Pearson stockholders meet in London on Friday April 29 where management faces a revolt against its destructive attacks on public education worldwide and lousy business practices. Charges include that "Pearson is spending millions on privatized schools in the global south so they can engineer new markets for their products. In doing so they're jeopardizing the right of a free public education for the world's poorest communities."
The low points of Pearson's 2015 annual report include:
Sales down £4.5 billion ($6.5 billion) or -5%
Operating Profit down £723 million ($1 billion) or -3%
Adjusted Earnings per share 2010-2015 -1.9%
Operating Cash Flow -16.3%
Pearson Share price Performance -38.2%
According to Education International (EI) researcher Curtis Riep of the University of Alberta, Pearson's business strategy is to turn education from a social good and essential public service into a marketable for-profit commodity. But it has not been doing that well. In January Pearson (Mis)Education, facing financial difficulties, announced it would eliminate 4,000 jobs, about 10% of its 40,000 global workforce.
According to its financial report, "In 2015, Pearson generated approximately 63% of its sales in the US, 6% in Greater China, 5% in the Eurozone, 3% in Brazil, 2% in Canada, 2% in Australia, 2% in South Africa and 1% in India." However Pearson faces a problem. "In North America, our largest market, we anticipate US college enrollments will be flat . . . ; a smaller adoption market in K-12 learning services . . . ;" and "reduced testing revenues in North America reflecting State and National Assessment contract losses worth approximately £100m announced in 2015." That is why solvency depends on what it describes as its "growth markets." Again, there are problems, despite Pearson's big push in this area. "In our Growth markets (which include Brazil, China, India and South Africa), we expect continued pressure in South Africa on government spending on textbooks and lower enrollments in CTI, macro-economic pressures in emerging markets, specifically China and Brazil, off set by growth from new products such as our Wall Street English new student experience."
A big part of Pearson's global dreams involve Asia. But while sales were up by 4.2% in Asia Pacific markets this year, they still only consisted 13% of Pearson's total sales, and Pearson's capital in this region, property, plants, equipment, and investments in joint ventures, declined by a whopping 50%. That's not the way to go, boys!
In Japan, Pearson (Mis)Education partners with Japanese publisher Nikkei to deliver English language instruction, its "Wall Street English" experience, and Pearson's "Versant" oral and written assessments. It also operates a Pearson Teacher's Club to promote the company's products.
Sometimes corporate relationships, especially when there are informal ties, are hard to track. For the last decade Pearson Japan appears to have been in and out of a relationship with a company called Kirihara-Shoten. In 2011, Pearson announced that Pearson Kirihara was a "new fully merged company of former Pearson Education Japan and Kirihara Shoten" and that it had "served as Pearson's Japan office since August, 2010." But in 2013, Pearson transferred ownership and control of the Kirihara schools publishing business to a new business, Kirihara Shoten K.K. Pearson would continue to supply Kirihara Shoten with short term financial support and access to products and services but would retain no management or ownership interest. But in 2015, another company, TAC Co Ltd, was supposed to take over all businesses managed by Kirihara Shoten K.K., but that deal seems to have fallen through. TAC is another wonder company whose stock value declined by about 40% from August 2015 to today.
I am in email correspondence with an employee of Kirihara Shoten K.K. who claims all the shifting about involved financial manipulation designed to bail-out company executives and justify the lay-off of workers. According to this correspondent, the labor union representing Kirihara-Shoten employees lodged a complaint with Japan's Central Labor Relations Commission against both the management of Kirihara-Shoten and Pearson Japan in early 2015, but I have not been able to find English sources to verify this account.
Pearson also has miseducation programs in the Philippines, Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Cambodia. While most of the Pearson Asia programs seem to focus on English language instruction, in the Philippines, Pearson schools are explicitly designed, not to educate pupils, but to "produce a repository of cheap and flexible labour that can be employed by multinational corporations operating in the Philippines."
Pearson calls its business approach and its educational philosophy an "efficacy program." Do they know what the word "efficacy" means? Is their desired result mismanagement, poor service, unprofitability, and miseducation?
More on Pearson Efficacy: At the Pissed-Consumer website, there are 140 reviews of Pearson (Mis)education products and services, mostly outraged complaints.
Some of the recent ones include:
April 4 - "I was assigned to use Pearson education MYITLAB for my economics class, and it has failed to register me three times . . . My grade in the class absolutely depends on Pearson, and they have done nothing but let me down."
March 29 - "This is the biggest scams going. I work at a high school and constantly have to pull students off of Pearson for technical problems."
March 24 - "It sucks! You charge too high for such a low quality technology."
March 24 - "Third time I've called in, and have been waiting on hold FOREVER. The last call was answered after 30 minutes; the guy took my info, and was given a CALL BACK number, then the phone went dead. Did I get a call back? NO."
March 9 - "I am currently in an online my math lab college course. However, I have had nothing but issues with this site. It will not let me purchase the course as it gives me nonstop errors. I have been trying to access my course (that I am now missing due dates for) for three weeks now and have spent hours on the phone with their insensitive employees."
March 1 - "Allows for lazy professors to get paid to not teach, while students have to dish out ridiculous amounts of money for an overpriced "interactive learning tool" that only "teaches" through forced memorization, not understanding."
January 21 - "I hate Pearson. It is, without a doubt, the worst education company I have ever used, and possibly the worst education company that has every existed. It's super laggy, it teaches you absolutely nothing, the questions make no sense, and often the answers that are provided aren't even correct. Every single one of my classmates (including myself) hates it. If you are a teacher and are considering using Pearson, spare yourself and everyone in your class the pain and don't."