Corporate Sector Can Play Important Role in Achieving RTE
The Right to Free and Compulsory Education and the role corporate sector can play in helping to achieve it was the theme of the conference jointly organised by UNICEF, CII and TSMG.
NEW DELHI, India, 14 December 2010 – Seventy-four per cent of the top 500 Indian companies are involved in some form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity and the education sector is the most preferred area of involvement for majority of these companies.
These were the among the many key findings of a study presented at a conference jointly organised by the UNICEF, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG).
The conference focussed on the theme ‘Universalisation of Education: Role of Corporate India’ and deliberated at length India’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) and the role corporate sector can play in successfully achieve it across the country.
Spread over three panel discussions, the issues related to quality of education in India’s primary schools, teacher workload, absenteeism and the need for monitoring mechanisms were discussed.
The conference was attended by major corporate and foundations active in implementing CSR projects in the field of education. The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and prominent NGOs were also part of the consultation.
“The estimated spend by top 500 companies in India is around Rs. 4000 crores (US$ 880 million),” said Mr. Raman Kalyanakrishnan of TSMG, while presenting the findings of the study. “Only four per cent of companies release annual CSR reports,” he added.
The study, part of developing a Toolkit for corporates to help them structure their CSR activities in education sector, was commissioned through TSMG and aimed at identifying models for business houses to begin their engagement in strengthening education sector in India.
The Toolkit ‘Business as a Partner in India’s Right to Education’ also has a collection of key features of the RTE, an outline of the roles that central and state governments need to play to implement RTE in the country. UNICEF models like the Child Friendly Schools, monitoring and evaluation tools and checklists for ensuring minimum standards in schools also form part of the tool kit.
Releasing the Toolkit, UNICEF Representative, Ms. Karin Hulshof, addressing the corporates said, “The knowledge and skills children acquire today will have a direct impact on the success of your businesses in the years to come.”
In her keynote address, Ms. Kiran Bhatty, National Coordinator of RTE with the NCPCR, provided an overview of the RTE Act, its legal basis as well as the process to seek redressal of the complaints where the RTE provisions were violated. Ms. Bhatty emphasized that corporates could play a useful role in raising awareness of the provisions of the Act among their own employees and networks.
Citing a comparative example on the quality of education in government and private runschools, Colonel Gopal Karunakaran, Project Director of HCL Schools stated that 20 per cent of private schools in India were catering to 40 per cent of school-going children.
“Despite the higher expenses involved, parents preferred to send their children to private schools,” Mr. Karunakaran added.
Mr. Clement Chauvet, the Chief Resource Mobilisation at UNICEF, explained the contents of the Toolkit and how it could be effectively used by the corporates.
“It is a priority for UNICEF that RTE becomes a reality for every child in India. Every individual could take a pledge to learn about the RTE and get at least one out-of-school child back into school,” Mr. Chauvet added.
Ms. Urmila Sarkar, Chief of Education at UNICEF, while addressing the gathering, said getting 8 million out-of-school children back to schools in age appropriate classes was the biggest challenge in making the Right to Education a success in India.
CII along with UNICEF and TSMG plan to hold more such consultations in different regions of the country in 2011 to build a movement to engage the corporate sector in taking up implementation of the Right to Education.
In October 2010, UNICEF had launched a online campaign Awaaz Do to initiate and promote a dialogue around Right to Education provisions. Till date, the campaign has garnered over 125,000 sign-ups.