Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, is launching today a $15 million fund to invest in quality education for the poorest families in the world. The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund aims to build scalable services to meet a burgeoning demand for affordable educational services in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.
Pearson will invest an initial $15 million into the Fund, which will invest in private companies committed to innovative approaches, sustainable business models and improving learning outcomes, as well as its own projects. It will provide investment in private enterprise to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The Fund’s launch underlines Pearson’s commitment to experimentation to tackle access to and effectiveness of education where it is now absent.
While investing in part in direct funding in affordable schools, the Fund will also invest in other organisations that provide support to such schools and to educational solutions ranging from mobile content to teacher training to accreditation services that can benefit all schools. Pearson has long invested in integrated approaches to boosting educational achievement, and the Fund will help extend those capabilities through affordable learning solutions in developing regions.
The first investment from the new Fund, also announced today, is a stake in Omega Schools, a privately held chain of affordable, for-profit schools based in Ghana. Omega Schools were developed by Ken Donkoh, a Ghanaian entrepreneur, and Professor James Tooley, a pioneer in the low-cost private school field and professor of education policy at Newcastle University in the UK. Prof. Tooley is also the author of the acclaimed book The Beautiful Tree: A personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves.
The investment will help Omega expand from ten schools in greater Accra serving about 6,000 students to a full-service school chain serving tens of thousands of students throughout Ghana.
Pearson’s investment in Omega Schools follows a stake taken by Pearson in 2010 in Bridge International Academies, a chain of affordable private schools in Kenya.
“Pearson is committed to achievement for all children, and focused on low-income families around the world," said Sir Michael Barber, Pearson’s Chief Education Advisor and Chairman of the new Fund, who is a renowned expert on education systems and has worked in over 40 countries with governments, donor agencies and private sector players.
“Low-cost private education is an important, complementary element of education in developing countries and should be seen as an active partner with governments looking to ensure all children have access to a high quality education. We are convinced that affordable schools, operated on a for-profit basis, can make a big difference.
"We have examined carefully the challenges and opportunities of this sector, and we’re committed to sharing our knowledge with governments, donors and aid agencies and to working with them on this urgent, global mission."
Professor Tooley added: “Our research has shown that affordable private schools are filling an urgent need in some of the poorest parts of the world. With Omega Schools, we’re working to raise educational quality even further, to better serve more and more children.”
There are about 4 billion people around the world who live on less than $2 a day, and this low-income population suffers the most from poor quality education. While there has been progress in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education, there are still more than 70 million primary-age children not in school.
Research shows that increased enrolment in the developing world has not been matched by educational success, and Pearson’s own insight in this area will be shared in the coming months. The new Fund’s investments will be measured not only by numbers of students enrolled but also by educational outcomes and proven efficacy for students.
Pearson (pearson.com) is the world’s leading education company, operating in more than 70 countries and 100 languages. Our geographic reach and breadth of capabilities provide a unique opportunity to address learning needs around the world. Our activities include engagement in key international policy debates on education through such groups as the Global Compact on Learning, the Global Partnership for Education and the newly formed Global Business Coalition for Education. Pearson is also investing in research and other capabilities that will help educators around the world access information that will help improve student outcomes.