We at Pearson are a company of nearly 40,000 people proudly working for learning, for employability and yes, for profit.
Competition is a powerful force for innovation, and that is no less true when it comes to education. Business has an important role to play in K-12 and higher education, investing in research and new products that might not be possible otherwise.
We recognize not everyone agrees that commercial enterprises have a role in educating children. Some question whether a sense of social purpose and a profit motive can go hand in hand. At Pearson, they always go hand in hand because the profit we make is the by-product of making a useful and meaningful addition to society.
We don’t shy away from public debate around education policy or the quality and content of our products. When it comes to our role in the lives of people as important as classroom students, we should be scrutinized. That’s why earlier in the year, we posted the full transcript of our Annual General Meeting to share openly our goals and thinking and our willingness to hear criticism. You can read the full transcript online.
We are always striving to do better and increase transparency. This can be seen in our public commitment to achieve better student outcomes, identify what works in education, and report out on how well our products, programs and services are meeting that goal. We made some of our research on this front available already, and starting in 2018 our annual reports will include audited reports about the efficacy of our products.
We currently do about $5 billion worth of business annually in the U.S., out of an estimated $1 trillion that is spent on education each year; only a half percent of total spending. We are making record levels of investment in new products and services – our research and development spending has grown from more than $330 million in 2005 to nearly $600 million in 2014.
We engage students, parents, teachers and professors to learn more from them as we research, design and deliver new and improved products and services. For example, our Texas-based Center for College & Career Success is researching indicators that can help parents and teachers predict a middle school student’s progress toward college readiness. The center also is developing measures that help college admissions officers bring diversity on campus. And in the digital age, we are developing games and other digital learning tools – co-designed by children at our Kids CoLab in New Jersey.
The better we do expanding access to good quality education that leads to a more fulfilling job and life for more people, the better we can create a faster growing and more sustainable company.
We believe when it comes to the monumental challenges facing education, no efforts to take on the hard work of finding solutions should be dismissed – whether or not profits are involved. Pearson is held accountable for how we perform as a company by educators, students, schools, shareholders and employees. Our employees include more than 15,000 former teachers putting their classroom knowledge to work in pursuit of new tools to improve learning and employability. Many more of us are parents and caregivers who are passionate about giving all students a brighter future.
We’ve put our profits back into the communities we serve and to bring education to places where it’s most desperately needed. For example, we joined with America’s Promise Alliance to support states in increasing graduation rates with a State Activation program. Our hope – like everyone involved in education – is to help every student reach his or her full potential and live a fulfilling, fruitful life.
So hold us accountable for our actions and our impact. That includes creating curriculum and courses, designing assessments and managing digital services for schools and colleges– but our ultimate mission is to make people’s lives better. If we fail at that, we fail as a business.