Santiago Gutiérrez
Vice President Mexico, Central America and Caribbean
Pearson PLC
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View from the Top

Pearson and the Road to the Democratization of Education

By Daniel González | Wed, 12/09/2020 - 15:00

Q: What led the company to consider Mexico as a strategic market?

A: Pearson has been doing business in Mexico for more than 60 years. We started as a publishing house dedicated to education, with Simon & Schuster and Prentice Hall Publishing Group among those in our portfolio. About 20 years ago, Pearson started buying all these labels until it became a single, large company. Mexico has always been interesting for Pearson because it is one of the largest and most populated markets in the world.

Today, we continue to focus on the development of learning systems and we have migrated to digital platforms to influence e-learning. In 2016, Pearson was chosen as the reference framework for the Pisa Report for OECD.

Q: How has Pearson adapted to the new educational reality marked by the pandemic?

A: We made the digital transition 10 years ago, while the Mexican market and the rest of Latin America had not yet done so. We established a digital package at the time but the Mexican market, for various reasons, was not prepared for this transformation. Today, connectivity in Mexico is not ideal and the majority of children and students from low-income households do not have access to the internet. This limits their access to e-learning platforms, such as those offered by Pearson.

Q: What can a company like Pearson do to bridge that digital divide and expand its potential customer base?

A: Digitalization is directly proportional to our ability to sell digital products or virtual learning platforms. This gap definitely exists and it is closing at a very slow pace. The option we have been working on for years is to deliver a large part of the resources to students offline. They then connect at certain times under certain circumstances. 

Nevertheless, the global trend is total digitalization, so we are working with international suppliers who are helping us to provide a better connection to our customers. 

Q: How have your products performed in the market?

A: We offer successful products for each stage of a student’s lifelong learning. We offer education systems for basic, secondary and university education, as well as for corporate clients. In the past, children grew up thinking about what degree they would like to study. Today, they focus more on the trade they will be engaged in or the type of business they will want to start. 

We have three educational products. The first product is learning systems, the second is short courses and certifications and the third focuses on the training and certification of soft skills, skills that until very recently were ignored by educators.

Q: What entity certifies Pearson’s educational services and products? 

A: We adapt to the legislation related to basic and higher education in each country where Pearson does business. In regard to certifications, we have access to a variety of companies that certify the quality of our products. For example, regarding soft-skills, we have a company in the US called Clinical Assessment that certifies this specific skill. 

Q: How is Pearson’s business model structured?

A: We provide many products in the marketplace and we have teachers who are validated and certified by us. In addition, the customer has the option to purchase self-managed products without the need of a personal tutor. Most of our products are based on AI, which means our products train the student according to his or her level of response.

Q: Who are the company’s most important clients in Mexico and what are their main success stories?

A: We work with primary, secondary and high-school students in all the schools that belong to the Semper Altius community, who in turn belong to the Anahuac University and schools that are part of the Salesian community. As far as lay schools are concerned, we work with the Greengates School and the American School Foundation, which are considered first-rate schools. At the university level, we work with Universidad Anahuac, Universidad Panamericana and Universidad Iberoamericana. 

The education we offer private schools is exactly the same as that which we offer to public schools. It can be inferred that education is becoming more democratic because we offer the same quality of education regardless the socio-economic sector we work with.

Q: What impact has COVID-19 had on the company’s plans and what are its forecasts?

A: 2020 has not been a year of growth for the company because the economic situation caused by the pandemic has led to a significant drop in enrollment, especially at the kindergarten level. According to INEGI, nearly half of Mexico´s public schools are experiencing significant economic hardships and this has impacted our business. However, by 2021, we expect to recover half of our enrollment losses and we are preparing to welcome our future students.

 

Pearson PLC is a British multinational publishing and education services company based in London. It is the largest education services company and book publisher in the world.

Daniel González Daniel González Senior Writer