Gagan Rai, MD and CEO of NSDL e-Governance feels that Education CSR has opened doors to a lot of avenues through which corporates can support students of our country.
With a vision that no student has to hold his or her educational aspirations back due to lack of financial assistance, over the years, a lot of corporates have come forward and this has led to creation of Education CSR initiatives.
Education CSR initiatives used to be were associated only with donating money through charity in schools, gifting stationary, providing free benches, distributing sweets during annual functions etc. but the corporates have now started focusing on improving the quality of education via providing scholarships for higher education, assistance in skill development, etc.
In most developed countries, over 70% of the education is funded through various government funding schemes and affordable private lending methods while in India only three percent of the higher education is funded through external mechanisms. India is the youngest country in the world according to the report by United Nations Population Fund India. This means that we are entering the next decade with enough resources to fast-track the country’s progress. However, with great working force comes the responsibility to ensure that all these individuals meet the world standards of education and skill set.
The foremost hurdle to this currently farfetched dream is 100% enrollment across all schools in India. And, it’s a long standing battle. Of an initial enrolment of 100 students, on an average, only 70 finish school in India. And though the reasons for dropouts could be numerous, in a country like India where economically challenged states see more dropouts, many potential bright careers are nipped in the bud owing to lack of funds.
Governments have been trying to reach out to these students with scholarships at school level but the gap is much bigger than one can imagine. This is when corporates stepped in via educational CSR funding. During the year FY 2017-2018, Rs. 8365 crore has been spent on CSR funding in India – out of which approx. 31% has been in the education sector. There is a greater percentage of fund allocation in the FY17-18 spending, however the amount has reduced to Rs. 2762 Crores from Rs. 4149 Crores in FY16-17. This shows that there is room for more.
Compared to 2008 when over 20% of girls in the 15 to 16 age group were not enrolled in school nationally, in 2018, this figure has decreased to 13.5%. This shows that change is coming our way, but we could all thrive to get this rate as close to zero as possible.
There are three ways the situation can be turned around – quality education, skill upgradation and monetary assistance. If corporates are able to bridge the financial gap by providing funding to some of the needy students, it will have a significant impact on the enrollment and literacy numbers.
Education as a social cause is at the core of most CSR initiatives in corporates with an increasing need for sector qualified individuals. With corporate funded scholarships, these needs can be jointly taken care of – the companies do have the liberty to design scholarship schemes for students studying the sectors which the corporate wished to nurture.
Education CSR has opened doors to a lot of avenues through which corporates can support students of our country. As a result, there now exists scholarships exclusively for girl students, for students from a particular field, for students from a particular geographical area – all to ensure a duo of encouragement and financial assistance. The scholarships should help us reduce the dropout rate from 17.86% (as per MHRD report 2016) and also help to increase the education funding rate from its current 3%.
(Author is Gagan Rai, MD and CEO of NSDL e-Governance, which played a pioneering role in laying down the basic infrastructure for e-Governance in the country by enabling the government to unleash the untapped.)