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Podcast #81: The role of business in delivering on the global promise of education

'Beyond School Books' – a podcast series on education in emergencies

© Pearson
Children in a Pearson-supported programme talk with Chief Executive of Pearson John Fallon, who is a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Business Coalition for Education, which brings together corporate leaders committed to education.

By Rudina Vojvoda

This episode explores the role of the private sector in advancing education, with Chief Executive of Pearson John Fallon.

NEW YORK, United States of America, 19 September 2013 –25 September marks the first anniversary of the launch of the Global Education First Initiative. Led by Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, the initiative’s goals are to put every child in school, to improve quality of learning and foster global citizenship. To deliver on the global education promise, the initiative has, among other efforts, tapped into the private sector for a stronger commitment in education.

In this episode of Beyond School Books, UNICEF podcast moderator Alex Goldmark discussed the role of the private sector in advancing education with John Fallon, Chief Executive of Pearson, one of the largest education companies in the world.

Shifting the focus to learning outcomes

Despite remarkable progress in education, there are currently 57 million children out of school. And poor quality education is jeopardizing the future of millions of children around the world. According to Mr. Fallon, the first step in addressing the education crisis is to define the problem in the right terms. “We focused a lot on universal basic education, getting every child to school, teacher–pupil ratios…and all of that is vital, but it’s not always as effective as it should be,” he said.

Mr. Fallon stressed that shifting the focus to outcomes, such as ensuring that children leave school with high levels of literacy, numeracy and other basic skills, is the first step to equipping students with the right knowledge to prosper in their careers and generate wealth for their communities.

Do partnerships work?

Mr. Fallon is a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBCE), an organization that brings together corporate leaders committed to advancing education. In addition, Pearson is engaging in the Learning Metrics Task Force, a partnership that works to improve the learning experience for children and define fundamental learning indicators. But do these coalitions work, and where have we seen any success?

According to Mr. Fallon, partnerships that share the same goals and commitment have proven successful in the past. One example, he said, is in the health sector, where over the past decades we have seen good intentions translated into great results. “My aspiration for the GBCE is to really bring rigour of outcomes to focus much more on innovation and invention and identifying things that work, once we know what works – really scaling it and delivering those improved outcomes,” he said.

He warned against the danger of turning partnerships into pet projects that serve as nice headlines rather than holding them accountable for achieving the desired goals. “We have to be much more hard-headed in holding ourselves into account for achieving those outcomes,” he said.

Addressing other businesses that are invested in education, Mr. Fallon said:  “My plea to them would be not to get too carried away with the glamour of talking about how many laptops or how many mobile devices we provide to children, but what difference that really made.”. He added that the business sector should be clear and specific with national governments, international and national organizations and young people, themselves, on the necessities to develop into productive citizens and attain sustainable livelihoods.



UNICEF Photography: Education


John Fallon, Chief Executive of Pearson, one of the largest education companies in the world, speaks to podcast moderator Alex Goldmark about how partnerships with corporate leaders that share the same goals can achieve educational gains for children.
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