Many companies such as IBM, General Electric, and Intel have achieved impressive results from long-standing partnerships with schools, students, and education organizations. IBM’s Reinventing Education program alone has invested approximately $75 million with school partners around the world to develop and implement innovative technology solutions. But the challenge going forward is for more companies to make their mark. From applying technical and management expertise to financial resources to advocacy, America’s business community has a very important role to play in supporting students at all stages of education—from pre-K to college and beyond.
For PricewaterhouseCoopers, this entails partnering with top organizations, including Feeding America, MIND Research Institute, Operation Hope, and Girl Scouts of America, to support the physical and mental well-being and educational growth of students. We supplement these partnerships with our own programs, such as our IMPACT program, which helps students transition to college and we continue to support students while they are there through our active on-campus recruitment efforts.
Our philosophy starts with making sure that students have the proper nourishment. Research indicates that poor nutrition in children during their critical periods of growth hampers their ability to perform at school and harms their overall cognitive development. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2008, an estimated 16.7 million children lived in households that provided an inadequate supply of food. The private sector can help through supporting food service programs to make sure children are ready to learn.
Once the foundation is in place, we must focus on teaching them the core educational skills. The private sector can apply its resources to push for the adoption of innovative curriculum and technologies to ensure that core subjects—math, science, and language—are being taught in the most effective way.
Upon obtaining an understanding of these core skills, it is vital to learn how they can be applied in the real world. For example, when it comes to math, research tells us that students’ comprehension increases when they see how the formulas and theories they learn in the classroom can be applied to everyday living. According to the Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, the financial literacy of high school students has fallen to its lowest level of all time, with students receiving an average score of just 48.3 percent on their 2008 annual financial literacy survey. To address staggering statistics like this, we are working with Operation Hope to teach youth across the United States the “language of money.”
The business community can also play a critical role in helping students manage the transition from high school to college and ultimately succeed in higher education. Studies show that students’ earning potential increased by 60 percent if they attend a four-year college, but many are often overwhelmed by the complicated process they must go through just in order to enroll. To help address this gap, PWC created a program called IMPACT that helps mentor talented minority students through the rigorous application and financial planning process. This year’s graduating class of 83 students has been offered more than $18 million in college scholarships and to date has assisted nearly 300 students.
As a new class of graduates across the country prepares to accept their diplomas, it’s a good time to consider how the business community can help address the critical challenges facing our education system. On top of subpar graduation rates and declining math scores, our schools are now confronting severe budget cuts that threaten the quality of education. The world economy places a premium on the use of intellectual capital to maintain a competitive advantage and the future of the private sector will rest on how well it invests in developing valuable lifelong learning systems for all children. Education is a cross-sector issue that also needs to be treated as a personal one—it is the collective action of each of us that will help inspire meaningful change and contribute to a successful, sustainable future.
Editor's Note: The original image has been changed.
Shannon Schuyler is currently the Corporate Responsibility Leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers and is a member of the board for the firm’s foundation. Schuyler is an expert on corporate responsibility, service, social innovation, and youth education.