A new survey explores why 1,500 adult learners have gone back to school—and what barriers they’ve faced along the way.read more
News, Media & Blogs
Catch up on our latest news & find resources for the media.
Our experts have two suggestions for parents who might be worried about their child’s cognitive assessment.read more
“There are two New Mexicos,” says Liz Delfs.
“The one with nice shops, great restaurants.”
“And the other one, with one of the lowest literacy rates, the highest high school dropout rate, and an epic war against drugs.”read more
Making Essential Course Materials Affordable
As students across the nation returned to campus this fall, college affordability was an increasingly frequent topic of discussion among policymakers and political candidates. As the debate over how to address this important issue continues, one university is taking matters into its own hands.read more
In Kenya, many children who attend Bridge International Academies are getting results in the top 5% nationally. In India, what began as a single classroom helping children in slums to learn English has grown into 800 schools serving 200,000 students who outperform ‘traditional’ classrooms by between 20-60%. And over 3,000 children in the Philippines are benefitting from being at schools where teachers received a 100% pass rate on their licensure tests.
These are just some of the extraordinary outcomes being achieved by a new generation of education entrepreneurs around the world – entrepreneurs that Pearson has been helping to guide.
In recent years the debate around how to fix global education has shifted. It is no longer enough just to talk about getting every child into school (though alas not because that has been solved.) Just as important is what happens when they’re there. When the world pats itself on the back that 43 million more children now go to school than five years ago, someone needs to keep asking, “what next?”. In other words, is the increase in access leading to improvements in progress?
Through the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF) we are helping local entrepreneurs across Asia, Africa and Latin America to go further and faster in improving education in their local communities. From Ghana to India, our team has found brave innovators, exploring how new teaching and learning approaches can serve their communities. As my colleague Katelyn Donnelly, who heads up PALF, says: “It was clear everywhere we went—from Pakistan to Ghana to the Philippines—parents, students, and heads of state saw education and skill development as a critical gateway to a more prosperous life and a stronger economy. What was lacking was organization, knowledge and capital.”
Where governments are sometimes unable to take on risks, entrepreneurs and startups can focus on the most difficult challenges in education—job readiness, early childhood education or teacher training—and make a big difference in a short space of time, from which the public sector can eventually benefit.
Launched in May 2012 with an investment in Omega Schools in Ghana, PALF has now invested $15m in 10 education companies in five countries. With our partners we have helped educate 350,000 people, many of whom would not have had an education, let alone a good one. And importantly, they are all solutions that are based on sound business plans, so are sustainable, scalable and replicable.
By getting behind local entrepreneurs, with our money and our know-how, we’re also helping to stimulate thriving communities - not just business people, but teachers and parents and anyone who relishes the opportunity to take on the trickiest problems in education.
The late Professor C.K. Prahalad, a Pearson author and board member, said: “The big challenge for humanity is to get everybody, not just the elite, to participate in globalisation and avail its benefits.” The work of PALF is heavily influenced by that belief in inclusion, and in allowing everyone, not just those at the top of the pyramid, to have a chance.
My colleagues in PALF have just published their first report into the impact of the investments they have made. It is well worth a read.
Tomorrow will be the first time since 1957 that the Financial Times will not be published as part of Pearson.
As we complete the sale of the FT to new proprietors, Nikkei, it’s a good day to take stock of what Pearson and the FT have achieved together in those 58 years.
As Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson pointed out in his eloquent analysis of the sale, when Pearson first bought the Pink ‘Un, the deal was described as “a sound, conservative investment”.
It went on to be so much more than that. The City of London’s house paper has become the indispensable guide to global finance, economics, politics and the business of technology for people with an interest in any of those fields. FT.com has continually redefined digital journalism – and has proven that people will pay for high quality content.
The FT’s principled approach to reporting “without fear or favour”, the breadth and depth of its coverage, and its unstinting high standards are all qualities to we have admired and sought to uphold throughout our ownership.
The FT’s commitment to finding and breeding the next generation of journalistic talent is also one from which many businesses could learn. Some of the most respected names in global journalism and public life are FT alumni – including current leaders at the BBC and Dow Jones. (It’s not every newspaper whose journalists go on to become government ministers, from Westminster to Ottawa, either).
So, why did we sell?
There is no doubt we’ve reached an inflection point in global media, involving new models for paid content and changing relationships between journalists, publications and their readers. The world of education, where Pearson is now putting 100% of our focus, is changing rapidly, too. I wrote about these phenomena after our sale was announced.
And in the face of these changes, Pearson could not divide attention between two such crucial efforts. Education was already 90% of our business, and the FT deserved to be at the heart of a business totally focused on the future of global media.
The FT will continue to define my morning agenda, whether that means reading Ed Luce and Janan Ganesh on US and UK politics, Andrew Hill on management, Martin Wolf on global economics, John Gapper and Gillian Tett on the intersection of business, politics and technology, or the many other journalists, editors and columnists whose expertise and way with words make the FT what it is.
We wish colleagues, at the FT and Nikkei, very well as they define the future together.
They will continue to make what Lionel Barber describes as “news for the new world”, and we will continue to cheer them on.
Meanwhile Pearson is now totally focused on our biggest opportunity – making global education more accessible and more effective, and meeting the needs of millions of students all over the world who seek a better life. It’s a long term opportunity, and a complex one too – but it’s an inspiring goal, and one which we are better equipped to fulfil than anyone else.
After years of enjoying a free subscription to the FT, I spent the weekend sorting out my own paid subscription. So, having sold the FT, I can now say with pride, that I buy it every day.read more
Prime Minister Modi’s visit to my home city of London last week is a reminder that in the race to build a world of better education, few places compare with India for the scale of the challenge and the ambition.
The Indian Prime Minister has rightly highlighted the problem of India’s “acute skills shortage”, and how this is hampering the pace of economic growth and undermining international competitiveness.
There are a number of reasons for this. Traditional rote-learning, for centuries the teaching style of choice, where students regurgitate knowledge, is increasingly out of sync with workplaces that value emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Team-building, conflict resolution, empathy, leadership, resilience – this is the stuff of the successful 21st century worker; but it is not the stuff that schools are sufficiently good at teaching.
The Pearson India team recently published our annual Voice Of The Teacher survey. They found that 57% of Indian teachers consider their students insufficiently prepared for employment on completing school. Three quarters of teachers want greater industry input into course content – a theme I also heard loud and clear when the Pearson board visited India last month. The full report has some fascinating insights on the state of play in Indian education.
Yet the infrastructure is there to make big improvements. Technology lets us learn what we want, when we want, at the pace we want. It can give us instant feedback and tell us where an individual – I – am going wrong and what I need to do to progress. And most importantly of all, it can do this for billions more people than the traditional classroom can. Not just access to learning - but also progress.
This skills challenge is not one of those great, intractable global issues. Solutions shouldn’t be hard to come by. It will require closer collaboration between educators, and employers. Nobody knows better than employers what sort of skills are needed for the workforce, and nobody knows better than teachers how to impart these skills onto young people. Governments need to put in place structures and incentives which encourage this collaboration.
Then there's the education providers like Pearson. We also have a vital role to play, through businesses we own like IndiaCan, which runs over 100 career coaching centres across India. My colleague Leah Jewell’s blog explains how we’ve helped 10,000 young people achieve their first taste of employment; people often left behind and let down by education when they were younger. Better employment outcomes are perhaps the ultimate measures of educational efficacy.
Free market forces and government policies may determine unemployment levels, but with the right education, nobody ever need be unemployable. I hope India continues to think outside the box when it comes to skilling up its population.
Get it right, and we all win: the school leaver gets the job, businesses get their talent, and a nation continues to lift itself up.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.read more
Later this month, when world leaders meet at the United Nations in New York, they will announce their commitment to the new Global Goals for sustainable development, setting out their ambition for a more peaceful and prosperous world.
All 17 goals are important, but the fourth – “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” – makes many of the others that much more achievable, too. For education can slow and even reverse the vicious cycle of poverty, and give people the chance to improve their prospects, their communities and their lives. Education is a pathway to improved health, nutrition and wellbeing, particularly for women and children (goals 2, 3 and 4). A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5. Education helps create ‘global citizens’ with the knowledge to promote responsible consumption and production patterns (goal 12) and aids the development of peaceful societies (goal 16). Education has an effect on nearly every aspect of the societies in which we work.
Just one vivid example of this: through the Sudiksha program in Hyderabad, India, which we invest in via our Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, local women are empowered to open and run neighbourhood branches of a low-cost preschool network under a profit-sharing model. Sudiksha trains and educates the women as teachers, and they are then able to teach students who otherwise would not be able to attend school. As the programme progresses, the risk of extreme poverty decreases for both the women and their students.
By putting efficacy at the heart of everything we do in education, Pearson has been contributing to a wider movement to focus much more on outcomes over inputs. So it’s encouraging that the new goals also focus on outcomes, such as expanding access to education, ensuring the success of students (measured by completion rates) and enabling them to progress in their lives (tracked by placement into jobs or further education). This is particularly important in a world of constrained resources, where everyone involved in education is trying to do more with less.
These goals, of course, are a vital means by which we fulfil Pearson’s own purpose – to empower people to progress in their lives through learning – which is reflected in the reach and impact of our people, products and services. But beyond our purpose, it is our responsibility as a learning company to support the Global Goals' focus on improved quality of life for the world’s poorest citizens, and to do so by using our expertise in teaching and learning.
Clearly, we can’t do this alone, and we know that the Global Goals themselves call for a robust network of partnerships to carry out this work (goal 17). So we will continue working with our partners Save the Children, Kiva and Camfed, and will step up the work we have started with a number of global education partners through Project Literacy. We will offer support in new ways as well.
Plans to give widespread international attention to the Global Goals this month include an initiative called the World’s Largest Lesson. Pearson will be playing an active role in promoting that lesson. You can help by learning all you can about the Global Goals at the link above, reading about the World’s Largest Lesson and sharing it on social media using #telleveryone and #globalgoals.
Everyone, no matter where they were born and under what circumstances, deserves an equal shot at a healthy, safe and fulfilling life. With these ambitious new goals, the world is setting out to achieve just that – and to do so in our lifetime. I look forward to all of us at Pearson being able to say that we played our part in making that happen.
We recently set out on a journey to talk to parents, students and teachers in Ghana, the Philippines and South Africa to hear directly from them why they choose low-cost affordable schools.
These parents made it clear to us that they are investing in the hopes and dreams they have for their children. They seek a safe school, a warm school culture, and evidence that their child is learning. And they, like many of us, feel empowered when they can make a choice about where to send their child to school.
"A friend of mine told me about SPARK. I booked the tour, went to see the school and I found that the first thing that attracted me was the culture at SPARK. The values that they endorse as well as the blended learning." - Olga Masingi, Spark parent
Enrollment in low-fee private schools in developing countries has increased over the last 20 years. Upwards of 40% of children living in poverty are enrolled in low-cost private schools in the Indian Subcontinent and large parts of Africa. In larger cities such as Delhi, Karachi, Accra or Lagos this figure rises to 70%. Tuition in such schools can range from $0.50 - $5 per day, for example. We launched the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF) in 2012 in response to the families who had already opted into such schools.
"Working with the very best local entrepreneurs is what makes PALF possible—education leaders who understand the unique needs of their students and their markets. We’re proud that half of our capital is invested with female founders, in a world where many startups in both the developed and developing worlds are still overwhelmingly male." - Katelyn Donnelly, Managing Director, Pearson Affordable Learning Fund
In addition to our efforts to partner with governments around the world to improve education systems, the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund represents Pearson’s broader commitment to tackle the educational needs of the world’s poorest regions. Pearson has elected to invest in such opportunities, and to hold itself accountable for the results achieved by children enrolled in PALF portfolio schools; it is one of the ways we will contribute to achieving our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
We invite you to hear directly from the parents, students and teachers at three schools in which we have invested—APEC Schools in Manila, Philippines; Omega Schools in Ghana; and SPARK Schools in South Africa—and learn why these parents, teachers and students have chosen a low-cost private school.
As our A level and GCSE qualifications undergo significant change, there has understandably been much public attention on the future of those foreign language qualifications studied by smaller numbers of students.
While these qualifications have a relatively small number of registrations, they are often the home language of many UK communities and, in an era of globalisation, are important.
As well as Spanish, German and French, which are studied widely across England, Pearson currently offers GCSEs and A levels in Arabic, Modern Greek, Japanese and Urdu, all of which historically have smaller cohort numbers. We have previously confirmed that we will continue to offer GCSEs in these subjects under the new system, from September 2017.
We believe in the importance of these qualifications but, in the context of significant change in qualifications, there are difficult issues to work through and debates to be had. As we designed new specifications for A levels in these four languages, we had concerns that the small entry numbers, combined with the new content and assessment requirements for modern languages as set out by the Department for Education, would make it difficult to continue to create valid and reliable assessments. However, both Pearson and the DfE are committed to securing the future of these A level subject in two years’ time, so we have been working together on a new set of content requirements to mitigate this risk and allow us to feel confident in their quality and credibility.
Not all of our competitors have taken the same view, and as a result of some other important languages being 'dropped', we're going to work with the DfE to secure the future of A level and GCSE qualifications in Gujarati, Portuguese, Turkish and GCSE Biblical Hebrew. Why would a commercial education company do that? The answer is that as well as helping individuals make progress in their lives, education has the potential to foster inclusion and diversity, helping to make society more cohesive. All parties - the government, the regulator and the exam boards - should work together in the interests of students, but also the communities in which we all live.read more
Think of assessment in education, and you probably think of end of term tests, where kids sit in rows of desks, with a set time to answer identical questions. But in world that increasingly values what you can do and not just what you know, does this way of testing fit the bill anymore? Are they doing the job that ultimately education exists for - to prepare people for the world.
Increasingly educators think not, and so a new era of assessment is being ushered in; enabled by technology, personalised to the student, and providing teachers with insights in real-time. We've taken a look at the opportunities and challenges that await.read more
Nearly 3,000 books distributed to children in Sri Lanka; 6,000 to children in Swaziland; and nearly 40,000 books now benefitting homeless and low-income children in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago. At Pearson we are proud of the number of free books we distributed last year all around the world… but equally saddened. That well into the 21st century the joy and power of reading remains out of reach for millions of children. That while many kids come home from schools with their bags packed with books, as we stroll past libraries stuffed with the beauty of words, as our bookshelves at home already house more stories than we could possibly read in our lifetime… that while many of us take books for granted, millions more can only dream of them.
We should never devalue the exercise of simply reading for the love of it; and neither should we discount the enormous consequences of not being able to. To summarise hundreds of thousands of pages of heavy-duty research into reading - books make brains bigger, and with that knowledge comes opportunities for a better life.
Since 2002, we have been donating some of our unsold books in the United States to children all over the world. For many, it will be the first book they have ever owned. And though their new books won’t be the answer to the challenges they face in life, they might just be the small start they need into a better future.
Last year, with the help of our non-profit partners across the world, we donated nearly one million books from our US warehouses alone. They have found their way into the hands of millions of children living at or below the poverty line - in communities where there may be as few as one book per 300 children. It is a small gift from us that, we hope, will have a large and lasting impact.
And it’s an impact that ultimately reaches beyond the lives of the proud young owners of their new books; beyond education, to help the environment that we all depend on. No longer do unsold books produce the pollution from pulping or add to the deluge of landfill sites. By putting these books to the use they were created for, we are helping our planet to flourish, as well as the lives of our youngest generations.
(photo credit: Jesus Hernandez)
There has been a lot of discussion lately about the role of advanced high-school mathematics courses — in particular, Algebra II — in promoting college and career readiness. On one side of the debate, the champions of Algebra II cite research demonstrating that completing the course leads to success in higher education and to higher earnings (Adelman, 2006; Carnevale & Desrochers, 2003). Achieve has been one of the leading advocates for including advanced mathematics in required high school curricula, suggesting there are not only practical advantages (e.g., prerequisites for future study), but also benefits to students’ general academic development. Skills acquired through Algebra II (including but not limited to logical thinking, cognitive capacity, and complex problem solving) can support success in areas far beyond a day-to-day work environment.
This isn’t to say the debate is settled. A recent report from the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) found that the skills most important for succeeding in community college math courses were those introduced in middle school. By analyzing textbooks, assignments, and tests at seven community colleges, the researchers concluded that few students need to master advanced algebra to be successful. The NCEE report comes at a time when several states (e.g., Florida, Texas) are changing graduation requirements to make Algebra II optional, provide more flexible pathways toward high school graduation, and create space in students’ schedules for more vocational training.
Isolating the causal effect of taking Algebra II on future outcomes is a serious challenge, thanks to selection bias. It is likely that students who choose to take Algebra II in high school are higher performing and more motivated than many of their peers and thus more likely to attend and do well in college. In other words, it’s something about the type of students that take Algebra II, rather than completing the course itself, that leads to better student outcomes.
In a recent research study, my co-authors and I set about tackling this thorny issue — separating selection effects from Algebra II’s true causal effects. We will be presenting our work next week at the Association for Institutional Research Annual Forum in Long Beach, CA. We used national datasets spanning multiple decades and sophisticated econometric techniques to isolate cause-and-effect relationships between completing Algebra II in high school and subsequent college and career outcomes.
The verdict? Algebra II seems to matter more for college outcomes (including community colleges, technical colleges, and four-year institutions) than for career outcomes. Compared to their counterparts who didn’t finish Algebra II, those who did were more likely to be admitted to selective colleges, maintain higher college GPAs, stay in school, and graduate. Conversely, for students who did not apply to college after high school, completing Algebra II was not related to finding a job immediately after high school, initial occupational prestige, earnings, or career advancement.
This research indicates that students not planning to attend any college (two-year or four-year) may not benefit substantially from finishing Algebra II. That said, it’s important to highlight one caveat: Algebra II does not seem to negatively impact any career outcomes. In that respect, completing the course will keep doors open to college for the many students who do not solidify their postsecondary plans before enrolling in high school courses or starting their mathematics sequence. Some of our other interesting findings from this study will be the topic of future blog posts.read more
In my last blog, I discussed the importance of metacognitive learning skills—attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs about learning. These skills continue to garner attention from educational researchers and policy-makers. The Office of Education and Technology (OET) at the U.S. Department of Education recently released a report, Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance—Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, which takes a closer look at defining, measuring, and developing these skills. Grit was defined as “perseverance to accomplish long-term or higher-order goals in the face of challenges and setbacks, engaging the student’s psychological resources, such as their academic mindsets, effortful control, and strategies and tactics” (p. 15).
The task of defining and measuring grit is not simply an academic exercise; this is a trait associated with important student outcomes, including success in college. Angela Duckworth’s research shows that people with a college degree (Associate’s or higher) tend to be grittier than people without a degree. Moreover, and perhaps not surprisingly, grit seems to be associated with success in particularly challenging postsecondary environments. It is associated with retention at West Point, and research by Terrell Strayhorn has shown grit is a significant predictor of college grades for black males attending predominantly while institutions.
Because grit may play a key role in overcoming adversity, it is encouraging that grit, tenacity, and perseverance are skills that can be developed with the right supports. For example, the OET report recommends designing learning environments that provide students opportunities to take on long-term, higher-order goals aligned with their interests. These goals are optimally challenging and intrinsically motivating. Meeting them takes perseverance. By developing such skills early, students may be more likely to persevere through challenges that are bound arise along their college and career paths.
The central tenets of personalized learning echo these themes. First, we must identify where each student is on a learning trajectory. We use that information to provide each student with a challenging, but attainable next step. Technology and digital learning environments can facilitate the personalization process. With these tools we can collect information about students’ strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors, and then adapt learning systems to set reasonable goals for every student. By creating personalized learning solutions, we can do more than just deliver the appropriate academic content. We can set students on a path to increase their grit.read more
Visualizing your data gives you clues about how two variables relate to each other. Ignoring clues from the visualization can you lead to potentially inaccurate conclusions.
Last week Education Sector, a nonprofit education think tank announced something they are calling “Higher Ed Data Central.” They have taken a bunch of publicly available data sets and combined them into a database.
On their blog, the Quick and the Ed, they started showing examples of what they could do with this data. On Friday they published a post including the graph below of the number of administrators who make over $100k per 1,000 students versus tuition at private non-profit 4 year universities.read more
Field testing is a routine part of standardized test administration and many such field tests are occurring in a number of states this spring in one form or another. Because such field testing is so important and because it comes in many different varieties, it is important to understand some of the background.
1) Let’s start with the basics. What is a field test?
A field test (as defined by the National Council on Measurement in Education) is a test administration used during the test development process to check on the quality and appropriateness of test items, administration procedures, scoring, and/or reporting. Basically, this means that an “item” / test question (including reading passages, essay prompts) itself is tested, enabling educators and test developers to make sure that an item does measure what it is intended to measure—that the questions provide an accurate, fair and valid representation of what students know and can do.
2) Do field tests count toward my child’s grades or impact his or her achievement?
No. Field tests (be they separately administered tests or groups of items embedded within a ongoing assessment) never count toward a student’s score or ability to advance to the next grade. Students’ scores on these field-test items are only used to evaluate how well the items or test questions capture the knowledge and skills they are designed to measure.
3) If field tests aren’t used for scoring or grading, why are they done?
They are a vital element to the development of fair, high-quality tests. Field tests are done to help ensure questions used in upcoming standardized tests that count are fair for all students, of high quality and rigorous enough to comply with professional standards. It’s important for a state to know that questions, prompts, reading passages, or other test elements are worthy of being used to assess skills and knowledge appropriately.
Many needs are balanced when field testing is conducted, but two are very critical: (1) minimizing burden on students and schools and (2) administering tests that meet recommended industry standards. Minimizing field testing is vital so that time can be spent on instruction, but it’s also important to gather enough data to be able to evaluate the fairness of questions, to eliminate flawed items, and to build tests each year that cover a range of curriculum from the very easy to the very difficult.
4) What does field testing mean for my child?
Field testing is conducted to make sure that the standardized assessments used in your school or your state meet professional standards for quality and fairness. The goal of field testing is to make sure all questions are free from bias, are aligned to academic standards of your state and function appropriately. However, if you are concerned with how field testing may impact your child then contact your child’s school to learn more.
5) What kinds of field tests are there?
Generally, there are two approaches to field tests: embedding questions within assessments that count for students and standalone field-testing. In both cases, any question deemed unfair after field testing is thrown out and won’t appear on any future assessments.
Embedded Field Tests
Students take embedded field-test questions at the same time they take the rest of their standardized test. This is typically done for multiple-choice assessments. Whenever possible, states embed field-test questions in multiple forms of “live” tests so that these field-test questions are randomly distributed to a representative student population. Experience shows that these procedures can give the state an appropriate amount of data to ensure fairness in a very efficient manner. The embedded field-test questions are not counted on a student’s score.
Standalone Field Tests
Sometimes separate field tests are necessary due to factors like test structure (i.e., tests with open-ended questions, tests that required students to perform tasks or lengthy essays), a small student population, or method of test delivery. States administer these separate field tests at a different time than the state assessments that are reported publicly. As with embedded field-test items, a separate field test does not count toward student scores.
6) Once gathered, how is the information from field tests used?
After field testing, a range of stakeholders – generally teachers, school administrators, curriculum and assessment specialists who represent a range of ethnicities, genders, types and sizes of schools district, and geographical regions – all gather to review the data collected from the field test. This “data review” committee examines each test question (and related collateral like reading passages) to determine if each question is free from bias (economic, regional, cultural, gender, and ethnic) and that each is appropriately measuring what it was expected to measure. Questions that pass all stages of development—including field testing and this data review process— become eligible for use on future tests. Rejected questions are precluded from use on any test.read more