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Davos: Think Gates Cares About Education? Think Again

image from farm8.staticflickr.comWhy is education such a rare topic at Davos, the annual conference on global well-being, and what would it take to make education a top global funding priority along with health care?  

The question is raised in this recent commentary from Al Jazeera:  "On the face of it, there should be little need to make the business case for education. It is intrinsically tied to all positive development outcomes. Economic growth, health, nutrition and democracy are all boosted by quality schooling. If all children in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, poverty would fall by 12 percent - and that's good for business. The private sector benefits directly from an educated, skilled workforce."

Education development from the private sector totals just $683M a year, according to the latest Education for All Global Monitoring Report. "This is equivalent to less than 0.5 percent of the annual profits of the ten biggest companies in the world," writes Pauline Rose is the Director of the Global Monitoring Report on Education published by UNESCO. "It is about the same as the price of two Boeing 747s or the amount Americans spend on pizzas in just over a week."  Meanwhile, there are 61M children not going to school.

One reason for the relative inattention to global education is that it's eclipsed by global health efforts, which receive more than half of US foundation funds (vs. 8 percent for education).  Ironically, many of these global health initiatives are funded funded by none other than the Gates Foundation.  (Image via FlickrCC)

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A growing trend seems to be these low-cost private schools - I don't know of any Gates involvement, but Pearson is: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/jul/03/pearson-invest-private-education-africa-asia
Certainly in line with "creative capitalism"

I think it entirely plausible that the Gateses are happier with their progress in fighting disease in the third world than they are with the success of their investments in American education. They've had some success with the latter, but on the whole those investments have probably increased their impatience more than their optimism. It's also likely that they have discovered that, intelligent and determined though they may be, solving educational problems is much more difficult than many of us imagined it might be. President Obama, for example, wants to reform American education, but is currently tied to strategies unlikely to prove successful. We need to have approaches that will lead to better outcomes for students in the upper half of the achievement spectrum as well as for those in the lower half, and not merely focus on the bottom five percent, as we have been.

I am from India, and last year Gates visited a state in my country Bihar. Lot of things were said that this will lead to a new boom in Indian education and the standard of knowledge would improve drastically. So in my opinion Gates and his various organisations have started taking education seriously. I have huge hopes from their project. Apart from this a lot of firms have taken education seriously in India. Rural India has seen an increase in School going kids. A third world country like India, needs help and we will be happy from what we get.

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