Dozens of companies back push to support education ahead of Dubai's RewirEd Summit

Education Business Pledge seeks to give children the skills they need for future employment

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Dozens of major companies have joined a pledge to bolster their support for education and provide children with the skills they need for future employment.

The pledge has been driven by the Global Business Coalition for Education, and backed by firms including Avanti Communications, Deloitte, HP, Microsoft and Unilever.

Justin van Fleet, President of children’s charity Theirworld and Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition for Education, said research shows more than one out of every two young people will not have necessary skills for the workforce by 2030.

That trend has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic when schools around the world closed their doors, creating a “perfect storm” for the generation of children who will enter the job market at the end of the decade.

“It's not that one single company is going to solve the crisis in a community, let alone globally,” said Mr van Fleet.

“But we believe that the private sector is an important player, is getting engaged with governments, with young people, with education systems. And through those partnerships, we can really start to transform the way education is delivered and the skills we're helping young people achieve.”

Some of the companies who backed the pledge have set up task forces to create frameworks for action in three key areas; education innovation, improving employment-related skills for young people, and education financing.

For example, with innovation in education, the digital divide has been seen as a key issue and roadblock.

“The digital divide is really perpetuating inequality in education, which means perpetuating larger social inequalities into the future,” said Mr van Fleet.

The lack of connectivity in many area, limited access to devices, and the ability of educators to deliver education through technology were among the problems identified, with companies now looking at how they can tackle such issues.

Mr van Fleet also noted a greater attention on and awareness of early childhood education.

“There's 175 million children not in pre-primary education. But because those years are when most of the brain develops, that's when a lot of the soft skills — appreciation of diversity, working with others, teamwork, empathy, creative thinking, problem solving — are actually hard-wired before a young person even steps into primary or secondary school.”

Mr van Fleet said within the frameworks, “these businesses really committed to looking earlier in the education pipeline, and really to invest in early childhood education and look at ways that can raise the quality of early childhood education in their communities as a way of actually looking at future skills”.

The commitment towards the Education Business Pledge comes ahead of the RewirEd education summit in Dubai next week. The Global Business Coalition for Education is calling on more companies to back its call.

Tariq Al Gurg, the chief executive of Dubai Cares, and the organisers of the summit “have really wanted to bring in new and diverse players and really approach education from a future-looking perspective in terms of who needs to be involved,” said Mr van Fleet.

“And we have teamed up to be a partner with them and getting the businesses much more engaged in looking at these issues and what the business community can be contributing to help either end the education crisis or help put young people on a better track for the future.”

Mr van Fleet said: “We need to rewire our thinking when it comes to education. It means rewiring how we invest, rewiring how we are innovating, rewire how we think about who gets access to what, and rewiring where we're prioritising. We need to start younger, and we need everybody on board.”

Updated: December 09, 2021, 3:11 PM