How corporates can improve their longevity by unlocking South Africa’s education potential

South Africa faces an education crisis, and is falling behind the global curve in education quality and quantity. The national education deficit is especially apparent in Maths and Science, where the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked South Africa 128th out of 137 countries in 2018. Over the past 3 years, the number of South African Grade 12 students who qualified to write the final Maths exam decreased by an average of 4.8%, and less than 3% of students who wrote the exam received distinctions. The number of students qualifying to write Physical Science also dropped by 4.2%, and less than 6% of those who wrote the exam received distinctions.

The changing nature of work in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the the present global pandemic have intensified this crisis, and further emphasise the need for an educational paradigm shift. Curriculum grounded in building innovation, adaptation, and critical thinking skills is required to ensure that South African learners are ready for the uncertain workplace of the future. Primary and secondary education are crucial entry points to begin equipping learners with these skills.

Public sector education funding is heavily stretched in many countries, including South Africa. Increasingly, society is calling on the private sector and other non-governmental institutions to contribute to solutions, especially when it comes to driving innovation and adopting non-traditional approaches to education. Companies investing in education not only create a better future for youth, but also raise the quality of available human capital, improving their own bottom line and driving national economic growth. Globally, the last decade has seen a marked increase in private capital that is leveraged for ‘good,’ and in the development of sustainable business models, often called Environmental and Social Governance (ESG). The Sustainable Development Goals, impact investing, green bonds, and the proliferation of international ESG standards for businesses are all evidence of this shift.

South Africa in many ways sits ahead of the social impact curve, as Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (South Africa’s preferential public procurement regulations) has already standardized private sector contributions to ESG objectives such training, employment, supplier development and CSR that target previously disadvantaged groups.

Our NPO, the Tutroom Foundation, is just one of many institutions hoping to actualise social impact opportunities in South Africa, through linking corporate sponsors with educational development initiatives. Tutroom is a supplemental tutoring service for Grade 11 and 12 learners that specifically focuses on raising matric Maths and Science marks and decreasing the shortage of STEM graduates in the country. Tutroom’s learning model not only focuses on breaking down difficult content taught in class, but also on building collaboration, co-creation, and critical thinking skills among students through Small Group Learning (SGL) and peer-to-peer teaching techniques. We have adopted remote practice programmes and rapid digital feedback to respond to COVID conditions. These foundational hard and soft skills are adaptable and transferable to many professions in the changing job market, as they foster a collaborative, problem-solving mindset among learners.

Sponsor companies partnering with Tutroom“adopt” one or more local schools who participate Tutroom’s programme. Companies will be able to visualise and report on incremental student progress through Tutroom’s data analytics tools, and can also visualise the social value of every dollar spent through Tutroom’s Social Return on Investment (SROI) calculations. Throughout the process, companies build relationships with schools and learners, enabling future bursary, internship and employment opportunities, while also fulfilling BBBEE requirements. This creates a 2-way social impact feedback loop between companies and learners.

A number of other organizations are driving business-education partnerships in South Africa, each with unique business models to deliver education innovation. For example, Yes4Youth partners with companies to place unemployed youth in year-long paid internships. Umuzi provides an online tech learning platform, with the opportunity for standout learners to access paid trainings in fields such as data science, data engineering and web development.

At Tutroom, we believe in the vision that private capital can be leveraged for good, and through our partnerships we hope to contribute to reviving the power of education as an enabler rather than a barrier to South Africa’s economic growth and leadership in a 4IR future.