The future for UK education abroad

by Peter Monteath, 06 July 2017

At a recent Westminster Education Forum 'The future for UK education abroad - exporting qualifications, new opportunities for schools and addressing the challenges of expansion' Peter Monteath from Cambridge International Examinations talked about developing qualifications to meet the needs of international schools outside the UK. Here is his speech:

"The first thing you may be asking yourselves is whether there is a need for educational exports. Is there demand for it? After all:

United States has national SATS

India as its all India secondary school examinations

Italy has its school Diploma programme

And so on...

However, economic development means that more families are able to invest in their children’s education, and there is a growing recognition that international education broadens horizons.

We've heard data from the International Schools Consultancy that there currently exists 8,500 English medium international schools (i.e. offering some form of international curriculum either instead of, or as well as, a local one). Some 4.3 million students are currently educated in this way. That number to double within 10 years. Applications to UK universities from international students also continue to grow.

I'm going to show how it is possible to develop qualifications to suit such a diversity of needs and I'm going to focus on three main areas:

Flexibility of the system

The importance of Skills based qualifications 

Practicalities around the exam

Looking first at flexibility. Because there is such diversity of countries and schools, it would be wholly inappropriate to impose some sort of ideal on a school with regards to its curriculum and qualifications. Rather the role of this provider should be to give schools the building blocks to help each individual school create its own identity. That's why, for example, an 'all through' school may look to an international provider for its secondary qualifications but retain the national curriculum for primary or - alternatively offer a blend of international and local at both primary and secondary stages of education. That flexibility also comes in subject choices we make available to schools. We offer approximately 200 subjects or syllabuses and it is up to each individual school to pick and choose those which suit the aims of the school its pupils and parents.

Skills – It is important that qualification design focuses on skills development. Today's learners need to be well-equipped for a world that is changing at an extraordinary pace. Our approach to syllabus design embeds the development of transferable skills within distinct subject contexts. For example...

In English, students develop summary writing skills;

In history and geography students develop research and critical thinking skills;

In science they develop practical and organisational skills.

In Italy, we are seeing growth as a result of an initiative where state school pupils use Cambridge IGCSE to develop those transferable skills and English Language skills to help prepare them for the next stage of education and the world of work.

We have recently introduced a subject we call Cambridge Global Perspectives - students think critically about a range of topics, reviewing and evaluating issues from different perspectives. Starting initially as an A Level type qualification, that concept has now been introduced to students across the age range, including primary.

Now, you can have flexibility in curriculum and subject choice and you can have a system that fosters skills but if you haven't got the practicalities you are in deep water. For instance, do examination results come out in time for university places? We had to create an additional examinations session in March so that schools in India could receive results in time for university deadlines. Similarly, we can’t have students sitting examinations in the middle of the night. But by providing them at convenient local times, we had to create variants of question papers so that a student in Madrid didn't come out of a morning examination, then tweet some questions prior to students in Mexico City taking the exam in their morning. 10 years ago we wouldn’t even have had to consider such an issue.

So to conclude - at the very least three factors need to be taken into account to ensure that the development of qualifications meets schools’ needs - flexibility (and therefore breadth of subjects on offer), ensuring transferable skills are promoted in the syllabus construction and then assessed, and practical considerations to make the examination process manageable for schools and candidates."

Peter Monteath
Regional Director UK and Ireland, Cambridge International Examinations

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