THE BLOG
07/28/2016 06:03 am ET Updated Jul 29, 2017

Pearson Targets India to Profit from the Poor

With its North American textbook and testing market shrinking, with profits and stock prices in decline, and with its African and Philippine ventures drawing the attention of critics, Pearson (Mis)Education hopes to restore profit at the expense of millions of poor people in India. Once "innovations" are in place, there is nothing to stop the Pearson virus from infecting schools in United States communities.

A new study by Dr. Sangeeta Kamat of the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Carol Anne Spreen of New York University, and Indivar Jonnalagadda of the Hyderabad Urban Lab, for Education International documents how Pearson, with collaboration from Indian government officials, is undermining public education in Hyderabad, a city of about 4 million people and the capital of the central Indian states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The study charges "Private for-profit multinational corporations are making billions of dollars by charging poor families around the world to go to school. Governments are diverting significant funds and attention to what global corporations have posited as 'the solutions' to the crisis in education, loosening regulations or outright ignoring the many violations of laws and standards by multinational companies."

Worldwide spending on education currently exceeds $4 trillion, but this figure is expected to rise sharply. In India, the mobile education market should expand dramatically if rural areas and urban slums receive reliable Internet service. According to some estimates, their use in schools could make the annual global market for electronic devices like I-Pads and tablets alone worth more than $32 billion by 2020.

Multinational technology giants, education programming companies, and curriculum providers are poised to exploit these opportunities even if there are negative impacts on families, communities, and nations. In Hyderabad, Pearson has been at the "forefront' of a network of multinational corporations, private foundations, consultants, non-government organizations and local entrepreneurs are building what they call an "educational ecosystem" to support the commercialization and profit-making capacity of all aspects of education.

They are active in other parts of India as well. In Andhra Pradesh, the state government is in the process of out-sourcing education to Bridge International Academies, a Pearson partner, which plans to operate 4,000 "low-fee" private schools there. In violation of local and national laws, these for-profit academies employ "unqualified teachers" and operate from residential buildings rather than equipped schools. Pearson has also developed MyPedia, marketed as an "integrated learning solution for Grades 1-5" designed to "transform education delivery in school classrooms across India." To diversify and profit as much as possible, it has ties to edu-corporations operating a Delhi-based coaching institute, testing services, and a network of pre-K schools.

In 2012, Pearson established the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF) to promote private equity investment in for-profit education companies that provide 'affordable' education services in developing countries. PALF originally invested largely in sub-Sahara Africa. But according to the report, Katelyn Donnelly, PALF CEO, sees India as a "test market" for Pearson before it expands its operations to other developing countries.

This means Pearson will be marketing hope to make money off of some of the world's poorest people. Two-third of India's population earns less than $2 a day and over 40%earn less than $1.25 a day. India, families must spend at least one-fifth of their monthly income per child to enroll them in these for-profit schools. This usually means sending only one child, usually a boy, to school.

Meanwhile governments trying to do more with less are complicit. The authors accuse local, state, and national authorities of permitting "exemptions or loopholes for private providers" while failing to fund or enforce the Indian Right to Education (RTE) Act.

In India, education budgets are around 3.8% of the national gross national product. This underfunding is considerably short of the 6% recommended by the United Nations and constitutes a crime against the Third World poor, a crime facilitated by Pearson (Mis) Education.

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