Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) In Education: Why Invest In Education As CSR in India?


Education is the most powerful tool to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty - it helps overcome inequalities, promotes inclusive development, accelerates social transformation and is critical to realise human potential towards economic progress.

Ours is the age of the knowledge economy. Only quality education for every child can help us achieve the goal of long-term economic and social equity we all are working towards.
India has taken genuine strides towards providing access to education for all in the last decade as the numbers indicate - 96% enrolment year on year, a public school within a kilometre radius across the country, improved student- teacher ratios - to name a few.

Education initiatives by the Indian Government

The Indian government has mounted several initiatives to ensure better education - extending from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). In addition to this, education has been one of the most popular causes for companies to support.

From 2014 to 2015, 29% of the total CSR was spent on education and skills development initiatives.
385 out of 432 companies that reported on their CSR by November 2015 had some amount of spending in education - even higher than the number of companies spending in health.
Supporting education is one of the most enduring ways of contributing to nation building in India:

Education is one of the greatest levers in overcoming inequalities and accelerating human development. A holistic education programme can provide a meaningful starting point in engaging with community development for companies across sectors and geographies.
Industry being one of the foremost stakeholders in hiring skilled personnel, education programmes provide a leverage for companies to ensure that they are addressing the skill gaps effectively.
Education initiatives in India have had a reasonable history of effective Government-corporate-civil society partnerships, which provides an essential foundation for corporates to bring in their domain expertise and strengths in designing and implementing innovative solutions to improve learning.
A Strategic Focus On Education CSR in India

With the options to invest in education being so vast and diverse, one of the challenges we are often confronted with is - what are the considerations in laying out the roadmap of an effective, long-lasting education CSR program?

We are seeing companies trying to strike the balance between aligning their CSR strategies to their core areas of expertise and ensuring realization of a clear social need. Within the organization, there are varied priorities including compliance to the law, stakeholder engagement and ecosystem leadership.

In this scenario, we believe that the first step towards planning effective CSR in India is to decide the key anchors that will determine the layout of the initiatives. Here are 3 key anchors we believe hold true for CSR planning across sectors:
Communities

The focus is on the communities around the areas of operation or manufacturing plants of the company (factories/campuses/warehouses etc). The focus could also be a certain demographic focus like girl children, tribal communities or people with disability.

Partners 
The anchor is a credible and reliable partner (Government program/non-profit) working on the focus area of education whose philosophies and approach align with the company's thinking around investment. The CSR efforts will then be woven around the partner's existing programs or new allied initiatives that the company can co-create with the partner.

Themes 
This approach anchors the entire initiative around a specific social need. These needs can be based on internal priorities as agreed by the leadership team or can be based on national and international priorities (e.g. Sustainable Development Goals). The CSR efforts are then in deciding the nature of intervention (own programme/existing non-profit partner programme), institutionalising rigorous systems and processes to identify and on-board the implementation partners, regular monitoring and standardized reporting.

Irrespective of the anchor chosen, the first step in determining the outlay of programmes in education CSR is conducting a comprehensive need assessment involving all stakeholders in the communities that the corporate has decided to work in. The need assessment points not just to critical gaps and possible points of collaboration, but more vitally, it points to the areas that the community considers as important. And this buy-in is critical to the deployment of any effective CSR programme in India.

Case Studies of Education CSR programs by Indian Corporates

Hindustan Zinc
 - In partnership with the Vedanta Foundation, Hindustan Zinc promotes ECE through building Anganwadi and childcare centres in Rajasthan. Vedanta Foundation implements delivery models that have been rigorously tested in the field. For ECE, the Vedanta Balchetna Anganwadi Programmes trains teachers as counsellors and caretakers as well.
 The program has reached over 50,000 children aged 3 to 6 years whereas 4000 children are served through the Bal Chetna Anganwadi

HDFC Bank - HDFC Bank has paired up with Ashadeep Foundation to run 20 pre-schools in the slums of Delhi. The Galli School Project targets children whose parents are ragpickers, and gives the families a way to make sure their children are safe. Young women run the daycare centres out of their homes. Asha Creche is a newly developed programme to provide early childhood education. Almost 1000 students have been served through this programme in the last 4 years.

KC Mahindra Trust - Nanhi Kali is the flagship program of the KC Mahindra Trust. The project provides academic, material and social support that allows a girl child to access quality education, attend school with dignity and reduces the chances of her dropping out. Project Nanhi Kali is working with 19 NGO implementation partners at the grassroot level and today supports over 114,000 girls across 9 States in India and receives wide support from Mahindra employees, 300 corporate donors and 6000 individual donors. Many other companies have sought out Nanhi Kali as part of their CSR initiatives as well, such as eClerx and the Capgemini Group. Several of these girls also receive scholarships from the education Trust.

Realizing the goal of quality education is going to mean rallying talent, resources and efforts. This is needed from various quarters towards developing innovations and models that can also scale, key being the corporate sector as part of CSR.

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