Education is the most preferred investment option in CSR simply because it touches on various aspects of many social problems and is also the most visible intervention for the organizations. According to Prime Database, a capital market data provider, 920 National Stock Exchange listed companies together spent Rs. 2,042 crore on education in FY16, up from Rs. 1,570 crore in FY15. The report also revealed that a good portion of these funds are utilized for non-core activities such as building toilets, provide infrastructure and equipments. Unfortunately, the learning level of students in our government schools still continues to show insignificant improvement. Does it mean that we need to look deeper and plan our CSR and Govt investments with sharper focus on the learner and whether the facilities and true learning is reaching him? Are we missing out on our student centric focus in our education investments?
Here are 3 reasons why we believe CSR needs to relook into it education strategy:
I. The world around us is changing very fast and so is the nature of jobs. In fact, 65% of students who start school today will get to work in jobs that don’t even exist today. This is not to say that there will be shortage of jobs. Only the nature of jobs will change. So, the key question to ask is whether we are skilling our current generation to have skills, which will help them to adapt to such a fast changing world. UN has prepared a 21st century learning framework which it believes are a set of core competencies which every child must have to be able to do any kinds of jobs that the future may offer. Some of these skills are: Collaboration, Creativity, Critical thinking, Problem Solving, Use of ICT (digital literacy), Communication, Flexibility and Global & Cultural awareness. The real purpose of education for our underserved students is to give them the skills and the knowledge, which will help them to successfully move out of their existing socio-economic situation. As a part of CSR team in your organization, you have the opportunity to prepare our current generation to be responsible citizens of tomorrow who would also contribute to our economy. This is not to say that building infrastructure in a government school is not important. If you feel a strong need, please go ahead and invest. But, at the same time also look at how you can make a contribution in building these key skills in your students. Because, that is one long-term investment, which you will be making in every child you reach out to.
Also, you need to make sure that such skill building interventions easily blend with the regular teaching at the school. Please don’t expect a solution to succeed, which further overburdens the teacher with additional set of tools and activities. For any solution to work, it needs to understand and connect with the deep psychology of all the stakeholders involved in government school ecosystem – be it teachers, students, principal or parents.
II. For true impact, understand that every child is unique: Our existing school system fails to appreciate a simple fact – that every child is unique and hence must be treated uniquely. When a teacher conducts a class for 30 minutes, he/she assumes that post the class; all students would have equally understood the topic. And it is irrespective of the methodology the teacher uses, as it is common to all the students. Why is it that when we conduct an assessment, all students perform differently? Why is it that as individuals we are good at a specific kind of job while someone else is good at something else? This is because we are all unique individuals with our unique ways of receiving, understanding and retaining the information we are exposed to. And so is the case with every child. In the 21st century world we are living in, if our solution is not adaptive and responsive to the exact needs of every child, how can we even hope to make a sustainable impact? Problem with today’s CSR interventions in government schools is that a majority of them are meant for mass consumption. As a result, they fail to make much impact. Therefore, we strongly feel that redefining the CSR strategy in a manner such that it is unique for every child is the need of the hour. It may mean that you might have to give up scale but then the impact will be much bigger and better.
III. Have you embraced digital yet? And no, smart classes do not mean digital in true sense. All said and done, smart classes are still a form of one to many learning and if you refer to point 2 above, you would know what we are referring to.
Consider this fact: By 2020, India will have 750 mn internet users out of which 75% of new users will come form rural areas. On top of it, going by the rate of smartphone penetration in India, it is expected that by 2030, every Indian will have a smartphone. These two facts are a real game changer. Have you started thinking and talking about these two in your CSR strategy discussions? Mobile/tablet powered digital literacy with an integrated learning platform that gives access to bilingual content has to be the future of learning in our government schools. We can leverage the familiarity of students to touch based devices and their natural affinity to multimedia and play way app based learning content to deliver skill building and life shaping education. We even wrote a blog earlier on why mobile apps are going to transform the way students in our school learn. You can read it here. To truly make deep sustainable impact, it is time we reorient our CSR strategy from a teacher centric thought process to a more inclusive student centric digital learning thought process and embrace digital in true sense.
Share with us in the comments below your thoughts on how you are redefining your CSR strategy to make it more relevant for the future generation of learners and building a stronger connect with the underserved students by sharing value in shaping their life and future.