DUBAI // Private corporations are being called upon to increase their financial support of education as the world faces a global learning crisis, an education forum heard on Sunday.
“We really have to get the private sector into a strong partnership and invest more in education,” said Marwan Al Sawaleh, undersecretary of UAE’s Ministry of Education. “The contribution now, it’s not sufficient, we believe.”
Private corporations invest an estimated US$548 million (Dh2 billion) a year in education in developing countries, according to a 2012 report by Unesco.
A Business Backs Education campaign being launched on Monday at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF), will ask companies to double their CSR spending on education to $1bn by this time next year to help countries to meet the Education for All 2015 targets set by Unesco.
It will also challenge businesses to commit 20 per cent of their CSR to education by 2020.
The campaign will involve holding summits in cities throughout the world to get chief executives of major companies to sign up.
The Education for All goals, outlined in 2000, call for expanded early childhood education, free and compulsory primary education, gender parity, improved adult literacy, promoting life-skills education among young adults and improving general education.
“We really need to tackle a learning crisis that is emerging in the world,” said Irina Bokova, director general of Unesco, at the GESF.
Ms Bokova spoke of the urgent need to address the global lack of access to education faced by girls and other disadvantaged populations. Poor quality education costs governments $129bn a year, according to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report.
With the poor quality of education, 175 million young people in low and middle income countries are unable to read or write. Most, or 100 million of those, are girls, Ms Bokova said.
“We can’t continue as business as usual,” she said. “This is a situation we cannot accept.”
Conversely, as the former US president, Bill Clinton, told the audience referring to past studies, the return on every $1 an employer invests in education is about $53 in value at the start of a person’s working years.
Dr Rebecca Winthrop, senior fellow and director of the Brookings Institution in the United States, said the issue needed to be put on the global agenda.
“I really like the idea that Mr [Tony] Blair talked about last night, about making sure that the G20 and the G8 could possibly take this up as a serious issue,” Dr Winthrop said. “To do that, we will probably need all your help, certainly the business community has a strong voice.
“There is absolute room for what in the corporate world is called shared values. Where you can make a profit, you can be a good business and also do good,” she said.