The Open Society Foundations’ engagement in education is rooted in our founder George Soros’s earliest philanthropic efforts.
2020 Education Expenditures by Region
George Soros’s commitment to fostering critical thinking, the free exchange of ideas, and access to education has shaped Open Society’s global work, with a focus on approaches that respond to the needs of children, students, and their families.
Soros's first philanthropic ventures involved providing scholarships for Black students under apartheid South Africa in the 1970s. He went on to co-found the Central European University in 1993, working to reignite intellectual inquiry and exchange in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism. From 1994 to 2020, Open Society’s Early Childhood Program advanced the rights of young children by supporting ambitious initiatives and advocacy to reshape early childhood development practices and institutions.
Starting to Build a More Open World
Taking a Lead on Early Childhood Education
Supporting Higher Education on a Global Scale
Today, the Foundation’s engagement in education and child development issues has continued to evolve. It includes our substantial support for the Open Society Universities Network, an unprecedented initiative launched in 2020, to defend academic freedom and critical thinking by connecting scholars, students, and educational institutions from around the world. In 2022, Open Society Foundations partnered with the Oak Foundation and Porticus to launch the Early Childhood Regional Networks Fund to secure vibrant, stakeholder-led regional platforms for the early childhood field.
Open Society continues to fund groups working to promote access to education for all, including those who face the biggest barriers because of entrenched discrimination, or displacement by war, conflict, and economic pressures.
Closedowns aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus have had a devastating effect on students—from the very youngest to those at universities and college—as well as on their teachers and on academic research. We are supporting efforts to ensure that all students have access to the technology that enables them to keep learning, while also working to make sure that the crisis does not lead to technology companies exploiting their role in the crisis.
The Open Society Foundations helped establish the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, which opened in 1998 and is now one of the most highly regarded higher education institutions in Kyrgyzstan, and part of the Open Society Universities Network.
As part of its program to provide access to study opportunities for refugees, Open Society has promoted innovative models of access to university education for refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya.
In Ukraine, the national foundation helped universities establish an independent external testing system for admissions—aimed at combating the paying of bribes for student places—that now operates across the country.
Early Childhood and Open Society
Beginning in the 1990s, the Open Society Foundations Early Childhood Program worked to advance the rights of young children by investing in early childhood development while building civil society and regional networks
The Value of Inclusive Education
When all children, regardless of their differences, are educated together, everyone benefits.
Agents of Progress
To Promote Change, Support Teachers
In their classrooms each day, teachers throughout the world help encourage the kind of active citizenship and critical thinking our future leaders will need. Here’s how we at Open Society plan to support their vital work.