school reform

Edtech storytelling

Edtech storytelling

Edtech lobbyists have told so many stories – tales of broken schools, of children being ill-prepared for the future, of the need for 'innovation' to 'personalise' learning – that it's difficult to talk about what tech is really doing to education.

Profile: school chain Ark

WHAT IT IS

A UK school chain and proponent of 'public private partnerships' in education overseas.

Ark was set up by a group of hedge fund managers, following in the footsteps of some charter school chains in the US. It is modelled on one US charter chain, the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools.

What it does

As well as running a chain of 35 state-funded academy schools in the UK, Ark also acts as an 'accelerator' for school privatisation in developing countries.

It has also set up training programmes for school leaders and teachers to push system-wide reform.

It is a pioneer of more digital education in the UK.

Lobbying

Ark has been incredibly influential in the UK and has many political connections. Its co-founder, for example, was until recently lead non-exec director at the Department for Education.

Network

Beyond its political and city connections, Ark has had a number of 'corporate partners' including Google, McKinsey & Co and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What it says

Ark sees the introduction of more digital technology in schools, through a 'blended learning' model, as a way to 'improve cost efficiency through both staffing and school design efficiencies'.

Read the full profile on Powerbase.

 

 

Profile: edu-business Pearson

WHAT IT IS

The world’s biggest educational company.

Pearson is also a large investor in edtech and in controversial for-profit school chain, Bridge International Academies.

What it does

There's not much that Pearson doesn't do in schools. It trains teachers, provides education content (increasingly online), testing and grading, school improvement services – you name it, it earns money from it.

Lobbying

Pearson has cultivated close relationships with the UK and other governments.

The UK government and Pearson have a number of mutual interests and, more broadly, both are concerned with growing the market for educational products and services around the world.  

The UK government's International Education Strategy was launched from Pearson's London office in 2013.

Network

Pearson has funded a large number of third party lobby groups in the UK, including: free market think tanks, such as Policy Exchange and Reform, and education reform groups like Nesta and RSA. It is also a prolific sponsor of education reform networks and conferences.  

What it says

'The future of learning is digital, personal and driven by data – and that it’s pretty much here already. We believe learning happens anywhere and everywhere, so we can’t focus all our efforts on the classroom. We believe literacy today is as much about code as it is learning to read and write.'.

Read the full profile on Powerbase.

Profile: Investors GSV Capital

WHAT IT IS

US venture capital fund that invests in edtech firms, including Knewton, Coursera and General Assembly.

(GSV stands for Global Silicon Valley).

What it does

Lobbies for the increased use of technology in teaching and learning.

Lobbying

Two reports – one by GSV founder Terry Moe, the other by Moe's previous company – provide real insight into the push for more commercial edtech in schools.

They detail the investment opportunity; outline lobbying and PR strategies for the education reform lobby; and clarify the central role that standardised testing and the'accountability' agenda play in growing the education technology industry.

Network

Co-hosts of the ASU + GSV Education Technology Summit, a must-attend on the edtech circuit.

What it says

'It should not be lost on us that revolutions are actually a fairly common occurrence in modern society. The most recent prominent example is the “Arab Spring”, but since 1900, there have been over 250 governments overturned by revolutionary action... The revolution America needs today is not against an oppressive monarchy, but rather against an educational system that has equally oppressive effects. Fortunately, we have the arms and technology to fight this war.’ (Michael Moe's 'Battle Strategies' in American Revolution 2.0: a blueprint for radical reform of America's education system', published 2012).

Read the full profile on Powerbase.