Sunday, 9 September 2012

Corporate Control of Education--the Pearson case

One of the ironies of ICT is the duality of control.  The promise is that the digital revolution creates a kind of freedom where everyone can have their voice heard.  On the other hand, the reality is a movement toward corporate monopolies that control the tools and sometimes the content.

Google is an obvious example.  This blog is on software from Google and stored in its cloud.  On the other hand, all the content of the blog feeds into the system Google uses to target ads to me, the way that Google earns the money to offer this free platform.

Pearson is the leading example of applying the technology in education in ways that place a frame around education.  This UK based corporation is creating a vertical integration of its products, most of which are technology-related.

Pearson provides content.  Pearson publishes textbooks, the area they started from in the education field.  These can be hard copy or e-book versions.  They are building lessons for the new standard curriculum being developed in the U.S.  They provide "multimedia assets" and educational software.

Pearson keeps track of how students deal with the content.  Pearson are big guys in the field of student information systems--the software used by schools and governments to keep track of information about attendance, grades, report cards, behavior, Individual Education Programs and other aspects of keeping data on students. 

Pearson provides tests on the content.  Contracts with several states for standardized tests give Pearson a competitive advantage because they piggyback test questions.

Pearson determines who is eligible to teach.  A contract with New York state has turned over to Pearson certification decisions based on tests of candidates and videotaped lessons taught as a student teacher.

Pearson runs schools.  Pearson bought Connections Education, a private company that runs online public schools in 21 states.

Pearson, of course, does not hold a monopoly in all these areas...yet. 

Researcher Donald Gutstein has produced a report that explains Pearson's corporate strategy.  Rather than building all these areas themselves, they buy out the work of others such as Charter School company Connections Education and AAL, the company that created the software for BC's student information system (BCeSIS).

In some cases, Pearson is buying the product.  In others, it is really buying the customers, abandoning the product they buy and getting clients to move to a competing Pearson product.

Gutstein's report on Pearson can be found at

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