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Education As A Cornerstone Of CSR: A Collaborative Pathway To Development And Growth

With the education sector in India fraught with various challenges, CSR could play a critical role in strengthening the foundation of education in the country

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Corporate Social Responsibility has come of age as an anchor for businesses in the country recently. However, the concept of CSR goes back in time to the Mauryan history; philosophers such as Kautilya have always spoken about ethics while conducting business and charity has been deep rooted in the Indian culture. In India today as well as globally, CSR has become a fundamental pillar in the way business is conducted.

The 2013 Companies Act lists out various areas of spend within the realm of CSR, of which Education consistently is ranked amongst the top 5 desired focus areas.
Prime Database, a capital market data provider, reported that in FY16, 920 National Stock Exchange-listed companies spent a total of Rs. 2,042 crores on education, up from the Rs. 1,570 crores in FY15. The CSR law as such neatly complements the already existing Right to Education act in India that allows for free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 years. Enabling private companies to align with Non-Governmental Organizations to provide solutions at the grass roots level is slowly closing the gaps we find. Despite rising numbers though, this kind of spending on education by large organizations is evidently still not adequate to cater to the requirements of education in a vast country such as ours.

CSR fuelling into the needs of education 
The education sector in the country provides ample opportunity to make contributions to upliftment of the society - almost 29% of India's population is between the ages of 0-14 years. Problems continue to plague the education sector -  the country will face a serious shortage of a skilled and smart workforce, which will be unproductive, cannot be hired, and will not have the skills required to carry out various jobs. Many students who study at urban government schools are children of a migrant population - their parents move depending on where their work takes them, which doesn't allow them the chance to put down permanent roots. This implies that there is an urgency in terms of enhancing the right resources towards furthering the cause of education. The biggest challenge currently faced is continuing the right support for a child throughout their educational life.

With the education sector in India fraught with various challenges, CSR could play a critical role in strengthening the foundation of education in the country.

What can CSR do?
Previously, companies would intervene in government schools on a one-time basis, providing infrastructural fixes with no maintenance and no sustainability.  

To create long-term, sustainable change through CSR activities, corporates are keen to adopt and engage with Government schools near their offices. Communities around an office park or campus often feeds the support staff of a corporate. Being actively involved in the growth and development of nearby schools ensure that any program or support for the students is consistent leading to larger impact.

In the past 5 years, since the introduction of the Companies Act, CSR activities undertaken around education need to and have evolved to become imperative in changing the face of education. There has been a large focus on ensuring sound foundational skills, infusing smart class technology to further the quality of studies, training teachers to better impart education providing scholarships for higher studies, and driving education in low income communities and areas that do not have access to schools and teachers. The life-cycle of education however does not stop at the schooling years, as such CSR has also allowed for a strong focus on vocational skilling and livelihood enhancement. This has provided many students from under-served communities the opportunity to equip themselves with the necessary skills to be placed at a well-paying job. The long-term support and intervention is now completing the circle - mentoring and nurturing these students through the process of their schooling and after.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Shaina Ganapathy

The author is Head of Community Outreach, Embassy Group

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