Why have NZEI Te Riu Roa members joined with 100 education unions, pension funds and others in a campaign to persuade Pearson to change its business model?

On 29 April, NZEI’s National Secretary, Paul Goulter, will be at Pearson’s AGM in London, as part of a delegation leading the campaign.

Shareholders, including the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, are being lobbied to vote in favour of a resolution that sets out how Pearson needs to change its business.

So how did it get to this? At one time Pearson, a publisher of educational textbooks along with other media, had a good reputation.

But in recent years, the world’s biggest education company has refocussed its model on the privatisation of public education. The business magazine Fortune summed it up in its Jan 2015 article, “Everybody Hates Pearson”. So what has it done that’s so bad? As it turns out, rather a lot:

  • Cashed in on (and fostered) the zeitgeist of high-stakes, low quality testing of students at all levels. In the US its systems are widespread and the very questionable data has been used to introduce performance pay for teachers, and also to fire teachers.
  • It is aiming for “vertical integration” of the “education market” in various countries, that is, to sell ready-made curricula, lesson plans, assessment, teacher appraisal, and teacher education.
  • It uses digital technology to replace qualified teachers.
  • In poor countries, it invests in low-fee, for-profit schools to develop new markets for its products, undermining efforts to set up quality, free public education. The schools make profits by employing un- or under-qualified teachers on low wages.
  • Pearson has a foothold in New Zealand, and its influence appears to be growing.
  • It has 90 subsidiaries operating out of tax havens.

But the news isn’t all bad – depending on which way you look at it. Over the last year, the Pearson share price has crashed by 40% as the very evident flaws in its model become apparent, not least a growing realisation in the US that high-stakes testing is a failed policy.

Sign the petition that tells Pearson (and our government) – “Every child has a right to a free, high quality public education.”