront of global enterprise activities. Currently around 16 times more money is spent on health than education by corporate charity funds, and whilst this is of course an extremely worthwhile use of money, it is vital to ensure that other aspects of community improvement are not neglected. If businesses were to commit to allocating 20% of their charitable spending specifically towards education, this would go a long way to closing the annual funding gap of approximately £16 billion required to provide primary places for all children.
It is estimated that globally there are 57 million children of primary school age and 69 million of lower secondary age who are not enrolled in education. If more is not invested, the consequences could be very serious. The Varkey GEMS Foundation is one of several organisations involved in the campaign which work to increase educational opportunities in Asia by building classrooms, delivering gender-sensitive training and providing school meals. Giving children an education can help them escape from the poverty cycle and work towards a better future. Developing a skilled workforce has huge benefits for a community, aiding sustainable development and allowing them to complete effectively in the global business marketplace.
Inequality in Education
Socio-economic factors such as ethnicity, poverty and disability have created barriers to educational access. In addition to these obstacles, there is a gender divide in school attendance, with girls being further marginalised. The latest UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report found that over 100 million women in low and lower middle income countries are unable to read a single word. It is crucial to make provision for girls to attend school in order to achieve educational parity. Whilst both girls and boys gain significant advantages, girls in particular can benefit from the reduction in child marriages, maternal deaths and child mortality that access to education offers. A lack of female teachers in poorer countries, often for cultural reasons, has left girls without access to many positive role models. Increasing the number of female teachers will not only encourage more girls to stay in education, but will also help them to discover a wider range of choices available to them.
Securing educational opportunities for all children is absolutely essential in order to facilitate wider change. Campaigns such as the Business Backs Education can have a real impact on communities by making the opportunity to achieve available to all children.
photo credit: brentdanley