When jobs are hard to get, we realise value of education

The pace of technological change and longer lifespan mean more people are constantly reskilling. “People now have a DIY (do-it-yourself) idea of learning,” said John Fallon, chief executive of global learning and publishing house Pearson, known for its English tests. Fallon spoke to
ET about Pearson’s global business, investment plans and the future of learning.
Edited excerpts:

What is driving growth in business globally and in India?

Pearson is about £4 billion in annual sales. The fastest growing areas are professional certifications (through Pearson Vue). A fast growing business in America is virtual schools, for K-12 age students. We’re seeing if this can be scaled (up). Partnerships with universities to provide purely online degree programs are fast-growing — this will continue to grow strongly. In India, English has also been a big growth opportunity, especially the Pearson English Test. Partnerships with companies for reskilling employees are also a growing business. We’re expecting revenues to at least stabilise this year. About 40% of our revenues come from the structural growth markets, which I mentioned earlier. This is growing in the high single digits. The other 60% comes from course ware and assessments, particularly the US college publishing market, where it has been declining, although the pace of the slowdown has been decreasing. As the business shifts towards digital, we’re expecting to see faster growth. We reach 100 million learners a year, and the aim is to increase that number exponentially.

Has there been any impact of the economic slowdown on the business?

Not that we’ve seen. Education is counter-cyclical. When jobs are hard to come by, people realise the value of education.

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In India, we reach 10 million learners, and the business has been growing at 20% year-on-year.


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