Nothing like a new year for trying out a new look. But behind our new logo and splash of new colours for 2016, there's something fundamental that will never change about us - a belief that education has the power to change the world. We believe it because we see it happen, every day; the child lifted out of poverty, the adult able to read for the first time, the new job secured. These are the hallmarks of a world making progress. Here's how we're going to keep playing our part in the year ahead.
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When research indicates that more than half of all New Year’s resolutions won't make it past six months, "why should I even try?" sounds like a sensible question. I’ll tell you why. Because you have zero chance of keeping a resolution that you never make. So in 2016, why not take your chances? And if you don't last the course, don't think you've wasted your time - most successful people agree that you learn more from your failures than your wins.
Here are 10 resolutions inspired by the hundreds of college students I've worked with across the US. I've seen how doing these things has turned hesitant young people unsure of their place in the world into passionate, successful, confident graduates, entrepreneurs, activists and professionals. I hope they can help you too... however old you are and whatever your 2016 has in store.
- Don’t give up if you slip up. In the last few years I’ve observed a number of shared characteristics that successful young (and returning) students have in common. What makes them stand out is their ability to practice resilience – the ability to continue moving forward when faced with adversity – over and over again, until they get it right. So if your 2016 isn't going quite the way you hoped, regroup, learn from your mistakes and try again.
- Brand your future self, today. It might seem like “the real world” and your future career are far off... but they are closer than you think. What you do online today will echo in eternity. So start building your future brand today and get hired more quickly tomorrow.
- Hone your “soft skills”. While the job market for college grads has improved in 2015, many employers still report trouble finding qualified candidates. What’s the problem here? A lack of demonstrated soft skills. Resolve to bolster your academic studies with time spent developing your people, problem-solving, oral and written communication and leadership skills.
- Own something. The ability to take ownership is both a skill and a mindset. Employers desire and reward employees who exhibit this capacity. Now is the time in your life to demonstrate ownership. This could mean planning a fund-raising event from start to finish, creating your own blog (like Dianna Blake, our Pearson Students Blog Editor-in-Chief) or even starting your own non-profit (like Corey Geary, Pearson Campus Ambassador). Make it your own, invest in it (if only with your time and talent), then see it through to completion. Future employers will be impressed!
- Nurture your network. We’re all familiar with the adage: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Turns out, it's true; connections really do matter. So start building and nurturing your networks now and those connections will grow exponentially over the course of your professional career. Think campus organizations, honor societies like Phi Theta Kappa, or other professional organizations or causes you care about.
- Gain a global perspective. When we first meet our Pearson Student Advisory Board at our annual Pearson Student Summit, we use an ice-breaker that we call the timeline activity. We ask students to think about the experiences that helped shape the person they are today. Every year several students’ timelines include a trip outside of the U.S. or Canada. Their eyes glow as they relive far-off memories and offer perspectives gained only by immersing one’s self in another place, another culture. If you have an opportunity to travel outside of your home country, take it. If you don’t, then be a tourist in your own backyard. Exploring new places keeps your mind open to new possibilities, enhances your creativity, and helps you gain valuable perspective. Employers seek perspective in candidates.
- Healthy body, healthy mind. As stated by Dr. John Grohol, founder and CEO of Psych Central, “…the plain truth (is) that many people still do not “get” that your body’s physical health is interconnected and cannot be separated from your body’s mental health.” You don’t have to run a marathon; you simply need to get moving. Or cooking! Liz Croak, Pearson Campus Ambassador, shared some of her favorite, affordable healthy-eating tips earlier this year. Her advice includes sharing healthy meal prep with friends. And since social connections are another essential component to happiness and success, this resolution is like a two for one. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more successful.
- Ask for help. For many college students I know, this is one of most challenging resolutions, especially for minority, and first-generation college students who lack the financial, and sometimes emotional support from family members. When sticking to your priorities gets tricky, resolve to ask for help. Your school advisors, professors, personal and professional mentors, and many free organizations like org can help. So create your “go-to” list of helpers and mentors in 2016.
- Dance! It's true - according to Norman Doige, psychiatrist and author of The Brain’s Way of Healing, learning a new dance is one strategy to sharpen your mind. But for those not too fancy on their feet, any novel and taxing learning exercise will do the trick.
- Give back. Research repeatedly tells us that giving back is good for our mental well-being, our happiness, our physical wellness and that it provides purpose in our lives. Find opportunities to give back in 2016, even if it's just telling at least one person a day that they are important and appreciated. Clay Craig, one of our Pearson Campus Ambassadors, told me that he is resolving to do this; as a result, Clay is likely to experience an increase in happiness and life-satisfaction. Too shy to tell someone directly? Start a gratitude journal.
So if your 2016 isn't going quite the way you hoped, take a look back at this list and see if anything here might help. Being a successful student is like being successful at almost anything; it requires practice. So keep going, your epic year awaits - good luck!
Allison leads our student commuity activities in the US. Connect with her on Twitter: @AJTaken.
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.
A couple of years ago I read an article in a leading UK newspaper for teachers that described the English education system as a hotbed of innovation. England, it claimed, is a country that experiments energetically with new curriculum, new teaching methods, new kinds of schools, and new structures for governance. It was a proclamation of pride in its education leadership.
The article I read wasn't written two years ago, but 100 years earlier. A lot has changed in the intervening years, not least the emergence (in educational terms) of countries that now regularly overshadow England in some comparative studies of standards. The forces of global competition and the accessibility of meaningful evidence are driving a want to, and an ability to, make better decisions about what works in education, and what doesn’t.
There remains today a powerful dynamism in education, but there’s also a growing consensus that change for its own sake is damaging. The demand now is not so much for constancy, but for long-term coherence between purpose and action. Parents and employers find the changing education landscape confusing. Education is indeed complex, but that’s no excuse for complication.
Perhaps it’s time to stand back, and try to answer what really is it that we want our education systems to deliver?
Some say that education is too precious to be assigned a purpose; that education is an end in itself, and that learning for the love of learning is all we need. That idea does have poetic resonance (“beauty is truth, truth beauty”), but it’s surely wrong to ignore education's other purpose; it lifts people out of poverty, and gives them the tools to lead fulfilling lives.
Parents, universities and employers want young people to leave education with skills that go beyond the academic or the occupational; beyond too, the core skills of numeracy and literacy. They value character, resilience, grit, integrity and a strong moral compass based on our values of tolerance and humility. They value creativity, problem solving and critical thinking. They want collaborators and team workers, who can communicate with impact, and who are able to take a position and to lead. These things are sometimes referred to (dismissively) as soft skills, but their outcomes are as hard edged as hard edged can be. They are as important as exam results. And they are vital skills for life, not just employment. So why don’t they get more focus?
Perhaps because they are hard to describe, let alone measure. There may even be a perspective among those already in possession of these skills, that not everyone needs them.
Education policy is plagued with false dichotomies - teach knowledge or foster skills; value the academic or invest in the vocational. The simple truth is that an education system fit for the 21st century is one that provides it all. One that imparts knowledge, and also skills; where what you know and what you can do both count. A system where the means of progress is based on something more than a bit of work experience and careers advice. And one that has a razor sharp definition of its purpose; to help people make progress in their lives through learning. Knowledge and skills and deeper learning are all vital parts of the equation.
The engagement and perspective of employers is very important, because employability is such a critical part of the fabric of our society. When their voice gets louder, we need to listen more intently. But we also need to appreciate that their perspective is not always coherent, such is the complexity of education.
If we think a focus on these issues will distract from more pressing needs like exam results or performance on global comparators, we should think again. Time and again we hear from governments around the world that this agenda for skills and deeper learning is where their focus is too.
Over the next year, at Pearson we'll be working with employers and education experts to delve more deeply into some of these issues. How can we transform a notional demand among parents, learners and businesses for greater skills and deeper learning into something more tangible, more real, more easily recognised and understood? This is a fascinating challenge. Let's hope we're not grappling with it in quite the same way a century from now.
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.
As students across the United States enjoy fall, football and anticipate the holiday season, a school year tradition is being challenged by President Barack Obama.
In a video posted to Facebook, President Barack Obama made a call for fewer, better tests, saying that current policies, including those from his own administration, have taken “the joy out of teaching and learning.” Many in the education world applauded his move.
As the world’s leading education company, many commentators immediately jumped to the conclusion that Pearson would oppose this suggested shift in policy. But, I have a different message for educators, parents and students: We agree with the president.
To read why, read the full article on Newsweek.com >>
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.
Education is rightly seen as a catalyst for progress, not only for individuals but also for whole countries. The research confirms what we intuitively know - when you improve education, economic and societal benefits follow. It’s why national governments are heavily invested in schooling their citizens and why a growing portion of household incomes are spent on private or supplemental education. In an ever-competitive job market where the constraints of national borders are increasingly imperceptible, education is the leveller, and the edge-maker.
In this 21st century landscape, how a country educates its most gifted and talented children takes on a new sense of potential; not just the prospect of young lives fulfilled, but the promise of a new economic powerbase. Consequently, in many countries the responsibility for identifying and educating gifted students has spread beyond national or local government. Institutions like Brazil’s Center for Potential and Talent Development, and South Africa’s Radford House are having just as much of a say in who the next generation of bright young talent will be... and more of a say in how to nurture them.
But who are these gifted and talented kids, and what makes them unique from typical students?
If you study most of the thinking on this, there’s a broad consensus that gifted children have four characteristics: intellect, motivation, creativity, and affect (i.e., positive beliefs about themselves).
But studies are designed to be neat. In truth, no two children are ever the same, and gifted children are no different in this respect. Each will have their specific talents, learning needs, behaviours, likes, dislikes, hopes and fears. Each will need to be challenged and managed according to his or her abilities. They will usually need to learn faster and deeper; need to pursue independent study; need to make a meaningful impact; need to feel challenged by big problems; need to have opportunities to interact with like-minded peers - and knowing all this will help them flourish. But applying all this uniformly, without regard for the individual child and their specific gifts, is naive.
And it’s equally naive to not consider the impact of where a child is studying. How, for example, does local context and cultural values affect these interpretations? In August I attended the World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children where I heard a Lebanese researcher, Dr. Anies Al-Hroub, report about teachers' concepts of what makes a child gifted. It would seem in Lebanon, the ability to bargain for low prices and cutting in line to get faster service are seen as key traits of leadership and social intelligence. Elsewhere, this is the height of rudeness! Likewise, most conceptions of giftedness describe characteristics of an individual student, but the Mäori people of New Zealand recognize a collective giftedness - giftedness ascribed to a group of people whose talents become apparent when working together. So how do we reconcile these different views of giftedness?
Perhaps the question should be - do we need to? If education is ultimately about preparing children for a world beyond school, then we should champion the cultural idiosyncrasies that make societies what they are, not ignore them.
Just as important as understanding the individual child and local distinctions in our definitions of giftedness is our appreciation that the world is changing at breakneck speed. What was once considered valuable for children to know and learn and excel in is perhaps not as valued now. For example, rote learning was the dominant pedagogy for centuries worldwide. It was once that the child who could memorize and recite was most celebrated. Although spelling and geography competitions may still be popular, emphasis has shifted to skills such as empathy, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, determination, calmness, and respect. These are the skills that employers are increasingly requesting. And these skills are also making their way into new assessments such as PISA’s creative problem solving, collaborative problem solving, and global competency measures.
Some of these new '21st century skills' are already provided for in our traditional consensus of what gifted means and what skills we should help our gifted students develop. But others are not. So perhaps the question shouldn’t be “Is that child gifted?”, but rather “What does gifted mean, today, where you are?”
Is your child ‘gifted’? The four ‘traditional’ clues that could tell you.
Gifted children tend to have advanced language and thought patterns. This reflects not only rapid vocabulary and knowledge development but also abstract thinking such as the ability to solve problems, think about their own thinking (metacognition), and make relationships between seemingly unrelated ideas. These students may also have developed early abilities in reading, writing, mathematics, music, or art. They tend to be eager to learn, able to work independently, be curious, with a good memory, long attention span, and good judgment. Gifted children tend to be quick and logical thinkers. Combined with their desire for learning, this can lead them to frequently ask “Why” questions or seek to understand cause-and-effect relationships at an early age.
Another important characteristic of most gifted students is their motivation and persistence, or task commitment. A natural intellect, it would seem, is not enough. In fact, for students with high intelligence one of the primary factors that separated the successful from the less successful is motivation. Gifted students tend to have an intrinsic motivation—that is, they engage in tasks for the sake of learning rather than external rewards. Over time, this motivation orientation tends to lead to higher achievement and performance.
Gifted students also tend to be creative. General intellectual ability and creativity tend to be related, but are distinct. Creativity in gifted students often manifests as the ability to generate novel ideas and analytically evaluate them, tolerate complexity, think divergently, and be mentally flexible. Creative students are also risk takers, adventurous, curious, playful, and reflective.
In general, gifted students are well-adjusted and have good self-concepts, particularly academic self-concepts. They also tend to have an internal locus of control—that is, they feel responsible for their successes and future plans. They often attribute failure to a lack of effort, rather than a lack of ability, which is associated with having a growth mindset.
Education is unquestionably the foundation of a brighter future, and graduating from high school the most fundamental step toward good employment and further education. For that reason, boosting graduation rates throughout America, and particularly among underserved student populations, is an essential piece of building a more just and fair economy and society, with more opportunities for all.
President Obama has stated a goal of achieving 90% high school graduation rates by 2020, and Pearson is proud to support that goal. We put the learner at the heart of everything we do, and believe strongly in advancing the cause of opportunity for all students.
In June, we announced the GradNation State Activation initiative in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance. This partnership aims to support and scale multi-year, cross-sector efforts at the state and local levels to make measurable impact on graduation rates.
We’re delighted to announce three state organizations that will each receive a $200,000 grant to support their work towards these goals.
• The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable engages with mayors in 16 cities across the state through the Arizona Activation Initiative, in collaboration with WestEd and other state partners
• The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education focuses on students whose first language is not English
• The Minnesota Alliance With Youth, which supports GradMinnesota, a statewide initiative to increase the graduation rate, focusing on students of color, low-income students, English language leaners and students with disabilities.
An independent panel selected the grantees from a group of 41 applicants from 26 states. The panel, consisting of respected leaders in the education and youth development community, including Building a Grad Nation report co-author John Bridgeland, president and CEO, Civic Enterprises; former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, president, Alliance for Excellent Education; Karen Pittman, co-founder, president and CEO, The Forum for Youth Investment; and 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples.
We congratulate the grantees, and wish them the best in the work to come. We’re looking forward to working with you, supporting you and celebrating the progress you will make in the years ahead.
This week marks the fourth annual International Day of the Girl Child.
When we ask women and girls what they want from education, one theme comes through loud and clear -- "progress." They might not use that word, but when the mum talks of her little girl being able to read the books she was never able to, when the teenager dreams of being the first in her family to go to university, and when the young woman refuses to see a glass ceiling to her career... that is progress. Progress for each of them, and ultimately for all of us.
Gender inequality starts with the 31 million girls who are denied their right to an education. An education that literally saves lives. A child born in Sub-Saharan Africa whose mother can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five. It's one of the reasons why Pearson has convened Project Literacy, a campaign to eradicate illiteracy worldwide. It's why we're also working with Camfed to train 5,000 female 'Learner Guides' in Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, who are not just securing their own futures, but are shaping the lives of girls who may otherwise be the next forgotten ones. And why we recently invested in Sudiksha, a start-up that recruits local women to manage low-cost schools serving some of India's poorest communities.
We are proud of these initiatives, but we also know that they only scratch the surface of the challenge. The world needs to take a massive wrecking ball to the problem. And that requires companies, governments, non-profit organisations, and entrepreneurs to lend their weight. More money of course is needed but we also need the expertise that makes sure that money is invested wisely.
And when private and public sectors join forces come together we know it can have lasting impact. When 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram last year, the world was outraged. But perhaps as outrageous was how quickly we forgot about them. When the media moved on to the next story, we all too easily moved along with them. But behind the scenes, things were getting done. The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) -- with support from the United Nations, A World at School, the Nigerian Government and international donors -- created the Safe Schools Initiative. As a result 2,400 of the most at-risk girls from the three states hit hardest by Boko Haram have been enrolled in safer schools. That's what can happen when corporate clout, political power, and education know-how come together.
We're really proud to be members of the GBC-Education, and to have contributed to their new "The Journey of a Girl" report explaining how corporations can, and should, invest in girls' education. The collective efforts of GBCE members currently reach 6 million girls worldwide. It could -- it must -- be so many more.
This article was first published on The Huffington Post.