Education International
Education International

Pearson: wrong strategical approach, unions fear

published 15 March 2016 updated 4 April 2016

A coalition of shareholders, led by US and British unions whose pension funds hold stock in the company, have voiced concern that the global education publisher and provider Pearson is building its business strategy on an “over-reliance” on educational testing.

A shareholders’ resolution, available on http://www.pearsonres.org and endorsed among others by American Federation of Teachers (US); the National Education Association (US); the Australian Education Union; the Canadian Teachers Federation; the National Union of Teachers (UK); the New Zealand Educational Institute; the South African Democratic Teachers Union; and the University of College Union (UK), all affiliated to Education International, calls on Pearson’s Board to “conduct a thorough business strategy review of Pearson PLC including education commercialization and its support of high-stakes testing and low-fee private schools.”

Union concerns

While Pearson in a response to the resolution said it has “carried out a rigorous review” of its business, culminating in a renewed business plan, the trade unions stress that Pearson is suffering a crisis of confidence precipitated by a confused business strategy that overly relies on the provision of high-stakes testing and the delivery of private schooling.

Alternative role

Pearson could be a company that provides educational products and services critical to the success of students around the world, and needs to embrace its role in the public education system, said AFT President and EI Executive Board member, Randi Weingarten. “Instead, it has decided to embark on a politically risky path of high-stakes testing and low-fee private schools,” she highlighted.

The Pearson Shareholders Resolution is about creating a better, more profitable, more economically sustainable firm that works to advance public education in a spirit of collaboration, she added.

Education, a human right

EI reaffirms that education, from early childhood education to higher education and beyond, is a fundamental human right and a public good. Its provision is the principal responsibility of governments, including the state’s duty to define the goals and objectives of quality education systems and to adequately finance them, in consultation and negotiation with representatives of teachers’ unions.

A resolution on privatisation and commercialisation in and of education adopted at the 7th EI World Congress in 2015 notes that “privatisation in and of education, in its many forms and arrangements, is a fast-growing global trend with various, and often negative, consequences for teachers, education support personnel, students and society as a whole”.