With fewer big players competing in South Africa’s publishing industry and the academic press becoming a virtual monopoly, both the competition authorities and the Shuttleworth Foundation will be closely watching Pearson’s announced restructuring of Maskew Miller Longman and Heinemann.R
align=justifyIn 2007, the 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. R
align=justifyTogether with the announcement of a restructure comes news that the publishing giant also looks set to increase its shareholding in Maskew Miller Longman in a deal with Caxton and CTP Publishers and Printers Ltd.R
align=justify”Ideas and knowledge are not potatoes and can’t be treated like commodities. What we need for our young democracy is a wide variety of viewpoints, but how can this be achieved if we don’t have a wide variety of publishers who serve our schools?” asks Andrew Rens, an intellectual property fellow for the Shuttleworth Foundation. Rens is scrutinising legal documents related to the matter and hopes to speak to Maskew Miller Longman about the restructure and what it will mean to the diversity of learning material available to local schools. R
align=justify”For most South African school children, text and school books are the only books they will see in their childhood. It is really important that text books provide a wide variety of viewpoints because in a democracy people need to accept that there are a wide variety of opinions and viewpoints. When you are exposed to a wide variety of ideas you learn tolerance,” says Rens.R
align=justifyThe issue of diversity in education material is of major concern to the institute, particularly in the subject of maths, where relevancy is important to successful teaching.R
align=justify”For maths it is crucial that there are examples that are appropriate to the regional cultures and that teachers have the right and appropriate materials. Clearly when teaching maths you can’t speak about chickens and eggs in an urban setting because it will be of no relevance to city school kids. We believe that success in teaching maths depends a lot on the context of how it is taught.”R
align=justifyThe Shuttleworth Foundation is concerned that Maskew Miller Longman’s restructuring could have a significant impact on the availability of learning materials in the market, and on education in the region. 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.R
align=justifyPearson recently announced that it is increasing its stake in Maskew Miller Longman and that it would be restructuring its education companies in South Africa into a new company to be called Pearson Southern Africa. Subject to approval from the Competition Commission, Caxton has agreed to sell its 50% stake in Maskew Miller Longman – a joint venture it held with Pearson – to the publishing giant for Ã‚Â£45,5-million (some R720-million) in cash. If the deal is passed by the Competition Commission, Caxton will own 15% of Pearson South Africa and will provide printing services to the company.R
align=justify”Early last year Pearson PLC bought a slew of businesses around the globe, which saw the giant acquire Heinemann, which in turn owned Maskew Miller Longman. The Competition Commission allowed the transaction to go through on the proviso that South African operations were not merged,” says Rens.R
align=justify”The South African book industry is massively concentrated, and we understand that there are only three substantial players here, two of which are Heinemann and Maskew Miller Longman.”R
align=justifyThe proposed reconstruction by Pearson will see the merging of these two interests.R
align=justify”The textbook market is far too concentrated, there are a very small number of players and as a consequence decreased competition will bring up issues with quality, price and variety.”R
align=justifyRens says it is not surprising that Pearson wants to increase its investment into education in Southern Africa because it is a very dynamic sector. R
align=justify”The most exciting opportunity for this sector is new business models that use open licences. Open licences allow teachers to customise material for their specific classroom needs for a better education experience. Publishing is a dynamic and quick changing world and open licences are much better for access and knowledge,” he says. R
align=justifyThe foundation has partnered with the International Development Research Centre to conduct a study on emerging business models which use open licences and rely on value-ads, such as teacher support materials, training and accreditation services.
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