Business Leaders Call for Action on Education

From early childhood development to the use of technology to deliver education, the business community convened international development experts, NGO leaders, and advocates to elevate education as a priority at the opening of the 69th UN General Assembly.

The week started with the #UpForSchool Youth Rally where Peter Vesterbacka, Mighty Eagle of Rovio—a GBC-Education #smartinvestment Network company—responded to the demand by youth to ensure their right to education and promote the #UpForSchool petition.  Rovio is looking at ways to disseminate the youth’s petition through its gaming platforms and innovative technologies.

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McKinsey & Company Global Managing Director Dominic Barton

Business leaders came together at the A World at School September Forum titled 2015 #EducationCountdown: Failure is Not an Option to champion education and highlight the urgency to get the 58 million remaining out-of-school children into school and learning by 2015.


Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek

The forum was kicked off by GBC-Education Executive Chair Sarah Brown at the annual GBC-Education Executive Breakfast, which brought together business leaders including Intel Foundation President Shelly Esque and ReedSmith Partner David Boutcher.  Several former heads of states joined including Former Prime Minister of the UK and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, Former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Partnership for Education Julia Gillard, and Former President of Malawi Dr. Joyce Banda.  Leaders of civil society at the breakfast included Teach for All CEO Wendy Kopp, Dubai Cares CEO Tariq al Gurg, Committee on Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy CEO Daryl Brewster and ePlanet Capital CEO Asad Jamal.

McKinsey & Company Global Managing Director Dominic Barton shared insights on the role of business in working with local government and education institutions to help tailor education systems to address the needs of the job market.  Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek discussed the Education for Better Fund, which will allow nearly anyone, anywhere in the world, to donate to support UNICEF education programs for Syrian youth.

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The breakfast included an announcement by PricewaterhouseCoopers, represented by PwC Charitable Foundation President Shannon Schuyler, in collaboration with the Global Business Coalition for Education and partner A World at School, of the report Planning for Impact: Measuring Business Investments in Education.  The report aims to help organizations begin to better measure and plan for the impact of their investments in education—including the benefits for both business and for society.

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After the breakfast, Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio also joined a panel with Commissioner for Development with the European Union Andris Piebalgs, the Education Minister of Lebanon Elias Bou Saab, and Founder of Educate a Child Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser to discuss how the international community can achieve MDG 2 in the next 500 days before the goals expire at the end of 2015.

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Econet Wireless CEO Strive Masiyiwa and XPrize Senior Director Matt Keller – joined by UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown – launched a $15M Global Learning XPrize as part of the high-level plenary discussion.  The prize is a five-year competition that challenges teams to develop open source and scalable software that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic.


A second panel convened leaders in health and education to discuss the convergence of health and education, highlighting the need for investments in education by the private sector to ensure investments in health are sustainable.  Below, V Shankar, Standard Chartered’s CEO of Africa, Middle East, Europe and the Americas is joined First Lady of Tanzania Mama Salma Kikwete, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Executive Director Mark Dybul, and USAID Administrator Raj Shah to discuss the convergence of health and education.


The Business for Early Childhood Development (ECD) Task Force—led by LEGO Education and Oando Foundation—convened its first meeting of businesses and NGO leaders to discuss how to make ECD a political priority.  In support of this work, the Center for Universal Education at Brookings released a video on the business case for investing in ECD.   Below, Tokunboh Durosaro, Director of the Oando Foundation and co-Chair of the Business for ECD Task Force, moderates a breakout session during the Task Force meeting.


Leaders in social finance and ECD—including Goldman Sachs, Accenture, ReedSmith, H&M Conscious Foundation, the Center for Universal Education at Brookings Institution and the World Bank Group—discussed the feasibility of using innovative financing to scale ECD activities in developing countries.

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Business leaders in technology and international development met to consider five models for using technology to deliver education to the most marginalized.  A discussion followed, moderated by the Center for Universal Education at Brookings Institution Director Rebecca Winthrop, where meeting participants deliberated and prioritized a potential technology model.

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The week ended with the annual GBC-Education member meeting, facilitated by GBC-Education Advisory Board member Justin W. van Fleet and GBC-Education Director of Policy and Research Kolleen Bouchane, with over 20 mulitinational corporations coming together to discuss the upcoming year’s strategy for business engagement in global education.

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Photos © Steve Gong/A World at School