We are facing a global learning crisis in developing countries. While there are tens of millions of children out of school, hundreds of millions more are in school, but receiving an education of such poor quality that they have little prospect of gaining the literacy, numeracy and life-skills that they need to be productive members of society. This crisis has economic and social benefits that are devastatingly high, stifling economic growth, perpetuating poverty, and creating unstable societies. This crisis has a direct impact on the business community and its bottom line. Corporations must come together under the united banner of a Global Business Coalition for Education to address the education crisis head-on for the benefit of both society and business.
As direct stakeholders in the quality of education of the world’s children and youth, the business community has tremendous assets to bring to bear on the global learning crisis. These assets include technology, innovation, financing, employee skills and talents, and a unified advocacy voice. While the business community does engage significantly in education, the impact of these interventions is minimal. In the aggregate, corporate resources are deployed in such an inefficient manner to support global education that these practices would never pass muster in the day-to-day business of a company. If the same tactics were used in product research, marketing and development, they would lead a company to a loss in market share.
A Global Business Coalition for Education would strengthen the business community’s engagement in education and allow it to serve as a force for results-oriented change in the education sector. Collectively, companies will benefit by:
- Reducing the inefficiencies by spreading the investment risk, lowering startup and transaction costs, creating economies of scale, leveraging investments, and making investments strategic and results-oriented.
- Narrowing the global talent gap in developing and emerging economies.
- Educating consumers so they can earn higher incomes and accumulate more disposable income to spend on products and services.
- Increasing the effectiveness, health and well-being of employees and their families.
- Creating more competitive business environments for attracting and retaining labor.
- Increasing the ease of doing business in developing and emerging markets.
- Improving government and community relations.
- Increasing profits from educational innovation.
This call to action is not far-fetched: In the last decade, the Global Business Coalition for Health (GBC Health) has effectively engaged a membership of over 200 companies to be a voice for change in the global health sector. Only through collective action can the global learning crisis be addressed and generate benefits that are not only positive for society, but for the business community.