Up Front

A Turning Point for Corporate Support for Quality Learning

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week, the business community took bold action to put education front and center on the global agenda by holding a founding meeting of a Global Business Coalition for Education.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who recently called for more private sector engagement in his global education assessment, took this vision to over a dozen global CEOs during this inaugural meeting. Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan joined Gordon Brown and made the case as to how the challenges of education access, quality and financing affect the global business community.

In a previous policy paper by the Center for Universal Education, I outline what the Global Business Coalition for Education should look like and why investing in quality learning in developing countries not only benefits society, but has clear benefits for the business community.

In his call to form this new Global Business Coalition for Education, Gordon Brown challenged the corporate leaders at the meeting to recruit other CEOs to join during the inaugural year of the coalition. This should not be difficult because during the preparations for this meeting, many CEOs sent letters of support even though they were not able to attend. The former British prime minister reminded the CEOs of their strength as an advocacy constituency, reminding them from experience that when the business community speaks, leaders listen. In terms of next steps, Brown agreed to organize bilateral business leader delegations to meet with leaders of developing countries to discuss what assets they could bring to bear on improving learning opportunities and produce a summary of what we know works in education for the business leaders.

While companies have independently made significant contributions to education, the uncoordinated nature of corporate engagement has left the corporate sector without a unified voice in the global education agenda. Today’s meeting marked a turning point in a first step toward the bold leadership needed from the business community to be true partners with developing country governments and promote access and learning for all young people around the world.