How can you help bolster the potential of the next generation?

Education is critical both to personal success and global development. According to UNESCO, every additional year of primary schooling can increase a person’s future earnings by up to 10%—and for women, up to 20%. But an estimated 264 million children globally are not enrolled in school, and many of those who are enrolled lack the tools to master the most basic skills.

In this executive summary of J.P. Morgan’s Philanthropy Field Guide: Global Education for School-Aged Children, we explore the key aspects of education programming and the various opportunities for philanthropists to improve educational outcomes worldwide.

No matter where a student lives, two factors are critical to how he or she learns:

  • Access
    This describes the many circumstances that encourage (or potentially hinder) a child’s ability to gain an education, such as long distances between home and school, or cultural norms that discourage girls, migrants or disabled children from seeking an education.
  • Quality
    This relates to curriculum and content, the ability of teachers to guide students’ learning, and the relevance of what is taught. Even students who attend school may not learn due to poorly trained or absent teachers, an inappropriate curriculum, or inadequate books and materials.

As philanthropists seek to improve education access and quality, there are four questions they should consider:

  1. Is the educational program embedded in the formal school system or outside of it?
    Formal education describes schools that are part of a government system and that follow a government-approved curriculum. Non-formal education describes schools and education programs that are not part of the formal system and which are usually managed by non-governmental organizations. Informal education teaches through unofficial apprenticeships and self-directed learning to empower students.
  2. Which education level does the program target?
    Programs are typically segmented into early childhood education, primary education, secondary education and tertiary education. Technical and vocational training may be included at secondary or tertiary levels.
  3. How does the program adapt to the geography?
    Socioeconomic status, culture, population density and topography all influence education and how children access it. While models can be scaled and applied to various geographies, they must be adapted to regional and cultural circumstances to succeed.
  4. Does the program aim to work with a special population?
    Some segments of the population have special needs for education and face unique barriers, including children marginalized due to disabilities or to HIV/AIDS and other diseases, as well as minority castes and ethnic groups.

Some philanthropists focus on systemic change to improve access and quality, working through formal institutions to pilot new models and advocate for better policies. Other philanthropists find it more fulfilling to work at the local level. With either approach, there are several ways to make a difference if education is your philanthropic focus:

  • Improve infrastructure and learning materials
    Aside from building and equipping classrooms, philanthropists can add features to make schools more accessible for disabled students, provide separate restrooms for girls and boys or fund internet access. Schools in many low- and middle-income countries also need textbooks and other learning materials. Training teachers on new materials and technology is another opportunity for support.
  • Support strategies that recruit, train and retain teachers
    An estimated 68.8 million primary and secondary teachers will need to be recruited by 2030, globally.

    To help fill these roles, philanthropists can support policies that forgive student loan debt as an incentive for college graduates to become teachers. Another strategy is to emulate STEM education advocates who have provided scholarships to people pursuing teaching careers in those fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

    Additionally, subsidized housing is a proven incentive for recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, alongside other interventions that defray the cost of living.
  • Advance the use of technology
    Both formal and informal education programs are applying technology to improve access and quality. Schools have used technology to personalize learning—allowing students to set their own pace and assess progress in real time, and enabling teachers to share real-world lessons that increase relevance. Many programs provide tablets, laptops or other digital tools to students in remote areas, or in locations where well-trained teachers are not available.
  • Analyze data to look for transformational opportunities
    Formal school systems are highly regulated and tend to have robust data reporting requirements. Though data is collected by the government, analysis and strategic use of the results are routinely underfunded.

As such, philanthropists working to improve education for school-age children or seeking systemic change may consider funding the analysis and dissemination of government-owned data. This may provide insights to better understand the efficacy of their interventions and gain insight into potential new directions.

The J.P. Morgan Philanthropy Field Guide: Global Education for School-Aged Children includes information on global trends in education and additional ideas for improving education, as well as highlighting notable funders. Please contact your J.P. Morgan advisor to receive your copy of the report.