The role of corporations in the upliftment of education and quality of learning has been recognized globally. The potential of the corporate sector to improve learning outcomes can be inferred from UNESCO’s ‘Education for All’ Goals and the ‘UN Global Education First’ Initiative.
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has adopted leadership of sorts in the collective social assignment of making quality education available to all children. The targets that the collective of corporates has set coincide with that of the Right to Education Act and many other public policies framed for development and propagation of education.
Corporate researchers recommend areas for high impact CSR spending in education which include establishment schools under Public Private Partnership (PPP), training of teachers and preparation of school leadership. Besides these, subjects like the application of technology in education, involving ICT in school education and in student assessment, co-scholastic or co-curricular schooling, early childhood or preschooling, nutrition and introduction of vocational education in secondary grades have been zeroed upon for strategic spending.
Social dividends of CSR contribution in School Education
The social dividends that directly follow with progressive spending on education are economic and social equity. Corporate spending on school education can enhance the quality of the human resource which would accelerate the economy.
The social component of education is extensive and has the potential to bring about social and economic justice. Quality education would bring in its wake better health care, the increment in incomes and standard of living. Furthermore, the quality of education will ensure higher political consciousness and democratic engagement. It will also increase the consciousness of human rights. One of the most notable prospective impacts lies in the girl education, Socio-economic studies have proved that investment on girl child education gives phenomenal developmental returns as it potentially affects the state of the entire family and communities.
Economic and Strategic need of CSR Investment on Education
It is commonplace to hear how good Indian diaspora is doing in U.S, UK or Australia but it cannot be denied that the situation of the inadequacy of skill set of the employees at home is retarding the development of companies in India.
There are certain findings from the investigations focused on the issue of effects of low levels of skills of the workforce on the enterprises like a global CEO survey which revealed that as many as 41% of Industry leaders including CEOs were forced to withhold, postpone or review important industrial initiatives due to the talent deficit in their firms.
Given the gravity of the situation in terms of the effect on the economy, CSR investment in education becomes a decisive measure.
There are quantitative assessments of the skill set and productivity which suggest that returns for the investment on education are exceptionally encouraging. Every 100 Rs. invested in the schooling of an Indian child translates into a return of 5300 Rs. for the employer of the resourceful employee the same child grows into.
Ways of corporate Intervention in School Education
It is emphasized by several corporations investing in school education that to create an impact, indirect modes of intervention like policy optimization, collaboration with civil society groups and governments should be explored.
In the current scenario, innovation could hardly be driven by the government system. Therefore one of the best corporate efforts has been in research and development of innovative models wherein projects have been piloted and their impact has been systematically recorded, assessed and scaled up.
The other indirect modes of intervention which corporates have opted for includes institution-building. Institutions like Azim Premji University which trains professionals for a career in education and in the development sector have been set up as a corporate effort and is strengthening school education.
The indirect intervention mode recommended by CSR strategists include collaboration with other stakeholders which are brought together by the company taking the initiative to put in effect a coalition that enables knowledge sharing. The organizations with expertise in building learning environments in different scenarios are acutely helpful for corporates to spend fruitfully on education.
Another indirect mode of CSR investment in school education is the collaboration with NGOs and development sector organizations having expertise in their field of school education. To broaden the impact of CSR, institutions like Socio-Economic Development Foundation (SEDF) of FICCI acts as the advisory organization to help corporates choose suitable development sector partners.
Streamlined CSR spending strategies in school education
CSR interventionists have started taking a realistic view of the timelines of the projects. The educational quality improvement is a gradual process, unlike infrastructure development. While forming their CSR approaches, companies hold on to a long-term view with mid-term objectives.
The other practice which is gaining currency in CSR educational intervention is the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of inputs and short and long-term outputs.
Even though the corporate spending in school education is relatively modest, these developments give us reason to believe that if done strategically, CSR will catalyze the development in schooling by facilitating innovations which are impressive enough to move the state to commission them.
Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Schools
Complementing school education has found an effective way in the form of Public Private Partnership (PPP) schools. The term ‘Public-private partnership schools’ implies that the ownership of the institution is public and school operations have been privatized. PPP schools are institutional models which have been adopted from countries where they have shown great promise as far as improving education infrastructure is concerned. The concept has its value in the idea that inherent efficiency of the private functioning will rejuvenate the ailing government schools. These schools can become quality schools and leading examples propagating the efficient ways of school administration.
It has been noted that the infrastructure of government schools ends up becoming surplus as a preference for private schools limits the number of students in the government schools. In urban areas, were private schooling has proliferated owing to its superior quality, the situation of unused infrastructure in government schools has become particularly pronounced. This presents a scenario where PPP schools can come in as a change maker.
The Education Alliance, a relatively young organization advice the government in favor of PPP by tabling their design and execution strategy and in collaboration with state agencies they come up with quality assurance mechanisms. Presently, the CSR arm of corporate groups supports quality education through a PPP model. A trio exemplifying the collaboration of corporate, civil society organization and the government institutions has been made in several cases.
The trio of corporate, civil society organization and government has taken up six municipal schools operating the schools, paying salaries of teachers etc. and selected a suitable education foundation as knowledge resource partner. The role of the government agencies come in with the municipal corporation providing the infrastructure, books and stationery, mid-day meals. The knowledge foundation trains teachers and prepares school leadership. In the mentioned example, the corporate arm supports foundation conduct a student progress assessment test termed national ASSET test. The CSR effort in education is exceptionally rewarded when Educational Quality Foundation of India by “Whole School Award”.
We conclude that spending on education is definitely a promising option for corporates as far as CSR fund allocation is concerned. The shift in corporate philanthropy towards school education suggests that this fact is dawning upon enterprises. The need is for expert agencies like School Serv which can aid corporate groups to go about their CSR spending with their hands-on experience in establishing and managing K-12 schools. it is an imperative for the aiding ‘school lifecycle organization’, like School Serv to command expertise in the field of executing school improvement projects for CSR spending to be more meaningful and sustainable.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.