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Ann Puntis, CEO, Cambridge International Examinations

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) delivers exams for just under 900 syllabuses worldwide, including IGCSE. We caught up with CEO Ann Puntis to talk about growing demand in the exams market.

The PIE: Broadly speaking, what does CIE do as a company?

Through CIE, the University takes educational values it considers important to students globally

AP: We’re not actually a company. We’re a department of the University of Cambridge and part of the Cambridge Assessment Group, and we were set up to extend access to the benefits of education. The University sees this mission as a way of taking educational values it believes are important to students far and wide, beyond just those that study at the University.

So we operate in 160 plus countries around the world doing all sorts of things, not just examinations. We work with governments to improve educational systems, with consortia of schools to develop their curriculum programmes, provide support in bilingual education contexts, and help swathes of the word decipher what 21st century skills mean to their young people.

The PIE: What exams do you deliver?

AP: We have all together just under 900 syllabuses we set exams for. We have progression tests for primary and lower secondary level, ages 5-14. We have end of unit achievement tests for 11 year olds and 14 year olds. We offer IGCSE  in 70 subjects plus IGCSE variants, O-Level in 45 subjects, International AS, A-Levels, and the Cambridge Pre-U. We also deliver Singapore’s exam system.

“For a long time we had very little activity in Europe, but that is completely changing”

The PIE: What countries do you see most demand for your exams? Where is most of the new interest coming from? 

AP: There’s a very interesting development in the US at the moment, where a lot of states like our IGCSE. So the US is pretty huge at the moment. China too, of course, because they are developing English skills really quickly, and because they are looking to educate their young people for global mobility. Asia Pacific as a whole is really strong and Latin America is growing rapidly.

For a long time we had very little activity in Europe, but that is completely changing, driven by the growth of English medium education across the continent. That’s a very strong as a trend. Worldwide our growth rates are about 25% year on year. You could say we’re doing something right, but also the world as a whole is absolutely committed to the difference education makes.

The PIE: What are the biggest challenges in the exams market?

AP: We encountered a challenge a few years ago, because we invested in technology and social media and wanted to encourage young people learning across the world to share their experiences. But unfortunately [this was not a good idea] during exam time! So we’ve had to develop a system of having different papers for different parts of the world on the same day. This means delivering up to six different papers in different time zones for 897 syllabuses! It is a huge undertaking, and we’re lucky that we have fantastic logistics.

“The University of Cambridge’s mission is about extending access, not about closing anything off”

The PIE: Is the exams market very competitive?

AP: There’s always a different choice schools and governments can make, and while we’re thrilled when they choose Cambridge, we respect their decision if they stick with the national provision. A lot of our schools take the IGCSE then move on to the International Baccalaureate, and that also works. The University of Cambridge’s mission is about extending access, not about closing anything off.[More>>]

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