Education: the most powerful weapon
In a nutshell
Education enables underprivileged members of society to break out of the cycle of poverty. It is also key to giving workers the skills to cope with nature of work in the 21st Century.
The United Nations (UN) has identified improvement in access to education as one of important ways to achieve its long-term SDG objectives. It estimates that education generates a very high return on investment –10-15$ returned for every 1$ invested. According to UNESCO data however, 263 million children are not in schooling and 758 million youths and adults are illiterate. The problem is particularly acute for girls and women. Achieving the UN goal of universal primary and secondary education by 2030 will represent an insurmountable challenge for many countries.
To meet this challenge, the UN recognizes the importance of encouraging the private sector to invest resources in the development of educational tools and facilities. However, the investment required is massive – in its recent Learning Generation report, the global Education Commission estimated that it will require boosting spending on education from $1.2 trillion per year today to $3 trillion by 2030 (at today’s prices) across all low- and middle-income countries. While much will come from state budgets and multi-lateral organisations, private-sector initiatives will be essential.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, Nelson Mandela.
The developed world faces very different but equally acute educational problems. The futurist Thomas Frey has estimated that up to 2 billion jobs could be at risk from automation and robotics by 2030. While such estimates are pure conjecture, it seems clear that very different skills will be needed to succeed in rapidly changing workplaces. And that the pace of change will require constant retraining throughout workers’ careers. Already, some 40 percent of employers globally say they find it difficult to recruit people with the skills they need.
As we have highlighted in recent quarters, productivity measures have been falling across the world. Part of the answer is investment in physical capital, but a large part will have to be investment in human capital via education.
What are the opportunities for companies ?
Much of the growth is coming in educational technology (EdTech) which EdTechxGlobal estimates will expand by 17% per annum by 2020. This ranges from hardware devices – routers and networks, tablets and computers – to content and software, such as in massive open online courses or MOOCs. The combination offers the potential to give access to the world’s top educators in some of its most remote locations. Yet according to Citi, only 2% of the USD5 trillion market in education is digitised today.
But opportunities also exist for private schools and universities, particularly those focusing on the key kindergarten to twelfth-grade segment (K-12) in large education-hungry countries like China, India and Brazil. For companies building and operating student residences and housing. And indeed for traditional publishers and suppliers of textbooks and educational materials.