It is a tribute to our people and our products that we end this financial year in a better position than might have been expected when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.
In the year covered by this report – August 2019 to July 2020 – we generated revenue of more than £382m. Considering that coronavirus first began to have an impact on our business about halfway through the financial year, they are remarkably positive results and demonstrate the sustained demand for English language learning and international education in general.
A record-breaking seven million Cambridge English exams were taken in 2019. The exams include Cambridge English Qualifications such as B2 First and C1 Advanced, as well as IELTS, the high-stakes English test for study, migration or work, jointly owned by Cambridge English, the British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia. They also include a range of tests for younger learners, teachers and the workplace and most recently they have been joined by Linguaskill, a ground-breaking test that uses artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies in language assessment. Linguaskill gives organisations a quick and convenient online way of checking the English language levels of individuals and groups of candidates and is proving increasingly popular around the world.
In many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has served to accelerate innovation at Cambridge Assessment, with one key example being IELTS Indicator
IELTS continues to be sanctioned by the UK government for visas that require applicants to demonstrate their English. The announcement in December 2019 that IELTS had been reappointed as an official provider of Secure English Language Tests is testament to the ongoing value and trust placed in IELTS by the UK government and test takers around the world.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed that overseas students who need a visa to study at a UK university can continue to use Cambridge Assessment English’s C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency to meet English language requirements for entry and immigration. In the UK, Higher Education Institutions set their own English language requirements for overseas students wishing to study at their institution at degree level or above, and students at these institutions do not need to take a separate language test to obtain a UK student visa.
In many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has served to accelerate innovation at Cambridge Assessment, with one key example being IELTS Indicator. The new online test, developed with our IELTS partners, can be taken from the comfort of a learner’s home. Although not a substitute for the in-person IELTS test, it enabled learners to continue their education journey during the COVID-19 restrictions and prepared them for the resumption of in-person testing when and where restrictions were eased.
Another example was the work by Cambridge English’s Teaching and Curriculum team to enable continued access to CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses for candidates during the COVID-19 restrictions. Cambridge English quickly adapted face-to-face delivery and teaching practice to a virtual environment, prompting one of the leading CELTA training centres to praise the “astonishingly short time” in which we made online learning possible.
The US is a particular success, where Cambridge programmes are helping to raise standards and close the achievement gap.
Our international qualifications continued to grow, despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the most popular Cambridge International AS & A Levels this year were English General Paper, Maths and Physics. The most popular Cambridge IGCSEs were Maths, First Language English and Physics. The United States, India, China and Pakistan registered the highest number of new Cambridge International Schools.
The US is a particular success story, where Cambridge programmes are helping to raise standards and close the achievement gap. Cambridge International has seen a 24 per cent increase in the number of Cambridge exam entries since 2017. Students in Florida, Tennessee, and Washington top the nation in exam participation, with Cambridge International's Global Perspectives & Research and English General Paper courses, which encourage learners to explore issues of global significance, among the most popular. New schools have registered with Cambridge International in several US states including California, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and – for the first time – Nebraska.
The demand for bilingual education continues to drive new initiatives for Cambridge International around the world. Cambridge International, East China Normal University Education System and Dipont Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October on the professional development of Chinese bilingual teachers in Shanghai. In December, a pilot scheme to develop bilingual education in Vietnam reached a major milestone with the official registration of Chu Van An High School as the first state high school in Vietnam to achieve Cambridge International School status.
Also enjoying significant growth is OET (Occupational English Test), the international English test for healthcare professionals provided by Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment, a venture between Cambridge Assessment English and Box Hill Institute. In July it was announced that doctors and nurses applying for positions in the United States would be able to validate their English language proficiency with OET. As well as the US, OET results are now accepted as proof of English language skills in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Singapore, Malta, Namibia and Ukraine.
Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing has responded to the coronavirus pandemic by moving many of its tests from paper-based to online. Candidates taking tests including BMAT (the BioMedical Admissions Test), TMUA (the Test of Mathematics for University Admission) and TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) who have been unable to access a test centre due to COVID-19 restrictions have been offered remote proctoring without having to pay an extra fee. These measures have enabled hundreds of candidates to take tests who might otherwise have had to put their plans on hold. Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for Cambridge Colleges, has noted how remote proctoring with one particular test, STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper) Mathematics, is thought to have enabled the highest female intake into Maths at the University in years.
Meanwhile, increasing demand for Cambridge exams has helped fuel the growth of Cambridge Exams Publishing, our joint unit with Cambridge University Press. Now in its eighth year of operation, the unit develops official preparation materials for Cambridge English Qualifications. In Spain, the unit had particular success with Cambridge University Press’s new primary exams course, Life Adventures.
The start of the financial year saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Andhra Pradesh to support teachers in the Indian state’s Municipal Corporation Schools to enhance their English language communication skills, benchmarked through Linguaskill. Cambridge University Press provided the learning resources for the participants in the project. The pilot was successfully delivered for 3,500 teachers and the government has now extended the project to cover another 5,000 teachers in 2020-21.
In February we announced that our UK exam board OCR was developing a proposal for a new GCSE in Natural History. The proposed qualification will offer young people the opportunity to engage with nature, as well as give environmental issues more prominence in the curriculum. The initiative was the brainchild of naturalist Mary Colwell, who enlisted support from Tim Oates CBE, Director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment. More than 2,000 people and organisations added their voices to a consultation conducted by OCR and the next step is for the exam board to put forward a proposal to England’s Department for Education.
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