Education is one of the most favoured sectors for contributions made by corporations under their corporate social responsibility charter. The sector has always attracted huge inflow of funds from big businesses and continues to do so even after CSR became mandatory in the country for certain businesses falling under the ambit. Although the contributions have been significant, much impact has not been observed.
The HDI – Education Index for India was 0.356 in 1980. It increased to 0.472 in 2000 and further increased to 0.617 in 2010. It finally increased to 0.65 in 2013. In the education sector, our country’s ranking was 92, which was way behind the rankings of other developing countries such as Phillipines (76), Malaysia (51), Sri Lanka (59) and many more, as per Legatum Prosperity Index 2015. Similarly, according to the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010 (UNESCO), India’s rank was 105 among 128 countries and continues, figuring along with a bunch of African, and one or two Asian countries, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, in the group of countries of low educational development index (EDI). As per UNESCO, school enrolment, primary and secondary (gross), gender parity index (GPI) in India was 1.06 as of 2013. Other than this, the Male literacy rate is 82.14% and Female literacy rate is 65.46% according to Census 2011.
Education and Skill Development are the two most important agendas that will determine the future of our nation. Out of the total 696 CSR projects implemented in Gujarat during 2015-16, 253 were related to education and skills sector. Even, Nasscom Foundation suggests that IT companies across the country vouch for sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) to create a socially inclusive and equitable India, and education forms a major chunk of their CSR spends. In fact, the investments on education have been widespread across the country and not restricted to any region. In 2014-15, around 287 corporate houses have spent near about Rs 344.12 crore as CSR funds in various activities in Odisha, out of this amount around Rs 71.93 crore was spent on education. Similarly, Rs 2,042 crore or 24 per cent of the total CSR spend in the country went into promotion of education in 2015-16.
Fiinovation, a global CSR consulting company has been engaged with several businesses assisting them in CSR education and livelihood projects. The organisation understands that despite businesses investing in education, the impact is not yet visible. Even, the latest Annual Status of Education Report suggest the overall learning levels to be ‘pretty disappointing’ in schools across the country.
The CSR investments in education has increased over the last two years by approx Rs. 500 crore. But, are the funds being utilised smartly?
Fiinovation reviews that detailed analysis will suggest that not all money invested in education is actually focusing on improving the quality of education. Rather the focus is on providing basic facilities in the schools. For instance, the businesses which have contributed the funds towards construction of toilets at schools under the Swachh Bharat Mission are grouped under ‘promoting education’. Experts believe that if CSR funds in education are not targeted towards improving the quality of education then the purpose is lost keeping in mind the impact education has on standard of living and employment opportunities.
CSR should be looked beyond the mandate and the efforts shouldn’t be limited to the 2 per cent of the profits. Rather, businesses should embed CSR in their corporate strategy for responsible growth.
Instead of focusing on construction, providing books or scholarships, the focus should be on supporting processes or organisations that has clear learning outcomes and are easily measurable. Facilities such as toilets, books, uniforms, shoes, benches, etc. are essential, but does very little to improve the quality of education.
The businesses must realise that it is not enough to just build the infrastructure. Fiinovation understands that the central and the state governments already do that. Rather the businesses need to supplement that infrastructure with quality education.
Businesses which have already contributed towards infrastructural development in the education sector will look to focus on research and improving quality of education in the next few years. Therefore, there is hope that businesses will focus on quality of education through CSR education projects and definitely create positive impact on the ground.
(Rahul Choudhury works with Media & Communications Deperment of Fiinovation)
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