Want to go places? Try Cambridge English

Parimala S Rao Chennai | Updated on March 16, 2015

Roger Johnson, COO, Cambridge English Language Assessment

In India, Cambridge English works with a number of government and private schools, as well as with engineering colleges, arts and science colleges and B-schools.

It is present in 130 countries — from Germany to Kazakhstan and Spain to Mongolia —- with 19 centres in India, and collaborates with governments, corporate bodies and academic institutions. A multinational corporation? On the contrary, the wide reach and enviable credentials characterise a British academic institution that is over a century old — the Cambridge English Language Assessment.

Cambridge English, a not-for-profit organisation of Cambridge University, has been delivering the Cambridge English Certificate test since 1913. It has become an especially sought-after certification in India, where it started operations in 1995.

Roger Johnson, Chief Operating Officer, Cambridge English Language Assessment, who visited Chennai recently, says there is an increasing demand for the certification from test-takers the world over. “Across regions, governments are recognising that facility in an international language is crucial to economic growth. And the language chosen is usually English,” he says. CE delivers the test across a wide range of user groups — school-children, university students, teachers, business-persons and other special groups.

The Cambridge English language test is today taken by over 4 million people a year. There are 2,700 exam centres and 50,000 schools in the worldwide network.

Communication skills

This is reflective of growing aspirations, says Johnson. “Parents want their children to have the edge that better communication skills give a young person, especially in getting admission to courses of higher study or in a professional environment.”

Angela French, Director of India Operations, South and South-East Asia, says, “Delivering the tests across India has been an incredible learning experience for us,” adding “it is rewarding to see how proud and excited the parents are when their child is awarded the Cambridge certificate. They are happy with the additional skill gained and see better employability prospects as well.”

It isn’t just children who are benefiting from the tests. Corporates are increasingly demanding superior English language skills. Says Shakila Mathew, Professor and HoD, English, Bannari Amman Institute of Technology, in Sathyamangalam, Erode, TamilNadu, “While we can see the rising interest among students in getting an international certification, there have also been regular requests from firms such as Cognizant and UST Global which insist on the campus recruits having a BEC (Business English Certificate). Tata Consultancy Services gives added weightage to candidates with BE certificates, and reimburses the expenditure incurred on the certification.”

Supporting teachers

In India, Cambridge English (CE) works with a number of government and private schools, as well as with engineering colleges, arts and science colleges and B-schools. It has tie-ups with 700 schools and about 500 colleges across the country. Support for teachers and the teaching system is a key aspect of CE,with seminars and training modules designed to explain methodologies that make the teaching more communicative.

“Tech Mahindra is a partner with CE in its upskilling programme for corporation school teachers. While for students in corporation schools, passing the Cambridge test is a goal to aspire to, even the elite schools seek the validation of an internationally renowned certificate,” said Johnson.

For CE, it’s important that its examiners are trained to the specific level of test being delivered and based on whether it is a written or spoken output. There are six levels of the test, based on the Common Framework of Reference, starting with the basic ‘threshold’ level to the top ‘proficiency’ grade that B-schoolers aim for. The exams are backed by research on developments in applied linguistics and assessment theory, so that they offer an accurate and relevant evaluation of language skills.

The cost of taking the test varies across levels and regions, with the basic level test in India costing between ₹500 and ₹5,000, depending on how much is subsidised by the school or corporate partner.

Published on March 16, 2015

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