Trusted experts

Trusted experts

Cambridge Assessment Chief Executive Saul Nasse speaking at EWF 2019

Opening doors to education

As education leaders, we know the transformative power of education, but we also know the dangers of leaving the door shut on millions of lives,” our Chief Executive Saul Nassé told the world’s biggest gathering of education ministers, the Education World Forum in London (above). In his speech in January, Saul said the answer was to bring together curriculum, teachers and technology to “help prevent the door of education from slamming shut on children whatever their circumstances”.

OCR Chief Executive Jill Duffy also spoke on the importance of social mobility, in a speech to England’s influential Westminster Education Forum in June 2019. Jill’s speech was a contribution to a review by England’s Department for Education of post-16 qualifications which include Applied Generals such as Cambridge Technicals.

Both Saul’s and Jill’s speeches were part of an extensive programme of speeches, presentations, exhibitions and seminars delivered over the last 12 months, all designed to share our expertise, knowledge and involvement with a wider audience.

In November for example, together with Cambridge International and Cambridge University Press, we were a significant presence at Innovation Africa, ‘Africa’s Official Ministerial Meeting’. This three-day summit, held in Zimbabwe, brought together ministers and officials from across the African continent to discuss educational transformation.

Sharing expertise

In 2005, Baroness Onora O’Neill – renowned for her BBC Reith Lectures – presented at the launch of the Cambridge Assessment Network, which provides professional development programmes and expert training for assessment professionals and organisations in the UK and internationally.

Baroness O’Neill spoke about the key issue of trust in UK public institutions and, nearly 15 years on, the Network invited Dr Mary Richardson, Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Education in London, to consider how this has changed in a ‘post-truth world’ and what it means for education and assessment. A large audience both in the room and online heard Dr Richardson argue that it was vital to build engagement and therefore establish trust.

Dr Richardson’s talk was followed in May by a Cambridge Assessment Network seminar by Dr Jane Mellanby, Emeritus Academic Visitor at the University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology. She called for the use of specific complex grammar such as conditionals to be taught in England’s National Curriculum in order to ensure that disadvantaged children are not left behind.

The year saw Cambridge Assessment International Education publish the results of its first-ever Global Education Census. Designed to find out more about life in schools for students aged 12–19 and their teachers, it generated more than 20,000 responses from more than 100 countries.

Cambridge Assessment continues to lead global conversations around the importance of high-quality learning materials. In June, together with the Icelandic Ministry of Education and Culture and education representatives from around the world, we convened for the second International Textbook Summit. With eight nations attending, it was a major contribution to the continued growth of interest in the form and function of learning materials, and the contexts in which they exist.

Key importance of research

We continue to invest heavily in research, because it is at the heart of all our qualifications and education programmes. The Research Division has maintained its broad and high-impact programme of work – ranging from development of automated marker monitoring to advice to policy makers in England and around the world.

In December 2018, our researchers warned against uncritical use of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) international test results. Dr Matthew Carroll and Dr Tom Benton compared achievement on PISA with England’s GCSE, arguing that understanding the links between performances on the two assessments is important, not least because it helps us understand the extent to which performance in PISA reflects the success or otherwise of the UK’s school system. Our research team’s work on international comparisons and educational improvement continues to be used around the world.

As well as our active in-house research programme, we have continued to support and foster key relationships with other bodies around the world. In October, Cambridge Assessment English celebrated 25 years of collaboration with China’s National Education Examinations Authority. This achievement was marked with a special meeting in Cambridge which brought together experts from both organisations to share expertise and plan for the future.

This was followed in July by the first Cambridge China Education Forum, an interdisciplinary conference in Beijing which brought together experts from China and the UK to consider what we know about the educational needs of the next generation and how we can prepare them for the future. Educators and the general public in France also had a chance to find out more about how good testing enhances language learning at the inaugural Fête/Faites de l’Anglais event in Paris.

Our research team continues to contribute to conferences around the world. This year, work was presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the fifth International Conference on Employer Engagement in Education and Training, the European Conference on Education (ECE) and the British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference to name but a few.

International collaboration

In October Cambridge Assessment English celebrated 25 years of collaboration with China’s National Education Examinations Authority.

The year saw Cambridge Assessment International Education publish the results of its first-ever Global Education Census. Designed to find out more about life in schools for students aged 12–19 and their teachers, it generated more than 20,000 responses from more than 100 countries. One of the headline findings was that students in the US are the most likely in the world to use technology in the classroom, with three out of four using their smartphones as educational aids.

Cambridge English and ALTE – the Association of Language Testers in Europe – jointly celebrated the European Day of Languages with an event in the European Parliament, attended by Members of the European Parliament from numerous countries who are strong advocates of multilingualism, as well as the European Commission, NATO and other international organisations.

Marking another decade of collaboration, in July Cambridge International celebrated the 10th anniversary of the founding of its US Higher Education Advisory Council (US HEAC). The Council comprises admissions officers from a wide range of US universities who provide invaluable advice on the development of Cambridge International programmes, thereby ensuring they continue to meet the needs of US higher education. The Council also helps raise awareness of Cambridge programmes in the US, which are used by many state schools to successfully raise standards and improve outcomes for students from all backgrounds.

Case study: Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia

The World Bank engaged Cambridge International to support in the development and introduction of a Competency Based Curriculum.

Africa map with Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia highlighted by flags


For the first time this year Cambridge International has started working with bilateral and multi-lateral donor organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In Ghana, thanks to funding from the UK’s Department for International Development, Cambridge International has been contracted to support the design, development, testing and quality assurance of an overarching Learning Assessment Framework for the new pre-tertiary curriculum.

In Kenya, the World Bank engaged Cambridge International to evaluate and support development of its new National Curriculum. And in Ethiopia the charity Unicef has funded work with the Ministry of Education to undertake a comprehensive review of the General Education Curriculum. The aim of Phase 1 of this project was a needs assessment to inform curriculum planning through extensive engagement with key stakeholders and develop costed solutions for the future.


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