Tom Fletcher (left), Advisor to GBC-Education, moderates panel with: Mark Lowcock, Permanent Secretary of UK Department for International Development; Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania; Zouera Youssoufou, CEO of Dangote Foundation; Annemiek Hoogenboom, Country Director of People’s Postcode Lottery UK; Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. Photo by Lana Wong/Education Commission
During last week’s World Bank / IMF Spring Meetings, the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) held its annual breakfast event that convened a cross-section of senior business executives from more than 30 companies (including new and existing Coalition members), philanthropic leaders, and government representatives. The event, The Future of Education Financing: Bringing Business, Philanthropy & Government Together, served as a platform to share lessons learned and strategize on how to boost education financing.
Sarah Brown, Executive Chair of GBC-Education and President of Theirworld, opened the event by outlining what the international community must do to address the education financing crisis: Education investment needs to increase from today’s $1.2 trillion to $3 trillion by 2030. This is needed, Brown said, to “advance our common cause of every child and young person having the opportunity of a quality and inclusive education.” If education investment remains at current levels, more than 800 million of the 1.6 billion youths will be without the basic skills needed for employment by 2030.
These young people will be left out of the workforce as global development challenges such as resource constraints and climate change continue to grow. A lack of quality education for millions of youths will burden the most marginalized countries even further and hinder progress towards equality, stability, and security. In short, the ripple effects of a lack of investment could be significant and far-reaching. Brown added that, “there’s a big role here for the private sector to play.”
Following her remarks, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, delivered a keynote address in which she emphasized the need for “effective and genuine partnerships,”particularly with the private sector. She also cited the need for “more coordination, more coherence” and building on things that are working and going to scale. Mohammed added, “The potential for collaboration is huge, and many, many more benefits for business. We know that we all need to find a workforce going forward that is more creative, skilled, innovative and that empowers women.”
One of the highlights from the event was a panel discussion moderated by former British Ambassador to Lebanon and current GBC-Education Advisor, Tom Fletcher.
During the panel discussion, Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania and a member of the Education Commission said, “the world is facing an alarming international crisis. Lower- and middle-income countries…are 70 years behind high-income countries in terms of levels of development and achievement in education.” He went on to say that this problem will be compounded by a continuously evolving workplace, one where “two billion jobs will be lost to automation.”
To address this crisis, Kikwete expressed support for a global compact for education that would increase funding for education among domestic and international actors. He underscored the urgency for this compact by saying, “all these problems have got to be addressed within a generation because we can’t wait,” otherwise, many countries will experience higher levels of unrest, radicalization, and mass migrations – the implications of which will impact everyone.
Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, spoke about the financial challenges that education faces, specifically the limited capacity that foundations and development professionals have to address the gap in education investment. He called for more actors – specifically more governments – to increase funding and help drive the global effort to ensure quality education for all. Echoing Kikwete’s call to action regarding education financing, Shah said, “The reality is, if we are going to have the largest expansion in educational opportunity in history, I think we have to confront the massive financial challenge of accomplishing that.”
The need for innovative solutions to tackle the education crisis was a common theme throughout the event. Sir Mark Lowcock from DFID said, “A stronger focus on learning outcomes, a stronger focus on performance management in the school system, a stronger focus on retention, a stronger focus on public, private partnerships. All of these things are improving the effectiveness and the long-term impact of programs already going on. The central problem is a problem of scale.” One way to address this challenge is through a financing facility; Lowcock spoke about the success of the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) and how the British government is interested in supporting the education equivalent – the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd), which he said “is the best proposition we have out there at the moment” to address the gap in education investment.
The conversation shifted to education in emergencies when Annemiek Hoogenboom, Country Director of the People’s Postcode Lottery, cited the case of Lebanon, where the government is using existing infrastructure (schools that can be used in double-shifts by teachers and staff) to support and expand refugee education. This initiative has shown very positive initial results: education access to Syrian refugee children who normally would be sitting in tented camps with limited access to schools increased from 150,000 to 200,000. She cited the success to “cooperation between local NGOs, states, and funders” which makes a “unique model.” She called on attendees to support scaling up such initiatives and for business to take on a greater role through partnerships like these.
Zouera Youssoufou, CEO of Dangote Foundation and GBC-Education member, brought focus to the interconnectedness between early childhood development and health and economic empowerment. Youssoufou added, “the first step impact that we see is making sure that the kids have the appropriate support in the first 1,000 days of their life. If we miss that window, it’s over.”
The panel discussion dovetailed into a table discussion, where participants discussed the “big picture” question:
What are the most important actions we can take now that will start to show results by 2020 and put us on track to achieve the education SDG?
Julia Gillard and Gordon Brown, former Prime Ministers from Australia and the U.K., respectively, spoke of the need to transform the ambition and energy from the breakfast into practical, forward-moving action. As the current UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown emphasized that “the rights of children have now got to be taken far more seriously than before, particularly the rights of children in the most vulnerable positions.”
Julia Gillard, who serves as the Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, spoke about the need to mobilize the energy in the room into practical action, emphasizing the importance of mobilizing domestic resources. “The environment for raising money for overseas development might be getting more adverse” Gillard said. “I would certainly be urging you to take that energy out around the Global Partnership for Education Replenishment campaign. It is really a test for the international community and for everybody in this room about whether we’re serious about meeting this challenge.”
Several foundation and private sector leaders contributed to the conversation as well. Peter Laugharn, CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, made the business case for investing in education by bringing attention to the fact that losing out on an education is the same thing as a loss of competitiveness in the future.
Advocating for a continued increase in funding for education in emergencies, Tariq al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, argued that the global community should continue to improve innovation towards education in emergencies. The way to do this, Al Gurg said, is to have the international community combine fieldwork with global advocacy and capacity building. Gus Schmedlen, Vice President for Worldwide Education at HP and GBC-Education member, spoke about the two most important things that must be done: recruit more business leaders and track and measure the efficacy of business interventions in education. HP believes in ensuring quality education for everyone, everywhere, and is a leader in supporting Syrian refugee education.
As Development Assistance Committee Chair at OECD, Charlotte Petri-Gornitzka spoke about official development assistance (ODA), particularly the need to “protect, then grow, then target how we use ODA for the purpose that we have agreed to do, the SDGs and education” being a very important part of that. Petri-Gornitzka pointed to an increase in overall ODA, but less money is going toward least developed countries and even less to education.
In her closing remarks, Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank, emphasized the importance of investing in the future of our children and our world by saying that “the best investment we can make…is from the day that they’re born throughout their life, to support them so they can have a better opportunity for themselves to contribute to a more secure world.”