HOW many times have we heard company bosses declaring that people are their greatest assets? Are we not a tad too familiar with CEOs grumbling about the quality of the graduates who turn up at job interviews?
And if we get a ringgit whenever a businessman moans about the state of education in Malaysia, we would soon have enough capital to go into business ourselves.
Without a doubt, education matters a lot to the world of commerce and industry.
The business community relies immensely on the public education system, but are businesses doing enough for education?
Some business leaders believe they are already doing their part by dutifully paying taxes.
They insist that it is the Government’s job to ensure that our children finish school with the right skills and attitude.
That thinking is a cousin of the parental delusion that all we need to do is get the kids through the school gates and they will learn well.
A country’s education system can do with all the support it can get, and there are so many ways for the private sector to help other than the usual philanthropic gestures such as donating to schools and handing out scholarships.
After all, some problems cannot be solved purely by throwing money at them.
That is why the involvement of entrepreneurs and executives in education can make a difference.
Businessmen are pragmatists and goal-oriented.
They are men of action, problem-solvers, go-getters, movers and shakers.
This is not to say those running the public education system have none of these characteristics.
The point here is that people who are good at operating in a profit-driven environment can bring something different to the government sector.
Businesses that are seeking effective ways to contribute to public education should start by looking at the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which covers pre-school to post-secondary education.
The document suggests 11 strategic and operational shifts to transform the education system.
The businessmen should be particularly interested in Shift Nine: Partner with parents, community and private sector at scale.
The Education Ministry points out that international experience has proven that learning happens well beyond the school walls and can occur at home and in the community.
Between the ages of seven and 17, a child in Malaysia spends only about a quarter of his time in school.
“The priority is thus to shift from ‘school learning’ to ‘system learning’ by engaging parents, the community, as well as the private and social sectors as partners in supporting student learning,” says the ministry.
It adds that research has found that schools that engage with businesses, civic organisations and higher education institutes enjoy benefits that include higher grades and lower student absenteeism.
The private sector has already demonstrated what it can do for education through school adoption programmes and sponsorship of organisations such as Teach for Malaysia.
There are many more opportunities for innovation and collaboration.
The businessmen must put their money, time and effort where their mouths are. The STAR Home Opinion Columnist 7 Jun 2015