Cambridge English Language Teaching
Cambridge English Language Teaching is one of the world’s leading publishers of digital and print materials for teachers and students of the English language. Working closely with Cambridge English Language Assessment, the University’s testing experts, we also develop courses for exams used by schools, universities and governments around the globe to demonstrate proficiency in the English language.
Robust growth in sales to schools and in most of our key geographical markets made 2016–17 a year of strong forward momentum for Cambridge English Language Teaching (ELT), reinforcing our position as one of the foremost English language teaching publishers.
Countries around the world have a strong appetite for their citizens to master English as the world’s most shared tongue. This makes the ELT market intensely competitive and fast-changing. However, the Press is particularly well placed to prosper, thanks to the strength of the Cambridge brand and the quality of our products, which are enriched by our links with the wider university, including Cambridge English Language Assessment, with which we publish exam preparation material and coursework.
Research at the Press and in other university departments gives us greater insight into the way English is evolving and how people learn a language.”
Research at the Press and in other university departments gives us greater insight into the way English is evolving and how people learn a language. This in turn helps us design solutions for teachers and students to make learning a faster, richer, more enjoyable experience. It is an approach we encapsulated in 2016–17 in the phrase ‘Better Learning.’ It also allows us to meet an increasing demand among the largest customers – be they governments or chains of private language schools – for more complex packages of learning solutions, going beyond the provision of teaching materials to include curriculum and syllabus design, assessment tools, teacher development and a range of other services.
There is also a growing demand for content and services to meet the needs of English language learners who choose to study outside the classroom. In partnership with Cambridge Assessment, we have undertaken research in key markets such as India, the UK and the Middle East to discover the main needs and pain-points of self-study learners and how best to use the latest technologies and our world-leading content to serve them.
Digital products and services continued to grow strongly in the year, making up a sharply higher proportion of our revenues as customers took advantage of the greater scope online for innovative, interactive teaching methods. The Cambridge Learning Management System (CLMS), the platform we use to deliver our digital products, now has over one million active users and hosts more than 40 products.
The year also saw the launch of Write and Improve, an exciting new digital service which uses the latest machine learning techniques, developed with researchers from the University, to allow students to receive automated instant feedback on their written work. The service has been enthusiastically received by teachers and learners and will be expanded in the coming year to include premium products related to exam preparation and teacher management.
Usage of Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) grew sharply following a revamp of this popular language reference site for learners, teachers and native speakers. CDO now enjoys traffic of 20 million monthly active users, in addition to a vibrant community of 2.2 million fans on Facebook. The site is optimised for mobile and therefore perfect for checking definitions on the move. The real-time data generated by both Write and Improve and CDO give us unique insights into the evolution of English and how best to prepare learners to meet their language goals.
We also adopted a more tailored approach to customers in our 10 most important markets, including the introduction of more products specific to local needs and cultures. We were rewarded with strong sales growth in both the primary and secondary schools markets. Especially notable performances were recorded in Mexico, Turkey, Italy and China. Against that, the ELT sector as a whole saw difficult conditions in the USA, while the market for supplementary textbooks – products such as grammars – continued to contract as adult learners moved online.
A central feature of our thinking is how best we can support teachers, whose work is so vital in helping learners acquire English with confidence.”
Much of our growth in 2016–17 was driven by products launched onto the market in the previous two years but which really took off during this year. An example is Cambridge English Empower, a course for adults and young adults, with an innovative method of validated formative assessment. Empower recorded a dramatic increase in adoptions with the start of the September academic year. It was refreshed during the year with new digital features and the launch of a Spanish edition.
Think!, a product for teenagers that encourages critical thinking, saw its first full year of promotion in all key markets and has enjoyed a strongly positive reception from teachers.
Cambridge Exams Publishing – a joint venture with Cambridge Assessment – published a wave of new Primary materials ahead of an updating of the Cambridge Young Learners English exam next January. These included Fun For Starters and an updated second edition of Kid’s Box, our global best-selling Primary course, incorporating stories, activities and song. This paves the way for additional integrated Primary and Exams products.
A central feature of our thinking is how best we can support teachers, whose work is so vital in helping learners acquire English with confidence. Supported by Cambridge research, we launched a strong raft of products during the year to help them in their development and classroom work. Classroom products included Interaction Online, by Lindsay Clandfield and Jill Hadfield, a resource for teachers who want to incorporate an element of online activities – such as discussion forums, instant messages and other social media sites – into their language teaching. Activities for Very Young Language Learners, by Herbert Puchta, is a handbook of easy-to-use activities for teachers to engage three to seven-year-olds through movement and games, songs, chants, storytelling, pronunciation and exploring the world.
Products addressing teacher development included the second edition of About Language, by renowned author Scott Thornbury. A seminal work when first published in 1997 and still a staple for teachers in training, it examines what teachers need to know about English in order to teach it effectively. The second edition of Curriculum Development, by Jack Richards, provides a systematic introduction to the issues involved in planning, developing, and managing effective language programmes.
Overall, 2016–17 was a year in which the major restructuring we undertook in 2015–16 to streamline the group, and move it closer to learners around the world, flowed through into greater flexibility, more robust revenues and an increased sensitivity to customers’ needs. In a world hungry for the improved educational methods that new technology can bring, this leaves us well positioned to invest in research, in the development of new digital products, and in capacity building in our key markets, so we can serve our customers better and spread knowledge of the English language.
Mexico continued to perform strongly last year. Notwithstanding the challenges presented by exchange rate movements, the country achieved its demanding local currency sales target and strong double-digit growth. We widened our range of products aimed at the public sector school system on the back of our entry into this market in 2015–16 with Cambridge for DGB – our course developed in Mexico for the Mexican middle-school market. Last year we added significant sales of customised editions of the Cambridge Discovery Education Readers and Cambridge Dictionaries to the Mexican authority that buys textbooks for public schools. We also developed and launched Cambridge Horizons, a five-level series developed to suit a key Mexican syllabus for adult learners. We saw strong sales of Cambridge English Empower in Mexico, and of Uncover and Kid’s Box in specially adapted editions for Ecuador. Our Mexican office was strengthened with a larger sales team and an improved operating model to support our entry into new market segments.
We have enjoyed double-digit year-on-year growth in China for the last five years, through close collaboration with Chinese publishers, large private education service providers, leading foreign language schools and new education technology companies. We continue to see rapid growth in the Schools segment with sales of our leading title, Kid’s Box China Edition, now exceeding three million copies over eight years. In the Exams segment, Cambridge is the market leader for International English Language Testing System exam preparation materials, with our practice papers, complete courses and the Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS. We will be adding to this portfolio next year with a new blended print and online course specifically for Chinese learners. We continue to innovate with leading education technology companies to develop new classroom and online delivery models, reaching large numbers of students every day with content developed specifically for Chinese learners and teachers.