683-million USD a year only - that’s private sector’s contributions to global education, UNESCO says

683-million USD a year only – that’s private sector’s contributions to global education, UNESCO says

(Source: UNESCO, edited by Issa Sikiti da Silva). Current private contributions to education globally stands at 683 million USD a year, equivalent to only 5% of all aid to education and less than 0.1% of the profits of the world’s two biggest oil companies Exxon and Shell, UNESCO says in its Education for All Global Monitoring Report policy paper released this week, as global business leaders gather for this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

The new policy paper comprehensively ‘reprimands’ the private sector for contributing so little to global education, saying it should take a much bigger role in funding education because it is the one that benefits the most from an educated, skilled workforce. “Just five corporations – Banco Santander, Cisco, Intel, Coca Cola, and Exxon – make up the majority (60%) of the private sector’s contributions to education,” the paper says.

“To give an idea of the small scale of those contributions, Coca Cola’s 24 million USD amounts to less than 0.3% of its latest reported annual profits. Exxon, the world’s biggest company, contributes just 0.06%.”

The policy paper shows how little education receives compared with other private sector contributions to development, and 53% of US foundations’ grants are allocated to health, but only 8% to education.”

Pauline Rose, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, says: “Education doesn’t have a high-profile supporter like Bill Gates encouraging other private organisations to contribute. The private sector shouldn’t need to be told the importance of investing in education, but it does need someone to champion its cause and remind it that it is one of the first to benefit from an educated, skilled workforce.”

In 2011, total development aid decreased for the first time since 1997 and aid to education is now expected to stagnate until 2015 despite a funding gap of 16 billion USD a year just to send all children to pre-primary and primary school, according to the newly-released report.

UNESCO regrets that progress towards the Education for All goals – which is impossible without funding – has now ground to a halt with less than three years to go until the deadline. Rose urges the private sector to boost considerably its contribution to education.

She adds: “For political and business leaders gathered at Davos, our message is simple: as populations grow, if funding continues to stagnate, the world will end up with more children out of school than today – exactly as we are already seeing in sub-Saharan Africa. Companies must recognise what a good case for investment this is: if all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills, poverty would fall by 12%, and that’s good for business.”

The EFA Global Monitoring Report shows private sector contributions often do not reach those most in need, and are often only short term. The 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report makes four recommendations for improving and increasing funds from the private sector to education:

1.      All private organisations should be transparent about the amount and purpose of their commitments. This would allow scrutiny to ensure that business interests do not override collective goals, while also giving information on the amount of resources available to fill the EFA financing gap.

2.      To have a lasting impact on EFA, private organisations need to provide sufficient funding over several years to assure the sustainability of initiatives because education is a long-term endeavour.

3.      Better evaluations need to be carried out of the impact of private sector interventions.

4.      Private organisations should align their support with government priorities and countries’ needs. The Global Partnership for Education could play a larger role in pooling and disbursing funds to this end.

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