Concerned Corporations, Consumers & Communities

Posts tagged ‘Retention Rates’

Tackling Education is More Than Just Building Schools

Can you reasonably expect your company to succeed just by purchasing/renting an office space?

Can you reasonably expect your company to succeed just by purchasing/renting an office space?

It’s a ludicrous question, and a healthy dose of common sense would answer the question.

A company needs more than that to succeed. You need to acquire the tools of production, be it machinery or computers. Then you need sufficient manpower and must ensure that they are well equipped to fulfil the tasks required of them, if not, you increase headcount or send staff for further training.

Next, you have to make sure that your employees are sufficiently motivated and turnover is low (CSR is a great way to address this issue), find the right employees willing to relocate to overseas offices, and if your office is far from amenities, provide transportation, and if not possible, bring the amenities to them or hire employees who live closer to the office. And of course, you must ensure that the company has sufficient cash flow to pay your staff regularly.

Now you can look at your company’s market share. You want to ensure that your product/service pricing is competitive and suitable for your target market, that your product/service is easily accessible, culturally sensitive, instruction manuals are given in the appropriate language, and your products/services are not inherently discriminatory (Yes, we are aware that there are gender/ethnic/religion specific products, which is fine, so long as you aren’t trying to sell jock-straps and wondering why so few women are buying them).

Next you want to consider whether your customers/clients continue to use your products/services. You products/services must be easy to use, and if not, assistance must be readily available, your customer service and after sales service must be adequate, and you may want to consider in what ways your products/services are child-friendly or the circumstances under which they might be contraindicated.

In a way, education intervention is like running a business. For it to truly bring poverty rates down, you need more than the obvious hardware – the school. You need other hardware like schoolbooks and stationery. Then you look at whether there are sufficient teachers and the quality of teaching, and if supply is inadequate, look to improve teacher training and recruitment.

Even if there are sufficient teachers, teacher absenteeism may be high. This may be caused by several reasons. It could be that teachers do not want to teach in minority areas, the school is too far from the town and amenities, low or irregular pay so that they have to farm to provide their own food. These are processes that may take up to a decade to rectify.

Having all these in place, you can now look at enrolment rates of the school. Enrolment rates may be low even with all these in place, and the reasons why must be addressed too. It could be that the family is poor and requires the child to work or help in the farm, the school is too far away, an inability to speak the language of instruction (especially true in ethnically diverse countries), the lack of female toilets or a high occurrence of rape in and en-route to schools (especially in places where female chastity has real economic ramifications).

We must also look at the retention and graduation rates of schools, and if retention rates are high or graduation rates are low, maybe it’s because children are missing school because of harvest or agriculturally intense periods, the method of instruction is poor, or because girls have reached a marriageable age and are now laden with domestic duties of married life.

But ultimately, the most important aspect is whether education really teaches the children any useful skills that they can use to increase their income. This is summed up eloquently by the article “Inputs and Outputs, But No Outcomes” by MJ from Bottom Up Thinking:

Let’s hope that donors… realise that there is a lot more to education than just upping the enrolment rate. Bragging about how many new schools you’ve built counts for little until children start graduating with economically useful skill sets. New schools built, more textbooks provided, additional teachers trained, increased enrolment: these are all useful milestones, but ultimately, only the final outcome counts.

And if that final outcome is not children who have graduated with an education that empowers them to improve their lives, then the next press release about your activities might as well say “$5M pledged to school construction… 200 schools built… 100 not operational… 75 used as communal storage areas… 25 functional… 20 children enrolled/school (operational)… 1 graduate… CEO says ‘we didn’t know about the numbers, but actually we just wanted to take pictures with the newly built schools for our annual report… I don’t suppose the children really matter do they?’.”

Now wouldn’t that make a great PR picture?

Benson Tan is the Managing Consultant of Global Causeways, a Corporate Social Responsibility, Philanthropy and Development Consultancy operating from Singapore. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter, or both.

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