Shuttleworth Foundation concerned over education publishing giant restructuring

October 24, 2008 • Top Stories

markShuttleworth.jpgThe Shuttleworth Foundation will keep a close eye on the decisions of publishing giant, Pearson PLC, as it restructures its Maskew Miller Longman Holdings publishing house in South Africa.
Pearson PLC has recently announced that it is increasing its stake in Maskew Miller Longman Holdings, which is also owned by Harcourt Education, and that it is restructuring its local business operations.
The restructuring will have to be reviewed by the South African Competition Commission before the company can go ahead, as it directly affects the access and availability of diverse learning materials in South Africa.
According to Andrew Rens, Intellectual Property Fellow for the Shuttleworth Foundation, the Foundation will scrutinise the documentation to determine how the proposed restructuring affects the local education market.
“This is an issue of great concern for the Shuttleworth Foundation. We look forward to talking to Maskew Miller Longman about what this means for access to learning materials in South Africa. Education is extremely important for the development of the region and the restructuring could have a tremendous impact on the availability of learning materials in the market,” he says.
Last year when Pearson and Harcourt merged their global operations, the Shuttleworth Foundation raised concerns to the Competition Commission about how that would impact the South African education publishing industry, which it says is already extremely concentrated and controlled by large publishers.
In 2007, the South African Competition Commission had to consider the impact of the merger of South African publishers, Maskew Miller Longman and Heinemann, both of which are controlled by Pearson. The Commission ruled that Pearson may not integrate the businesses of Maskew Miller Longman and Heinemann without the prior written consent of the Commission.
Rens says it is not surprising that Pearson wants to increase its investment into education in Southern Africa because it is a very dynamic sector.
“The most exciting opportunity for this sector is new business models that use open licenses. Open licenses allow teachers to customise material for their specific classroom needs for a better education experience.” he says.
The Foundation has recently partnered with the International Development Research Centre to conduct a study on emerging business models which use open licenses and rely on value-adds, such as teacher support materials, training and accreditation services.
“The Shuttleworth Foundation remains committed to closely monitoring local publishing firms that operate in the education industry, and we are continuing to research solutions that can address the current challenges facing South African education,” he concludes.

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