The UK corporate giant, Pearson, is continuing to spin its web around public school systems not only in the US, as has been reported many times on this website, but also in the global South. Its latest acquisition is a set of English language colleges in Brazil. Pearson already owns a chain of schools in Brazil as well as a programme called NAME, both of which are part of their Sistemas franchise. According to one enthusiastic principal, in the past, "Students just came in with a pencil and a notebook, and each school taught the national curriculum differently. Now, NAME comes in after each bimester– they see how the teachers are doing, how students are improving, and they work with the teachers, the schools and also their families – which make the work even better .” Not surprisingly, schools using the system do better on standardised tests.

According to Pearson, Brazil constitues one of the world's largest education markets, with the education materials market alone being valued at over $2 billion. Brazil's Sistema schools are private and therefore serve the upper middle classes and elites, however in Africa, Pearson are investing in so-called low-cost private schools.

Interestingly, Pearson refers to the Sistema as the 'school in a box.' This is the same catchy name used by the Bridge Academy company, which is a UK for-profit, rolling out 'low cost' private schools in Kenya. The name refers to the 'box' of pre-scripted lessons, provided to the teachers who work in the schools, most of whom are unqualified. However it might as well refer to the school buildings (see picture above) which are corrugated iron sheds with no electricity. Pearson has a significant stake in Bridge Academies.

Pearson also has a multi-million dollar stake in a chain of schools in Ghana - the for-profit Omega schools, which it boasts provide education for about 65cents a day. When you consider that teachers in many countries in Africa earn $2 a day or even less - it is obvious that families would have to struggle to find that amount of money even for one child.

The web does not stop there though. The US as mentioned above is a huge market for Pearson, with its testing software and so-called common core materials. And in the UK, Pearson has come up with the same catchy 'school in a box' slogan to help parents set up 'free' schools, which are schools funded by the tax-payer but run privately. (At the moment apart from the provision of services to the schools, they are theoretically non-profit. However the UK conservative party is already making it clear that if they win the next elections, they will consider allowing free schools to run for profit - as they have done in Sweden with disatrous results).

According to the Sunday Times, "Pearson is in discussions with groups aiming to establish the new schools through the government’s flagship plan to raise education standards. It would provide a “school in a box” — from teacher training, textbooks, software systems to exam assessment. The scheme would be based on the services provided in Brazil by its Sistema division."

There could not be a clearer example of the fact that teachers all over the world are in the same struggle against the neo-liberal reform project. Teachers in Brazil, Ghana and Kenya have all been fighting low pay and shocking conditions in the last few months. Many teachers in the US are fighting a determined battle against high stakes testing and the creeping privatisation behind the common core and English teachers bitterly oppose free schools. Giant corporations like Pearson have no trouble using the knowledge gained in one country and rolling it out in another. It is time for teachers and their unions to do the same, if we are to defend education from the privateers and philanthropreneurs, who want a degraded education for the vast majority of low income children, while there own children receive an elite education.