Education dominates social investment spend for good reason

2012-08-07 14:32

With a total spend of R6.2 billion in 2011, the CSI spend of 97 top companies surveyed by Trialogue grew almost 15% relative to the previous year despite a challenging economic climate for many companies. Education continues to dominates CSI spend, attracting about 40% of total spend and supported by 92% of companies in the study. Why is this the case?

Education remains the foundation of a vibrant economy. Ask Singapore, home to world’s top performing school system. Without basic education there is no basis for skills development. Without skills, it is impossible to achieve job creation targets and to grow the size of the formal economy. Without an educated and employed citizenry, there is no market. Many of the social ills that plague us today are a direct result of generations who have been lost due to poor or little education. It is no co-incidence that South Africa reports one of the most poorly performing school systems in the world alongside one of the highest crime rates.

While it is not the responsibility of the corporate sector to turnaround the poor performance of our national education system, companies can use CSI spend to make a great impact within clusters of schools. Corporate spend is immense, and combined with a corporate culture of innovation and chasing results it has the power to achieve great things. In my experience, these are some of the areas where companies can make the biggest difference:

Building competent teachers: There is no disputing it, the performance of the teacher in the classroom is the single most important factor in delivering a quality education. Government’s approach of filling halls to host dull and meaningless workshops is not working. Teachers are confused by curriculum changes, and are often not equipped to plan a year’s worth of subject teaching that will deliver results. In a recent Social Innovations survey of school principals, all were crying out for teacher training and development as their biggest need.

Building foundations of literacy and numeracy: Either through providing supplementary education or through in school interventions, building these foundation skills is critical. South Africa ranks as an extremely poor achiever in these areas. The Annual National Assessment (ANA) scores of 2011 show Grade 3s nationally scoring on average 35% for literacy and 28% for numeracy. Grade 6s scored on average 28% for language and 30% for mathematics.

Building vibrant leaders: Despite the massive Government spend on education, there is little emphasis on building school leadership. Teachers are routinely promoted from teacher to head of department to principal, but a competent teacher does not necessarily make a competent institutional leader. Without coherent vision and strategy with the skills and systems to bring it to life, a school can only stumble along from one year to the next. Companies that invest in strategy, leadership skills and management systems tend to be successful. These companies are well equipped to help schools with promise achieve the same.

Companies surveyed spent between R2 million and R314 million each on CSI in 2010/11. These are big numbers from top South African companies that set targets and focus on achieving results for shareholders. I encourage all companies to spend CSI funds in this spirit. Invest where you are likely to get the best return (in the schools sector, this means finding the right school), and implement and track with the same care and consideration that you invest in your operations.

It’s about driving profit – social profit.

www.socialinnovations.co.za

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