Education funding, particularly the lack of it available, is a global problem. Something that should be a priority worldwide is all too often allowed to fall by the wayside. How can innovation be driven, how can an economy grow, how can a country function if the population is not provided with sufficient access to higher education?
Government budgets for education are still in decline, with many economies still not fully recovered enough from the economic downturn to re-direct funds towards schools and colleges. Policies of austerity are hitting these institutions hard, leading to more strain on educators and a worse experience for students.
Education outside of traditional schooling is also in crisis, with unpaid internships tending to replace comprehensive training or apprenticeships. This could become a disaster very quickly – highly skilled jobs that require a greater level of education and training are on the rise in all parts of the world, particularly in growing economies such as India, China and Brazil. If governments and companies are unwilling to invest in the resources to develop these highly skilled workers, the effects of the resultant skill shortage will only further damage the global economy as it slowly recovers.
But what can be done to improve the situation? At first, educational institutions must think internationally – provide global solutions to a global problem. Universities such as the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) in the UK, for example, offer Global MBAs and take on a high proportion of international students, in order to provide skills that are applicable for a range of global markets and will return to different regions with this new expertise.
Companies need to make investment in education a bigger part of their corporate responsibility remit, particularly those with larger operations in low-income countries, where one in three children is unable to read after five years in school. Less than 20% of primary school-age children worldwide stay in school for more than four years, and it is clear that it is hitting developing countries the most.
Business should look to the example of Santander, who spend 79% of their corporate responsibility budget on education, according to research by the Varkey Foundation. This amounts to almost $200m per year, which is impressive, but far from closing the $26bn funding gap identified by Unesco. IBM also contribute a large amount, running programs that aim to give young people around the globe better technology skills. Target, meanwhile, plans to spend $1bn on education in 2015, showing that corporate thinking in the US is beginning to head in the right direction.
Finally, governments need to realise that the only way for a country to enjoy a prosperous future is through better education, and that funding for teaching and resources in schools, colleges, universities and all areas of the education sector is essential to economic recovery.