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Neville White
By Neville White Head of SRI Policy and Research January 2016
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Summary In this edition of our Amity Insight series, we focus on one of our nine positive screens: Education.

Although there may not be a huge universe of companies directly involved in educational services, many companies understand that there is a direct return from investing in education, which is also the most reliable way of delivering economic empowerment and reducing poverty. To that end, many businesses commit considerable resources to education, training and development programmes across their sphere of influence.

In this Insight we look at:

  • Education as a human right
  • The state of education in the world today
  • The role of business in helping to ensure universal access to primary education

Education as a Human Right

Education as a Human Right Education is a fundamental human right laid down in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 26 and this is supported by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1979) in which Articles 28 and 29 provide for every child having the right to an education.

Education in the World Today

Education in the World Today
The UN estimates that as many as 69 million children were not in school as at 2010. There has been strong progress since 2000 in meeting the second Millennium Development Goal for all children to complete a course of primary schooling, with 90% enrolment being achieved in developing countries.

Back in 2000 when the Goal was set, as many as 106 million children had no school place. 31 million of these children are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 18 million in Southern Asia. At least 30% of primary school students in Sub-Saharan Africa do not complete their primary education, often for reasons of conflict, family issues or a lack of infrastructure. Although 90% enrolment has been achieved, the figures hide other crucial issues such as the gender gap: in North Africa 66% of all out-of-school children are girls. Data gathered from 55 countries suggests children from outlying, rural areas are twice as likely to be out of school as urban children, with poverty the biggest obstacle to educational access. This is particularly true of the educational
discrimination against girls: girls from the poorest households are 3.5 times more likely
to be out of school than girls from more affluent backgrounds.

The UN views education as among the most efficient means of alleviating poverty and
stimulating economic growth: in countries where there is less than 75% enrolment into
primary education, Gross National Income per capita (GNI pc) is almost exclusively
less than $1,270.

The Business Case for Supporting Education

The Business Case for Supporting Education International businesses require an educated, motivated pool of talent responsive to the needs of today’s globally competitive marketplace. This is as true in a developed market such as the UK, as it is in the fast-developing emerging economies. While there is a huge local, regional and international talent pool to draw on, business is attracted to those with good literacy and communication skills as well as broader emotional intelligence skills, such as problem solving and team building. The absence of these skills will exclude people from the workplace and potentially restrict them to unskilled labour or under-employment.

Typically in developed markets, businesses recognise it is in their interests as well as those of the country more widely, to harness and develop people who have basic skills, particularly in the area of transitioning students from school to the workplace, and in partnering with tertiary centres of excellence. Continuous training, development, e-learning, apprenticeships and mentoring all have
a key role to play in providing the knowledge and skills base needed to compete
in today’s world.

View from the Top

View from the Top

Education is a human right and a Millennium Development Goal. It forms one of the Amity Funds’ nine pillars of positive screening, because we recognise business has an important role in encouraging and supporting education and development.

There have been strong strides in improving literacy and access to education globally, but there is still much to do. Globalisation and the need to compete increase the urgency for educational attainment, as there is compelling evidence that these lift the most people out of poverty and encourage economic empowerment. Girls remain among the most marginalised for cultural, societal and economic reasons, and much more needs to be done if girls are to achieve their potential.

For business there is a ‘win-win’ to supporting educational programmes: investing in education provides an expanding talent and skills pool, but equally, educated populations provide growing markets for consumer goods and services. We look
for companies that are either supporting education through the direct provision of
education-related goods and services, or are committed to education as a community

Download PDF: 'Investing in Education'

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