Globally speaking, not much money goes to schools. Which is too bad since so many other issues can be traced back to education. How about a billionaire like Bill Gates taking up global education?
“This week, business leaders are gathering in Davos to debate global priorities at the World Economic Forum” reports Al Jazeera. The forum declares itself to be “committed to improving the state of the world”. So why isn’t education higher up on the agenda?
“On the face of it, there should be little need to make the business case for education. It is intrinsically tied to all positive development outcomes. Economic growth, health, nutrition and democracy are all boosted by quality schooling. If all children in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, poverty would fall by 12 percent – and that’s good for business. The private sector benefits directly from an educated, skilled workforce.
“The private sector spends only $683 million per year to support education in developing countries, however, making up equivalent to just 5 percent of total education aid, as we found in the latest Education for All Global Monitoring Report. This is equivalent to less than 0.5 percent of the annual profits of the ten biggest companies in the world. It is about the same as the price of two Boeing 747s or the amount Americans spend on pizzas in just over a week.
“By contrast, health usually features high on the agenda at Davos and is one of the top three global risks identified by the forum. Health, as each of us knows, is the foundation of well-being. From an education perspective, having visited classrooms around the world I know all too well that children cannot concentrate and benefit fully from school if they are ill or malnourished. Why does health figure so much more prominently than education? One reason is that recent campaigns against malaria, polio, HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis have been headed by Bill Gates or endorsed by the Gates Foundation. A vaccination summit held in 2011 and championed by the Gates Foundation raised $4.3 billion, enabling 250 million children to be vaccinated worldwide.
“Such sums give pause for thought. There are still 61 million children out of school, and it would cost $16 billion a year to get them all into school – but universal primary education might truly be possible by 2015 if a leader like Bill Gates galvanised private companies and foundations to prioritize schooling.”