Investors take Pearson to task

A huge 14 million voter shares were cast in favour of a resolution calling on the world’s largest education company, Pearson PLC, to review its strategy of commercialising education including its support of high-stakes testing and low-fee private schools.

Shareholders turning up at the company’s annual general meeting in London last month were leafleted on the international education community’s opposition to high-stakes testing and private, for-profit schools.

Ahead of the meeting, the resolution had the support of more than 100 pension funds, labour unions and individuals, representing 193,000 Pearson shareholders, but was voted down in response to a recommendation by the Pearson board. Nevertheless, unease with Pearson’s business strategy was seen in the fact that almost 33 million voter shares for that resolution were marked as abstentions/votes withheld.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said: “When you raise questions that go right to the heart of a company’s business model, as we did with our shareholder resolution…you expect to lose the first time. What was unexpected, though, was that 14 million shares voted with us, asking Pearson’s board to conduct a review of its business model.”

“Ironically, Pearson told us repeatedly they were in ‘violent agreement’ with us on the overuse of testing and the need to educate the whole child, yet it refused to hold itself accountable. It actually printed on the ballot itself that shareholders should reject the resolution.”

Representatives from teachers unions from across the globe travelled to London to put pressure on Pearson at the AGM.

Join survey to help research
The AEU is researching the scope of commercialisation in public education in Australia. The work is being undertaken by Professor Bob Lingard and academics from the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology. Teachers are urged to assist their research by taking part in a survey. The survey is open until June 3.

Kerri Carr

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