Around the world, 1.5bn children were forced out of their classrooms overnight by Covid-19.
School closures required families and schools to readjust to new learning environments. And while some families made a seamless transition from school to homeschool, a disproportionate number of children from underserved communities faced another hurdle to receiving a basic education.
Simple things like computers, internet connectivity or whether an adult had to go to work during the day determined who was learning and who was not.
Now, while many countries have started the process towards reopening their schools, others are months away from such a reality.
The impact of this crisis will continue to highlight and exacerbate an already devastating educational divide.
Before the pandemic, 260m children globally were not attending school, and more than 800m who did attend were not on track to learn the most basic skills. By 2030, it is anticipated that more than half of all young people on the planet will not have the basic skills for employment. Children living in poverty, girls, and those with disabilities are particularly marginalised, and will face the steepest climb towards education equality.
It does not have to be this way. To offer fully inclusive opportunities that address some of the most pressing inequalities around poverty, race, disability and gender orientation, we have to open up education opportunity.
We know what needs to be done to provide every child a quality education. And the challenge is so great, everyone can be part of the solution.
This includes help from the global business community. Historically, the business community’s investment in education has not been as strong or impactful as its investment in global health or climate change. Some studies have shown that corporate support for global health is more than 16 times greater than corporate support for education, and that when businesses do decide to invest in education, they lack the tools and resources to enhance their decision-making and maximise outcomes for the next generation.
Yet we know that education is at the heart of solving many of the world’s biggest challenges. Education nurtures the talent of the next generation’s doctors, nurses, engineers, innovators, researchers, and Nobel laureates.
And now more than ever, we need young people who are equipped with skills to quickly adapt and enter the workforce, develop new business ideas and create employment opportunities.
While the education world can be complex, there is a huge opportunity to align the business community with priorities of public education systems around the world — and vice versa — to create immediate and long-term impact.
And so the Global Business Coalition for Education and the BHP Foundation have joined forces to form the Business Investment for Education Impact (BIEI) initiative, a new partnership designed to enhance the impact of the $4bn invested annually by business in education.
Instead of one-off projects and quick headlines, the partnership is about achieving transformative change in education by working together with civil society, the public sector, and other stakeholders.
In the coming months, we will engage leaders from the public, private, and civil society sectors in dialogue to develop concrete tools and resources to maximise the impact of future business investment in education. We want the skills, talents and assets from the business community to make a positive contribution to education equity through win-win collaborations.
At a time when there are so many competing global priorities and a looming global recession, this will not be easy. That’s why we need to make the case and bring forward the best evidence to help guide decision-making and partnerships. The data will speak for itself: through stronger, more equitable and quality education systems we can be better equipped to respond to emergencies, grow economies and support the next generation of innovators and makers.
Human ingenuity has helped the world through enormous crises before, and it will do so again. But to ensure that the world’s brightest minds from all communities are able to reach their potential, we must equip them with the quality education experience they need.
We urge business leaders to join us by committing to invest in global education. An investment in children today is an investment in a brighter future tomorrow.
Main image credit: Getty