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Educational publishing

The Education group publishes print and digital products for use in schools, with strong positions in Australia, Africa, India and in international schools around the world. Our reputation for developing international best practice in pedagogy and learning skills means we also have an advisory practice helping governments and schools systems with educational reform.

Following several years of exceptional growth the Education group saw a year of consolidation. While publishing enjoyed another year of good growth, our Education Reform business came to the successful conclusion of two substantial contracts. 

We continued to build our market share in key countries, brought our businesses together onto a single, powerful digital platform, and piloted innovative ideas to improve classroom teaching and learning in collaboration with colleagues from other parts of Cambridge.

Our sales growth came despite foreign exchange headwinds, as sterling strengthened during the year against many currencies, and was underpinned by strong performances from all our publishing businesses. We saw growth of nearly 20 per cent in India for the third year in a row, driven by the success of our most extensive and ambitious publishing programme.

Our Australian and South African teams met their targets in a year of relatively little curriculum change – a good indication of the strength of their offering to schools. Key drivers of our performance in Australia were our blending of digital and print content and the continued success of Cambridge HOTmaths, our interactive online maths learning system, originally developed for this market and now being sold around the world.

Among our newer markets, we completed our second sales season in Nigeria, with over 1.5 million books sold. Despite ongoing market challenges, we believe we are building a strong and sustainable business for the long term. We also made important inroads in Pakistan, having strengthened our presence in the country with the opening of an office in 2016–17. Sales grew extremely strongly and customers welcomed our ambition for this important Cambridge international market.

The UK market was difficult for us, as for the industry as a whole – despite success with our new A-level maths products. In the immediate term UK schools face a substantial textbook funding challenge. But the pressures in this market were more than offset by the continuing strength of our international schools activity where we had another gratifying year, especially in China, South East Asia and the US.

This continuing success vindicates our strategic ambition, which is to be the leading publisher for international schools that follow a UK curriculum, drawing on the ‘Cambridge Advantage’ – our partnership with other parts of the University to develop international best practice in pedagogy and learning skills. Parents, schools and learners in many countries around the world are seeing the advantages of adopting international educational standards to develop the skills to prosper in an acutely competitive modern world. In this area English is increasingly popular as a medium of instruction, though the greatest need in helping schools fulfil their bilingual aspirations is in helping teachers with its particular demands on them.

At the heart of our continuing success has been the substantial progress over the past year in working with other Cambridge departments to create compelling products and services that meet our customers’ needs.”

Our partnerships across Cambridge link to our strategy of ‘Brighter Thinking, Better Learning’, which we launched during the year after an extensive programme of customer research. ‘Brighter Thinking’ involves gathering the best ideas in educational research and combining them with the very best in classroom practice. ‘Better Learning’ is what naturally flows from this approach, focusing not just on demonstrable academic results but broader skills in thinking and problem solving.

To achieve this we are responding to the developing needs of students around the world with our product development, communication and support. We pay particularly close attention to the insights of teachers, who can make the most profound difference to student performance.

Teacher Advisory Panels – forums for us to learn from teachers and for them to share their experiences – and other forms of customer feedback have become even more integrated into our way of working during the year. Through these we are committed to the deepest understanding of pedagogical issues in the markets where we are working, and particularly those of international schools around the world.

Our digital revenues and capabilities continue to grow and are similarly focused on empowering teachers in the classroom. Working with colleagues in Cambridge Assessment and a range of exciting digital partners we are piloting programmes for teachers to lead the practical personalisation of learning, using our data, technology and content to make practical judgements about ‘better next steps’ for all learners.

We are supporting all our strategic developments with a renewed focus on continuous professional development. We have long provided great support in the use of our teaching and learning materials, but we have now begun piloting new approaches to continuous professional development, launching successfully in Turkey and Indonesia. Over time we believe there is a great deal more we can do to develop a framework that helps teachers succeed in the delivery of complex international curricula.

At the heart of our continuing success has been the substantial progress over the past year in working with other Cambridge departments to create compelling products and services that meet our customers’ needs. With our colleagues in the Cambridge English Language Teaching group we are developing new teaching and learning models for countries where the curriculum is increasingly in English, even though it is the second language of learners, and often of many teachers too.

We have also been building on our close relationship with Cambridge Assessment International Education to identify ways in which we can benefit our shared customers, recognising that in areas like professional development, digital formative assessment and exam preparation, there is a huge amount we can do together to support the Cambridge school, teacher and learner and build stronger educational communities.

We have been working closely with the University’s Faculty of Education through our Education Reform team. Together we are able to bring our extensive knowledge of educational systems around the world to advise governments on large-scale schemes to improve their teaching resources. The Faculty of Education provides the deep expertise in monitoring and evaluation to inform ongoing project improvements and build an even deeper research base for future programmes. It has, for example, been working with us recently in Oman, where we are delivering our first substantial Arabic language reform project. This has the opportunity to be a model for many such opportunities in the region.

Our Teacher Advisory Panel is a forum for us to learn from teachers and for them to share their experiences
Our Teacher Advisory Panel is a forum for us to learn from teachers and for them to share their experiences

Teachers’ receptiveness to our message was reflected in 2016–17 by our continuing expansion in developing countries. Again we saw an excellent performance from our Indian business – both in the top line and in how we have translated this into contribution and cash. We launched a new business in Nigeria with an office in Lagos and a team of 20 colleagues. In our first year we published over 120 titles in Nigeria and sold around 800,000 books.

This launch was led by our South African office, working with colleagues in Cambridge. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, and is a vibrant, exciting market where education and the Cambridge name are highly regarded. It is, of course, a challenging country – underscored by the devaluation of the Nigerian currency during the year – but our commitment is to the long-term, where Cambridge can make a positive, long-lived impact.

During the year we also opened an office in Pakistan, an important market for our colleagues at Cambridge Assessment.

While emerging economies are central to our growth strategy, and provided many of the year’s landmarks, our businesses in the mature UK and Australian markets continued to provide a firm platform for global expansion – and the testing grounds for leading-edge pedagogical and technical solutions.

In Australia, our secondary school mathematics products, blending text and digital materials, continued to perform well. Cambridge HOTmaths, our interactive online maths learning system, originally developed for the Australian market, continued its expansion around the world, with new editions launched in the UK, South Africa, India and for international schools.

International schools, where English is the language of the classroom, have been at the centre of our growth in emerging markets, but these are increasingly a bridgehead for us into private schools delivering curriculum in English, and even into some parts of state systems.

Our Education Reform business remains an important part of our strategy, enabling us to have a profound and positive impact on learning around the world.”

However, our most important influence on state education is through our Education Reform business. Based on our pioneering work in evaluating education systems around the world, we operate in partnership with governments on large scale schemes to improve their teaching resources, develop their teachers, and build their capacity for the future. As in publishing, we believe in local solutions, based on our customers’ particular needs, supported by international models as necessary.

Educational Reform saw strong growth in 2016–17, building on our work in capacity development in Kazakhstan. We gained new contracts in the UAE, Thailand, the Maldives and Oman. Oman was the first tender we have won for the provision and development of materials in Arabic.

Digital revenues grew significantly during the year and we are continuing to invest ambitiously in digital technology that demonstrably improves support for teachers, the delivery of content and student assessment.

We are also investing significantly in unified central operating systems – in technology, workflow, procurement and talent management – that will support our continued expansion as a flexible, global publishing network, based on brighter thinking and better learning.

Continuous Professional Development

Our impact on learning is underpinned by our commitment to share and support good teaching practice around the world. That is why we have run over 100 training events this year – from Muscat to Kuala Lumpur – from workshops with hundreds of teachers, to curriculum planning with groups of school leaders.

We have also worked with colleagues from across our University to develop and launch the International Primary Teaching Programme – a structured and developmental approach that helps international schools plan their own strategy around the development of seven key skills areas: planning; introducing lessons; managing lessons; assessment for learning; plenaries and reflection; subject knowledge and English medium instruction. The programme is piloting initially in Turkey and Indonesia and the year ahead will see it rolled out across the world.

The Cambridge Approach

Brighter Thinking, Better Learning’ drives the Cambridge approach. Research from leading educational thinkers and teachers in Cambridge and around the world underpins our practical approaches to pedagogy. This makes better learning possible and it also enables students to accelerate their learning and develop skills for life. Principles from ‘Brighter Thinking, Better Learning’ inform all our publishing and we work with leading educationists and inspirational practitioners, putting the teacher at the heart of all we do. We build our solutions around research-based pedagogies that inspire and support teachers and learners. We are leading on developing the language of learning, using both textbooks and digital, and our resources help build the skills for study, work and life.

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