Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF) reaches more than a quarter of a million learners across the developing world

January 28, 2016

PALF’s first annual letter shows how the private sector is fueling innovation in education to deliver better learner outcomes

The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF), publishes its first annual letter today, highlighting the reach and impact of its ten portfolio companies.

Through PALF, Pearson has invested in ten education startups - in Ghana, Kenya, India, the Philippines, Nigeria and South Africa - which collectively reach over 350,000 learners through a range of services.

PALF was launched by Pearson in 2012 with $15 million in capital and a long-term goal of helping millions of children in the world access high quality education in a cost effective, profitable and scalable manner. PALF was founded by Pearson’s Chief Education Advisor, Sir Michael Barber, and current Managing Director Katelyn Donnelly.

The fund, which plans to invest a further $50 million (£33 million) in education entrepreneurs across the developing world, has already invested in education businesses including:

  • Omega Schools in Ghana - a network of affordable private schools that offer education through an innovative “pay-as-you-learn” model — with specialized curriculum, technology and management modules;
  • Karadi Path in India - a proprietary curriculum designed to accelerate English-language skills, including multi-media materials and training;
  • Sudiksha in India - a network of low-fee preschools, which help nurture curiosity and build confidence in young children.

Making an impact

The portfolio companies have all been selected based on their potential to have a significant impact on student learning. PALF works closely with local leadership teams to ensure that they benefit from Pearson’s expertise on measuring learning outcomes.

Successes to date include:

  • Avanti, which provides test preparation for students in India, helped one of their students, Ayush Sharma, receive a full scholarship to MIT. In fact, 40% of Avanti’s students place in the top 10% in college entrance exams, and students at Avanti centres outperform those in traditional, high-end classroom coaching programs by 20%.
  • At SPARK schools in South Africa, students on average learn 1.5 years of curriculum in 1 year of study, and approximately 55% of student are on track to make 1.5 years growth in literacy, as measured by international standards.
  • Students in India who are in classrooms with Zaya’s content and technology perform 15% better in English and 25% better in math (than their peers not using Zaya).

Katelyn Donnelly, Managing Director and co-founder of PALF said:

“We know that for PALF to be truly revolutionary we need to scale up the businesses that these local entrepreneurs are fostering and demonstrate to governments that these innovations can help them answer the most important question in education: how can we ensure that every child has access to a high quality of education. And then develop the strong, transparent, standards for learning across all schools – public or private.”

John Fallon, CEO, Pearson said:

“The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund gives us the chance to help local entrepreneurs across the developing world to go further and faster in improving education in their own communities. From Ghana to India, our team has found brave innovators, focusing on the most difficult challenges in education - job readiness, early childhood education, teacher training.”

Stacey Brewer, CEO of SPARK Schools said:

“We have a good understanding of our local challenges in South Africa and the power of education to transform our economy and society. Thanks to the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, we’ve learned from education entrepreneurs in other countries and we now know even more about how to improve teacher training and and incorporate technology into the classroom in the most effective way.”

CP Viswanath, CEO of Karadi Path said:

“Our partnership with PALF is helping us to reach a broader range of learners with the Karadi Path methodology, including children as young as 5 years old and college students, explore new ways to teach using technology - and ultimately reach the scale of impact that is so important to India’s future growth.”

To read the full annual letter, which includes engaging perspectives from education leaders, teachers and students, visit


About the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund

The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund was launched by Pearson in July 2012 with $15 million of capital. In January 2015, Pearson committed an additional $50 million in capital to expand PALF’s work within emerging markets. Its mandate is to invest in companies that can build quality, scalable education solutions to meet a growing demand for affordable educational services across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

About Pearson

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 80 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning. For more information about Pearson, visit

Media contacts

New York

Erin Farber, erin.farber(at)pearson(dot)com or +1 917-697-2027


Tom Steiner, tom.steiner(at)pearson(dot)com or +44 (0) 20 7010 2793