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‘Technology Won’t Replace The Teacher’

Kate James, Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer, Pearson, talks to Ashish Sinha of the huge potential that digital had for improving learning outcomes

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Q: Pearson recently conducted a study on the ‘Future of Skills’? How is the study relevant in the digital world of today?
Recent years have seen a succession of scare stories about the impact of AI on future employment. Our research, for the first time ever, combines expert human scoping of trends beyond automation, such as globalisation, urbanisation, and demographic change, with machine learning analysis of evolving skill requirements.

The result is a far more nuanced — and positive — picture of the future. The study finds that robots are not taking our jobs — but our economy and our labour market is changing, meaning we need to re-evaluate the skills employers and individuals will need — and update education systems and support teachers to deliver them.

We’re excited about the potential of this work for education, for employers, for individuals and for Pearson.

Q: What are Pearson’s  priorities?
We are the world’s learning company, with expertise in educational courseware and assessment, and a range of teaching and learning services underpinned by technology.

Our mission to help people make progress in their lives through learning — because we believe that learning opens up opportunities, creating fulfilling careers and better lives.

We are building a more digital and sustainable business through our three strategic priorities. One: Investing in fast-growing market segments like Online Programme Management (helping universities and colleges take degrees online). The second is growing market share through the digital transformation of our educational content and assessment businesses. Thirdly, we are working to simplify our processes and operating model to drive efficiency and a better customer experience. Together, these three priorities will help drive the future growth of Pearson.
Q: What opportunities does education offer Pearson?
Digital offers a big potential for Pearson in improving learning outcomes and helping teachers and learners in a scalable way. Education is one of the great global growth stories of the next century. Just about every country now sees education as the key to driving growth, as well as increasing social mobility. Yet the landscape is highly fragmented.
Q: You have some global partnerships in AI? What are they? 
Pearson is investing heavily in personalised learning capabilities and already has a range of products that have these capabilities built into them. An example of this is our partnership with IBM Watson to bring ‘augmented intelligence’ to the field of education. The collaboration aims to better support students so they complete their degree and are equipped for a better job and a better life — but it also supports teachers by enabling them to give personalised learning to students at scale.

Technology will never replace the role of the teacher, but it can help in ways such as automating basic tasks like marking homework assignments, freeing up teachers’ time to focus on better teaching and learning.