Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pearson-alized learning: Guest commentary on #bcedplan

Today's guest post is from David Komljenovic, Kamloops teacher
After researching more about the origins of the BC Education plan and the proliferation of the 21st century learning mantra, I am more convinced that our message could be "BC Public Education is not for sale".
From the information to follow, there is evidence that corporations and primarily one has benefitted from the underfunding and undermining of public education. My sense is that when government attempts to create crisis in education, corporations give the appearance that they need to come and pick up the pieces. Difficult to do in BC which ranks as one of the best in the world. But the BC Ed plan may be the equivalent to the premise of Snobelen's infamous speech on "manufacturing crisis" in Ontario's public education system.
Pearson Education is the largest corporation in the education market (not that there should be a market in public education - but...). With the recent move to provide districts and charter schools in the US with personalized learning options, consider their creep into Canada and BC.
First, consider what Pearson is doing in the field of Personalized Learning (http://www.pearsoned.com/pearson-and-knewton-partner-to-advance-next-generation-of-digital-education/). In the attached article, the company Knewton joined up with Pearson to provide a diagnosis tool for students proficiency (enter Standardized Testing). If you wondered how standardized testing fits with the BC Education Plan, consider the market for standardized tests and how corporations will say that they are just using them as a toold to diagnose learner need so that their program can be personalized. The program is also a product that can be provided by Pearson or Knewton or perhaps another corporation.
Second, Pearson is involved in taking over the international assessments (PISA) that consistently rank Finland, Canada, and South Korea at the top - more egalitarian and/or cooperative systems compared to the rest of the jurisdictions. (http://www.pearson.com/media-1/announcements/?i=1485). What will corporate control of the assessments mean - haven't put my mind to that question but it is a concern.
Then consider that Pearson has taken over BCeSIS. Again, a manufactured crisis - as if BCeSIS was even necessary. It was forced upon districts who spent countless funds and ended up being a failure. Here comes Pearson to the rescue to take over the program to replace it with BCeSIS. Consider this article from the Vancouver Sun: http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2010/11/17/bcesis-and-pearson-education-better-for-teachers/ .  Enter Bill 3 - the attempt by government to eliminate privacy protections that were in place before (https://www.privacyassociation.org/publications/2011_10_21_opinion_bc_bill_could_threaten_privacy/) . The government will have a greater ability to collect information on individual citizens and share the information with other agencies (Homeland Security in the US is a concern - so it providing the information to corporations like Pearson which will have access to the software system with just about all of a student's information anyways).  
In terms of Personalized Learning in BC (which is the BC Education Plan), Pearson has already met with various districts to help provide services. Consider this article: http://www.pearsonschoolcanada.ca/index.cfm?locator=PSZqH7.
The icing on the top for government, they can say all of this necessitates them gutting our collective rights and have us worry about that while they are accelerating the sale of public education. But the real agenda, in my mind, is having corporations come in and provide (and control) funding where the government (and really the people of BC) should be stepping in.
Educational philosopher John Dewey stated "Democracy must be born anew in each generation, and education is its midwife". Media control in Canada is a concern in that few corporations control a fair bit of information, but education is all about thought. Personalized learning as a marketed program that is provided by one or two major corporations will provide one or two versions of thought - which is why the fight for professionalism is more important now than ever before.  
So while teachers have been told we cannot wear buttons or place materials on bulletin boards to express thought, a major corporation will soon have unlimited access to children for what reason other than to exploit (consider the premise in the film "The Corporation" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Corporation_(film).

Pearson's drive to control the world's educational needs cannot help but undermine what public education is meant to serve - which is a diversity of thought without control of any one opinion.


  1. One of the reasons why Finland is so highly rated in educational achievement (literacy specifically) is related to its language and overwhelmingly so. Finnish is a highly phonemic language: "The Finnish orthography follows the phoneme principle: each phoneme (meaningful sound) of the language corresponds to exactly one grapheme (independent letter), and each grapheme represents almost exactly one phoneme. This enables an easy spelling and facilitates reading and writing acquisition. The rule of thumb for Finnish orthography is: write as you read, read as you write." So, in effect, the language is really easy to learn. It is also easy to teach. There is less time spent teaching students how to read. More time is spent on content, which explains --in large part-- why Finland does so well in educational achievement ... and literacy.

    So, instead of reforming educational practices or using Ipads in the classroom (which might be relatively helpful nonetheless), the most efficient policy should be to reform the English language to be more phonemic! According to research, the average students should be able to read (and spell) English 2 years earlier than he or she is now! However, I doubt Pearson will want that from happening!

  2. Looks very much like the Koch brother's ALEC mantra is now infecting BC's public school system. They do fund the Fraser Institute generously.

  3. Brilliant article and scary reality.

  4. Somehow I doubt you'll see Pearson's software in St. George's or Shawnigan Lake. Good old fashion teaching will remain. Why else would the fat cats send their brats there? Just so they can sit in front of a console and follow a computer program? What we need to do is go back to streaming. Meat heads in one school and kids who care in another. Problem solved. Sounds cruel, but it will work. This garbage we're seeing from the Liberals will not.

  5. Compare the logo for the Surrey First Education civic party and the logo of Pearson Education. Eerily similar. T. James discovered this link and you can view the two logos at these URLs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson_Education and http://www.surreyfirsteducation.com/ .

  6. The English curriculum at Pearson is very old fashioned. Structured, traditional, little room for student choice. Not what 21st century learning purports to be. This is a con job.

  7. This is just what the idiots living in this province want. I'm not surprised. Actually, this has been a long time coming, and now it's finally here; The END of the BCTF and public education as we knew it. I’d expect the BCTF, BCGEU, nurses, and doctors to all go out in September, but only the teachers will be ordered back with the threat of dismissal. I would guess the teachers will defy the order and many will be dismissed and fined. I expect to see their union bosses thrown in jail for a couple of days for good measure. It will be ugly, but the teachers of BC have nothing left to give and nothing to lose. Many will simply be deemed surplus and let go.