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Podcast #89: Investing in education through public–private partnerships

'Beyond School Books' – a podcast series on education in emergencies

By Rudina Vojvoda

NEW YORK, United States of America, 28 February 2014 – Business leaders and heads of governments from around the world will gather at Dubai’s Global Education and Skills Forum to strengthen collaboration and further engage the business sector in building a better educated and more equitable society.

© Varkey GEMS Foundation
Teacher training offered by the Varkey GEMS Foundation, in Uganda. “[I]f business fails to get the best out of the young populations, we will witness the biggest ever lost generation,” says Vikas Pota.

AUDIO: Listen now

In this episode of Beyond School Books, Vikas Pota, Global Head of Corporate Affairs for GEMS Education and Chief Executive of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, shares his opinion on some ‘win–win’ situations involving big business and the hundreds of millions of children around the world who desperately need a quality education. GEMS Education, which is one of the co-organizers of the Dubai forum, is an international K–12 education company that provides high-quality education to hundreds of thousands of children around the world.

There is wide consensus that education transforms lives – and yet we are faced with an education crisis: Currently, 57 million children of primary school age are not in school, and 200 million youth aged 15–24 are illiterate. The situation is much worse for girls than it is for boys.  UNESCO’s latest report shows that, if current trends continue, it will take until the year 2072 for all of the poorest young women in developing countries to become literate. “In other words, it will only be the grandchildren of today’s people in sub-Saharan Africa that can expect to learn the skills that the developed world takes for granted today,” says Mr. Pota.

He believes that an important way to address this crisis and ignite change now is by strengthening public–private partnerships in education, which, he says, appear to be successful in almost every other facet of life. According to Mr. Pota, the first step in building effective partnerships between governments and the private sector is speaking the same language when it comes to investing in education. “Often, what happens is that it is presented as a burden rather than an opportunity,” says Mr. Pota.

Citing examples from emerging economies such as Brazil, India and Nigeria, Mr. Pota says that it becomes clear that these countries are showing some great achievements as a result of their economic progress. But, he says, this progress cannot be sustainable without skilled workers, especially in countries that have a very young demographic profile and are experiencing high rates of unemployment.

“If you take India, for example, more than half of India is under the age of 25,” says Mr. Pota. “If business can help to get the best out of this generation, then the dividends can be used for years to come. On the flip side of the coin, the real tragedy is that, if business fails to get the best out of the young populations, we will witness the biggest ever lost generation and possible generations that the world has ever seen. In business terms, this is an opportunity cost,” he says.

This year’s Global Education and Skills Forum is expecting about 50 ministers of education and labour to engage in dialogue with leading private sector actors on how to design and implement reforms that have an impact in their schools. Mr. Pota says that he is optimistic about the outcomes of the forum, and he invites everyone to participate.




Podcast moderator Alex Goldmark and guest Vikas Pota discuss the importance of investing in education. Mr. Pota is Global Head of Corporate Affairs for GEMS Education (an international company that provides high-quality education to hundreds of thousands of children) and Chief Executive of the Varkey GEMS Foundation.

AUDIO: Listen

UNICEF Photography: Education

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