Pearson made news today and saw its stock rise* after announcing, among other things, that the company was going to explore selling or restructuring its U.S. print publishing business.
in an exclusive interview after the shareholder meeting, I spoke with Pearson CEO John Fallon by phone about the U.S. market and he made a few relevant points.
In particular, he said that print is a “much less significant” part of the Pearson business than it was just a few years ago. And Fallon reiterated that it’s a place where the transition to digital has been difficult. It’s “where digital transition is most challenging, it’s still textbook led, print workbook led business” he said.
I asked if this was the result of either the efficacy review work Pearson is undertaking across its products or the toxic political environment the company faces in the U.S. market. Fallon said that the decision was not based either on the efficacy review or the company’s branding and image problems in the United States, but said that where relevant the efficacy work would inform any decisions about the courseware business.
He also said that this was the only part of the company’s U.S. portfolio they were looking at like this and that all options – outright sale, joint venture, partnership, similar options – were on the table. We’re “not prejudging” he said.
Fallon was most animated about the digital side of the work, what he described as “record level’ investment in digital, the online education business, and particularly its expansion in higher education. And he was excited about what this meant for the company’s ability to lead on providing teachers with tools that teachers can use and ways the company can interact more effectively with teachers in their work.
In terms of everyone’s favorite issue to argue about, testing, Fallon made point of saying this digital work included better integration of formative and summative assessment tools and assessment that is better and lighter touch and helps teachers better manage learning progression.
In the next 3-5 years you will see really beneficial change start to happen at scale, Fallon predicted.
*I don’t trade in education stocks. A few years ago Pearson paid me to keynote a conference.