Posted on July 10, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) contributions has been mandated by Government of India for all companies meeting specified financial thresholds. Certain areas of socioeconomic development have been specified as well, school education being one of them.
According to Section 135 of Companies Act 2013, Every company having net worth of rupees five hundred crores or more, or turnover of rupees one thousand crores or more or a net profit of 5 Crore or more during the financial year, shall ensure that the company spends, in every financial year, at least two percent of the average net profits of the three immediately preceding financial years on CSR activities. With the Companies Act, 2013 came into effect, the involvement of the companies in school education through CSR has changed both qualitatively and quantitatively.
School education – a case of changing nature of corporate philanthropy
Current trends of philanthropy in the corporate sector indicate that school education is receiving exceptional interest. Corporate leaders who have come to realize that resources spent on school education are bound to impact social equity are diverting CSR budgets to improve the quality of school education.
Customarily, CSR funds in education have been spent on improving the basic infrastructure and amenities. However, in the absence of continued maintenance, it proved to be only a cosmetic change at best. Further, the outcome is marred by inefficient, stereotypical use of assets resulting in stagnation. But there is an apparent change in the corporate spending scenario in the improvement of school education. This change is visible on several fronts including R&D for efficiency enhancement, application of technology and training of school leaders.
As the corporations realize the importance of educational equity in the establishment of a sustainable economy they are proactively aiding the implementation of the Right to Education Act. With the change in the outlook platforms for collaboration emerged for an exchange of ideas and knowledge sharing. Consequently, the role of corporates in K-12 education sector progressed from granting and funding to research, advocacy and facilitation of systemic change.
For corporate initiatives to be consequential, an understanding of India’s education landscape is a must. To this end, several fact-finding studies have been funded by enterprises. The findings of these studies pinpoint the areas that require special attention in CSR outlay including quality and adequacy of teachers and school leaders, assessment of student achievement, measurement of the impact of new educational policies and use of technology in optimizing teaching-learning outcomes.
The changing outlook of stakeholders underlays the principle that CSR budgeting for education should shift focus from inputs and outlays to outcomes and impact.
CSR spending for stimulation of innovation and improvement of education
Corporate intervention for maximum impact on school education also includes the adoption of best practices in education, bringing tested processes to scale and development of an environment conducive for innovation with accountability. An environment free from bureaucratic friction enables the stakeholders to conceive, test and assess innovations.
A sister organization of Pratham, ASER center started releasing annual surveys beginning 2000s about the scholastic merit of Indian students, the survey became most quoted and significantly reliable student assessment tool used in India. Its inherent value made certain state governments adopt its indicators in assessing the impact of school education reforms of the state.
Other corporate assisted projects whose innovation has been upscaled pertain to the training for school leaders. Under this project, the administrative practice wherein principals of schools in India are commissioned to work as administrators without any formal training compromising the education ecology of the school, was selected for intervention. The significance of the role of heads of the school is reflected in several pieces of research one of which states that learning outcomes are altered by 25% depending upon the effectiveness of the school leadership. The school leader-training model that turned out to be exceptionally impactful was initially tested in the state of Rajasthan and eventually in 1000 plus schools in 3 states.
Prospective influences of corporate spending on school education
While 97% enrolment in grade 1 has been achieved, only 35% of the 355 million children in India reach grade 12. Private schools are saving the day by imparting quality education and their role can be optimized in a knowledge economy with the assistance of CSR backed initiatives. Despite the fact that the private schools cater to 40% of the total students, policies made by the state does not consider their position and practically undermine them like what happened after RTE quota enforcement to some very good affordable schools. CSR spending can help to bring about a change of state of affairs through research and advocacy and make easier for schools in India to operate and upgrade.
Experts operating in the K-12 sector in India can make it easier for corporates to strategize their CSR spending in school education arena. The government of J&K, Wort & Tat are cases, where School Serv has assisted to bring a systemic change in housing children in the safe, caring environment and educating them for socioeconomic progress.